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Making a Layered Batik

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Back in March last year we made a reduction linocut from a rather handsome picture of our very own Handprinted dog, Fletcher (of 'Fletcher the Screen Printing Dog' fame).

The reduction lino process lends itself really well to this kind of image because of the tonal build up in the fur. You start by carving out the white areas and then build the image with darker and darker colours, carving away the lino in between each layer of print. We were pretty happy with the results!

The kind of tonal build up in layers created in a reduction lino works much in the same was as building up a layered batik. We have been really enjoying the Batik Workshops in the studio recently and seeing all the wax pots, tjantings and dyes on the tables reminded us how fun it can be! We decided to test the similarities between reduction lino and batik by using the same image of lovely Fletcher:

He's a little more shaggy than intended but he looks close enough to the image to be recognisable. We've also managed the red tongue that we couldn't in a reduction lino. Here's how this batik was made:

This batik was made on Prima cotton but they also look brilliant on silk and on paper. We are using Procion MX cold water dyes which are easy to use, inexpensive and create beautiful colours. These dyes can be mixed with Soda Ash (to fix the dye), Urea (to brighten the colours) and Calgon (to soften our chalky South Downs water). When Soda Ash is added to the dye, it begins its shelf life of about 2 hours, after which time the dye will not fix to the fabric effectively. To avoid this, we like to mix up the dye and the dye fixative solution separately.

A good colour range for mixing a huge range of colours is to use two of each primary colour and black (two tones of yellow, two blue and two red). The best Procion colours for this are Lemon Yellow, Golden Yellow, Bright Turquoise, Royal Blue, Orange Scarlet, Magenta and Black. Mix 1tsp of each dye for each 100mls of warm water. This will create a strong dye that can be diluted with dye fix solution.

For the dye fix solution, mix 2tsps Soda Ash, 5tbsp Urea (yes, it is a lot!) and 1/2 tsp Calgon. There are lots of different recipes available for dye fix solutions but we like this one.

If you'd like some guide lines, use a pencil to trace your image. We've drawn on the back of the fabric so that the lines do not show too much, but draw on the front if you prefer.

Pin your fabric to a wooden frame. I like to use Silk Pins as they cause less damage to the fabric than drawing pins. Stretch your fabric tightly and evenly.

Batik uses hot wax as a resist to the dye. The wax is melted in a Tixor Malam Wax Pot. Batik Wax is a blend of paraffin and beeswax, giving the desired amount of 'crackle' to the final image. The wax needs to be hot enough to be melted and flow through the tools easily but not too hot to cause fumes or become a fire hazard. This pot seems to work best set at 5 1/2 on the dial but needs to be attended at all times.


Tjantings are used to apply the wax to the fabric through the little spouts at one end. Leave the tjantings in the wax to get hot between each use. It helps to have a rag or wad of kitchen roll in your other hand to hold around the tjanting as it moves between the pot and the fabric. This will clean any excess wax from the tjanting and minimise drips and splashes.

The wax is going to resist our first dye colour so we use it to preserve the current colour of the cloth. On this first layer, we are using the tjanting to fill in any areas that we want to be left white in the final image.

Brushes can also be used to apply the wax and can create much more expressive marks - make sure that the brushes used are natural fibres such as hogs hair as synthetic fibres will melt in the wax!

Once your first layer is waxed out, you are ready to mix up the first dye colour. We started with a pale yellow.

Use a pipette to select your dye colours - we used a mix of Lemon and Golden Yellow.

Add dye fix solution until your strength of dye is reached. You'll need at least twice the amount of dye fix to dye. For weaker colours, add more dye fix. Test your colours on a scrap piece of fabric and keep adding pipettes of colour until you are happy. Once you've added this solution, the dye will only remain active for about 2 hours but they can be stored and used on paper for other projects!

The colour will appear a lot lighter on the fabric than in the pot.

Use a foam brush to cover your batik in dye. The wax will resist the dye.

Here is our reduction linocut at the same stage (looking a little more accurate than the haphazard style of the batik):


If you want to keep your dye from spreading, draw a border around your frame before dyeing.

Wait for the dye to dry. If hot wax is applied to damp dye it will not penetrate the fabric and wont resist the next layer of dye - don't be tempted to wax before it is fully dry!

Apply the next layer of wax to the dry surface. With this waxing, you are preserving any areas that you want to be left pale yellow.

The wax dries almost as soon as it touches the fabric so the next layer of dye and fixative mix can be added straight away. Each colour applied should be darker than the previous colour. Remember that these colours are translucent and will show some of the colour underneath. Blue painted over yellow will become slightly green toned, red over blue will become purple toned etc. Building up from light to dark will help to achieve the colours you want. Areas can also be sectioned off with a wax border and painted in with separate colours in a single layer.

To help the dye to dry faster between layers, blot it with kitchen towel and then use a hairdryer on a cool setting. Do not use the hairdryer too warm or it will melt the wax! If you do have time to leave the dye to dry by itself, it helps the colour to fix to the fabric.

We want our background to stay this mustard yellow so needed to wax out the entire background with a natural bristle brush.


 

We wanted Fletcher to have a red tongue so added some magenta dye mix to his mouth. The dye will spread as far as it can until the next wax line so we need to paint the whole area of his mouth...

...and then select the areas we want to remain red with wax after the dye has dried. The rest of the red will be covered up with the next dye layer.

A medium brown dye mix fills in all the areas that have not been waxed, giving us a red tongue and a yellow background.

To create fine lines, the wax can be scratched into with a sharp tool. We used an Etching Needle. To do this, remove the fabric from the frame (our pins are stuck in the wax) and place it on the table. Scribe into the wax on both sides to reveal some of the fabric underneath.

Go over the area with dye so that it can go through the gaps to dye the fabric.

Our final waxing preserves any areas that we would like to stay mid brown.

Paint your final darkest colour over the fabric.

When the batik is dry, it is time to remove the wax. Place the batik on a big wad of newspaper.

Place more newspaper over the top and iron (without water or steam). This will melt the wax into the newspaper. When the sheet is full of greasy wax, replace it with clean sheet. Repeat until very little wax is coming off onto the paper. It is a good idea to use a separate iron for removing wax as it is possible for the wax to come off the iron and onto your clothes! An inexpensive iron reserved for batik is a safer bet.

To make your own layered batik you will need:

 

 

 


 

 

 

 


 



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