It’s coming up to that exciting time of year when we get a whole load of new Batiks, and we are as always super-duper excited. We thought we would take this opportunity to answer a few of your questions about batiks, and also to show you how batik fabrics are just as brilliant for dressmaking as they are for quilting.
How is Batik Fabric Made?
But before we start on all your questions, it might be an idea to tell you about how Batiks are even made, as some of this was a bit of a shock even for us. The process is actually quite intense with many different stages, starting with the covering of the cotton with the design by melting wax and pouring it straight on to the cloth in the desired pattern.
Once that has been done the fabric is dyed, and then the wax is picked off to reveal the design. But some patterns and designs are dyed and re-dyed to create the swirling and ombré-esque colour effect.
Batiks are traditionally made on just cotton and silk, cotton because it is so readily available and takes dye very well. But now you can sometimes find a viscose, or a jersey printed in the same way; we haven’t found one of those yet but as always, our eyes are peeled.
Is Batik a Sustainable Fabric?
As we move into a more sustainable era of living, we thought it would be important to talk about that in reference to the Batik Cottons. Now let’s be totally honest, Batiks made in the traditional way aren’t great on the scale of good for the environment; firstly they are usually cotton which doesn’t do very well because of the high amount of water it needs in production. But then the actual process of printing a batik also uses a large amount of water, coal and electricity and then the dyes can be especially bad for water sources.
The Clean Batik Initiative
So that is the bad news, the good news is the Batik industry is trying to change, starting in 2010 with the Clean Batik Initiative. The initiative has helped many companies move away from the Kerosene stove traditionally used for melting the wax, to cleaner electricity thermostats which turn off when the correct heat is met. And small changes like this have been seen to work with 93 out of 100 businesses showing 70% progress.
Furthermore, a higher number of the businesses are now using natural dyes so there is definitely a move in the right direction.
Your Questions about Batik Fabric Answered
At Fabrics Galore we get asked many questions about Batik fabrics and we thought we would give the people what they want and answer some of them. Yep, we are the gift that keeps on giving.
Where does batik come from in India?
Batik fabrics originated in India roughly 2000 years ago, however it was so long ago that there are no written records. But now most of the production has moved to either Indonesia or Malaysia, in fact now it is so culturally important to Indonesia that batik has made it on to the UNESCO’s Masterpieces of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity List.
Should you pre-wash batiks?
Now it is best practice to wash any fabrics before using them, to ensure that any shrinkage happens before you make something from them. But for batiks it is even more important because some of the dyes used aren’t always fixed.
How to wash batik for the first time
But if your next question was - but how do I wash them, well we are about to tell you. The best way is to use a mild detergent, a delicate mode and with nothing paler in the washing machine. To help fix the dye, Paul recommends using a teaspoon of ordinary salt in the machine too.
Do Batik fabrics fade?
As they are printed in a slightly different way to other fabrics batiks will fade with each wash over time and although unavoidable batik does in fact fade in the most wonderful way. And, if you are using it for dressmaking this does mean your garment will take on a wonderful vintage feel.
How to soften batik fabrics
Like any cotton the more you wash batik, the more it will soften, this again will give any batik item of clothing a lovely cosy and vintage feel. Making it a huge advantage if you are using batik for less traditional dressmaking.
Is cotton batik fabric good for dressmaking?
Well, we at FG think so. We have been thinking that some of the paisley batik designs would make some super chic and bohemian full pyjamas and as they soften with age surely that is just an added bonus? But to be serious for a moment as our Batiks are 100% cotton they would make great dressmaking fabrics, and the patterns are truly unique only to them.
Using Batik fabric for Men’s and Women’s Dressmaking
While batik fabric is popular for women’s clothes especially dresses, skirts and tops, don’t rule them out for men’s dressmaking too.
Another idea we had for the brighter prints would be as an alternative to a Hawaiian print shirt, the perfect gift for any hipster. The Merchant and Mills - The Men’s All State Shirt would be a great shape and would really let the pattern be the focal point.
But if that hasn’t convinced you that some batik should be heading for your wardrobe soon, we shall leave it to Dries Van Noten who has used Batik fabrics a few times in his collections to make some truly drool inducing clothing…..