Batik is a resist method of fabric dyeing that uses wax . . . I did a lot of traditional batik back in the early 90's. It's a lot of fun, and you can get some incredible effects. The downside is getting the wax out of the fabric. The easiest method I found was dry-cleaning, though I also know people who would iron the fabric between sheets of newspaper. Over and over and over . . .
Since I'm only doing small batches now, and doing it primarily for use in fiber art (not clothing) I've been looking for an easier, dry-cleaning free method of getting the same effects. Interestingly, there are other traditions that use starchy pastes for the resist, like rice paste in Japan or cassava flour in Africa. Here in North America, we can just use a little wheat flour!
1/2 cup flour, + a few extra tablespoons
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons alum (helps keep nasty smelly bits from growing)
fine tip squeeze bottle or icing tips
fabric paint* I originally said "dye," but you really want to use diluted paint
parchment paper or press cloth
3. Let the batter sit for a few minutes while you prep the fabric. In this sample, I'm using a piece of muslin stretched over canvas stretcher bars, but you could also stretch a t-shirt or other garment over some stretcher bars. Start by tacking down the four corners.
5. Fill either a fine-tip squeeze bottle or a pastry bag with your batter. (I really like working with the pastry bag, and it's a lot easier to fill than the squeeze bottle - this stuff can get messy!)
7. And then I let it dry overnight. It takes a long time to dry, and you don't want to put color on it while it's wet.
16. Heat set the fabric with an iron using medium high heat and no steam. (Most fabric paints need heat to set them, and this is the way to do it.) I put it between pieces of parchment to protect the iron. Again, don't set the heat too high (you don't need the linen setting), and don't use steam. It effectively cooks the leftover wheat paste into the fabric. Trust me, this is bad. (It's also a bad idea to try and heat set the fabric in the microwave. Really.)
17. Wash your fabric. This gets the last of the wheat paste out along with any excess color.
Here's how the fabric looks after one coat of paste and dye . . .
And here it is after two coats!
Edited June 18, 2012: updated to eliminate references to fabric dyes - you really just want to use some type of fabric paint!