Have you heard of fast fashion? This is a tendency many clothes manufacturers have adopted that implies making poor-quality clothes together with yearly fashion styles and other methods to force people to buy new clothes often, hence earning big amounts of money, but affecting the environment in consequence.
There is a counterpart to this trend called slow fashion. This new trend focuses on avoiding environmental contamination through textile manufacturing, and people who follow this idea sell or give away their clothes in a “circular economy” system, based on the “my trash can be your treasure” ideal, giving away those things you don’t use anymore.
Together with this sharing system, people renovate their clothes to give them a fresh touch, and batik is one of the techniques you can use for this purpose.
Some of the ideas involved in this methodology are:
- Buy as little new clothes as possible
- Sell or give away the clothes you don’t use anymore
- Buy clothes from second hand or thrift stores
- Renovate your clothes with new designs
This last point is called upcycling. The upcycling process implies renovating the things you already have or turning them into something completely new to continue using them instead of buying new stuff. Let’s see how you can upcycle your clothes!
Techniques for upcycling clothes
One of the most popular techniques to renovate your clothes, especially denim pieces is applying patches with designs.
These patches are usually machine embroidered and they can be applied to your clothes either by sewing or by heat transferring them. The good part is, once you are tired of them, you can pull them off and start again!
Another technique is embroidery itself. You can turn a plain grey chenille sweater into a beautiful piece by embroidering flower patterns on it. You can learn to do it yourself or ask a professional.
However, today we are going to focus on batik and other similar techniques.
What is batik exactly?
Batik definition: It’s a millenary technique that implies applying wax on fabric to later apply ink or paint on it. The wax will prevent the ink from impregnating the fabric, creating beautiful designs.
The concept is similar to tie-dye in both cases, you are using a resist technique. This means that, by different means (waxing or tying), you are preventing the pigment to enter the fabric.
You can learn more about its story by clicking here: ‘The History of Batik’
How to use batik on fabric
If you want to start a batik project, these are the materials you’ll need:
- Fabric (ideally silk)
- Silk paint
- A metal pot
- A pencil
- A digital thermometer
- Beeswax and/or paraffin
- A tjanting waxing tool
- An iron
The process consists of three main parts: Applying the wax, painting, and removing the wax.
The first thing you need to do is draw the design you want to make on the silk canvas.
Keep in mind that the strokes you are going to make will remain white afterward and that they will have some thickness. After that, you are going to start using the wax.
1- Applying the wax
Put the beeswax and paraffin into a metal pot and melt it, using the thermometer to make sure the temperature doesn’t go higher than 120°C or it will be burnt.
Now, you are going to use the tjanting waxing tool. This is a traditional tool that may not be easy to find, but you can try and make your own.
It consists of a little hollow ball with a tiny tube. It kind of resembles a tiny teapot.
With this tool, you can collect about a spoonful of wax and draw with it, as though it were an ink pen. If you cannot get one of these, you can replace it with a brush, but keep in mind you won’t be able to use it with paint again.
Collect some wax either with the tjanting or with a brush and quickly go along the design you drew. It needs to be fast or else the wax will cool down and turn solid.
Once you have covered the whole design, let the wax cool and get ready for painting. If you have leftover wax in your melting pot, let it cool and you can later take it out in a solid block
2-Paint the silk
Now comes the creative part. Use the silk ink to bring the design to life. As this paint is liquid, you can use it to create different shades of the same color, by mixing it with water and making it lighter, or using pure paint, which will give you a solid vibrant color.
To ensure it gets well impregnated, moisten the sections of fabric you are going to paint before applying the ink. Don’t worry about applying too much ink, as the wax will keep it in place and won’t allow it to drip along the surface.
Play around with different colors and shades until you have painted the whole design.
3-Removing the wax
Let the ink dry completely and get ready for removing the wax. For this step, get several sheets of newspapers and line them on your working surface, putting the fabric between them.
Make sure it is completely smooth and there are no wrinkles on it. Turn on your iron, and rub it on top of the newspapers.
The heat will melt the wax trapped in the fabric and leave the batik art. You will see the paper seems to get wet; that is okay! It’s the wax melting and getting caught by the paper.
Continue for some minutes until you see the paper has trapped most of the wax.
Then remove the fabric from it, and dip it into hot water. Rub it underwater to eliminate all the leftover wax that still be left on the fabric. Let it dry, and iron it again.
Here you can watch the process of the batik project:
There you have it! Your own batik piece. You can change this technique a little bit for different purposes, like using watercolor paper instead of fabric, or changing the wax for the glue to make it child-proof and enjoy quality family time!
If you want to learn about other interesting technique for printing on fabric, click here: ‘Block Printing: History, Techniques and Supplies’