The other day I was looking at paint chips and the guys behind the counter were discussing what scallions, shallots and leeks were, or were they different names for the same vegetable? It was quite funny and eventually I had to go talk to them as none of them had a clue. In that vein, I have noticed that many quilters don’t know much about hand-made fabrics either. It doesn’t matter, I guess, but since I love to make many of these fabrics, I thought I’d tell you about them. (By the way, most quilt store owners don’t know either and it’s too bad that the manufacturers don’t educate them.)
Everyone points to the luscious shelves in the quilt stores and says “There are the batiks”. In most cases that’s not entirely true – many of them are hand dyes. Here is a selection of hand dyed fabrics from my stash.
Hand dyeing to most people would be the stack of reds, yellows and oranges at the top left of the picture. That is a gradation that I dyed. The color is fairly even, but has quite a different look from commercially dyed fabrics. I mixed up water and dye in buckets and immersed the fabric in to take up the dye. Most of the other fabrics are drizzle dyed. Look at the orange strip at the left. Can you see that someone (probably) spread the fabric out, wet it and then dripped dye on it? The upper right fabric has many colors drizzled on and the colors mix together to make some new colors. The pattern, if you want to call it that, is random. The middle background piece is one of my favorite background fabrics. It’s just a white piece of fabric with all sorts of colors randomly dropped on it, leaving lots of white space. Some hand dyes look like they have a pattern and it may be that salt was dropped on the dyed fabric. I remember doing that in art class and fun things happen.
Here is a selection of batiks.
Right away, I hope you are seeing that there is a pattern to these pieces. Wax is applied to a chop or tjap and stamped on the fabric. The red and white dotted fabric in the top left is the simplest version. I’m not sure if the dots are stamped or dropped, but then the fabric is immersed into the dyebath. The wax resists the dye. The fabric is washed and then the wax is removed. The other three examples are much more complicated and I can’t quite decide how they are made. They are certainly made using stamps and are then hand colored or perhaps dyed in a dyebath. Multiple waxings and dyeings, I assume. The square in the middle is traditional batik that you would find inSoutheast Asian. The flower was stamped and then painted, sort of like a paint by number. You can see on this piece that there was a lot of bleeding, but it is so pretty.
If you go to Southeast Asia, this is the sort of batik you will find. This is part of a sarong, (as is the flower above), made in Bali, and it is all done by hand.
When a batik is done by hand, one uses a tjanting. I have tried my hand at it and it is not an easy technique. There is a fine balance between the wax being too hot or too cold. And then, of course, one needs to be skillful enough to draw a design on the fabric. Look how fine the lines are! This beauty is an antique.
In a quilt class I recently took, the teacher and a student were talking about how the quality of the batik fabric was so good, and the teacher said that it was because of the batik process. That’s not true. When you dye a fabric, you want to use a tightly woven fabric. Imagine dyeing a piece of burlap – or a sheet. The burlap is so loosely woven that the dye wouldn’t show up much. Sheets are made of very densely woven fabric, so they take up the dye and show the details in a batik well. When you buy hand dyed or batik fabric, you can count on the manufacturer using the nicest cotton.
So perhaps now you understand why these types of fabrics are so expensive.
To thank you for reading the whole post, here is a giveaway – – – a selection of batiks and hand dyes for you to make a pillow top or tiny quilt or just admire. Leave a comment and I will draw a name on Monday the 21st – before things get too crazy! (Sorry, US only!)