Sunday, June 15, 2008

DEMO! Flour Paste Batik

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!


Materials:

1/2 cup flour, + a few extra tablespoons
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons alum (helps keep nasty smelly bits from growing)
mixer
fabric
stretcher bars
tacks
fine tip squeeze bottle or icing tips
fabric paint* I originally said "dye," but you really want to use diluted paint
paint brush
spray bottle
iron
parchment paper or press cloth



1. Start with 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup water, and 2 teaspoons of alum.


2. Mix them together, and then slowly add additional flour tablespoon by tablespoon until the mixture has the texture of pancake batter and will hold moderate peaks. (If it's too liquid, it can be hard to control)


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.



4. Then start filling in the rest of the tacks. This gives you a more even stretch.


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!)


6. Start drawing your pattern! Since this is a resist, anywhere you draw with the paste will stay the same color as the fabric underneath it.


I covered the whole surface with this swirly pattern.

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.

8. And then I took it off the stretcher bars, and balled it up. This causes the dried flour paste to crack. When you apply the color, it will seep into the cracks, giving you the characteristic appearance of traditional batik.


9. There are several ways to apply the color. Because the flour paste is water soluble, you don't want to do a full immersion dye, but you can apply it other ways. One of my favorite ways is to spray the color on. I use Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow (it's a paint that is very liquid like a dye) and mix it with a little water in a Mini-Mister from Ranger, though you can use other spray misters and other watered down paint.  *I've edited this to eliminate the word "dye" - as you can see from the comments, dye needs a mordant, and it's likely that only a professional fiber artist would be able to successfully apply a true dye to the surface.  Rit, etc., won't set properly just applied to the surface.  (I think there is a version of Procion dye that will work, but for most folks, just pull out the fabric paint!)


10. Just mist it lightly over the surface.


11. Then you can also use Jacquard paints (I'm using NeoPaques here) or other fabric paints thinned with a little water and brush them on the surface.


12. Now, let it dry. You can stop now and skip right down to step 15, or . . . .


13. You can add another layer of flour paste. The places where you put the flour paste will preserve the color underneath. Then let it dry . . .

14. And add another layer of fabric paint. And let it dry again.



15. When it's all dry, scrape off the biggest chunks of the flour paste with your fingers.



It takes a while, but it's kind of relaxing . . .



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!

Added June 25, 2008: I also need to give credit where credit is due - I didn't make up this technique from thin air! Teachers have been using a similar method in classrooms for ages, in part as a way of introducing students to the even older fabric dying techniques of Indonesia, Asia, and Africa, including true batik, which uses hot wax. Here are some of the resources I checked out when I was working out my recipe and technique: The Getty Teacher Art Exchange, Kids at Art Summer Workshop, and the I Am An Artist site. If you're a teacher, or work with kids, it looks like these places might be great resources for you!!

Edited June 18, 2012: updated to eliminate references to fabric dyes - you really just want to use some type of fabric paint!

61 comments:

Michael5000 said...

Oh, that is the COOLEST!

If you are just going to throw that fabric away now that you've enjoyed the process, I could take it off your hands.... : )

SisterDG said...

You are an insanely talented kind of scary-genius-person, and I wish I had your skillz. This is easily the coolest thing I've seen this month.

gl. said...

FAB. U. LOUS! i really love it. and i see a potential collaboration between you & m5000!

angie jones said...

I wonder how rice glue would hold up since it is water soluable

nimcraft said...

That is completely awesome and looks really beautiful. Thanks for the tutorial; I can't wait to try it!

Regina said...

This looks like a lot of fun! Thanks for sharing!

Barbara said...

A brilliant way of spicing up hand-me-downs in our large family!

Karen Mowrey said...

Wow, is all I can say. I am always on the hunt for new temptation and this is fantastic. What a brilliant way to add to our choices of textiles. Thank you for taking the time to show all your steps in making it.

monkeycat said...

Oh this is wonderful! I've always wanted to do batik but the traditional method intimidated me *L* I might be brave enough to give this a go =)

imagine studios said...

yet another fun distraction, i am totally tempted, thank you...always on the hunt for new addictions. :) Batik, who'da thunk.

fingerstothebone said...

That is really cool! I never would've thought to use flour paste. Now I'm wondering what other applications I can use the flour paste for...

Martha Marshall said...

That could totally be used for silk painting resist as well! I love it! I used to teach kids how to do silk painting, and we would use hair gel for the resist. I love these environmentally gentle alternatives to traditional media.

Patti said...

This technique looks pretty cool! I do wax batik and I found an easy way to remove the wax - boil the finished piece of fabric in a large pot of water. As the water heats up, stir the fabric to allow the wax to float to the surface. Then weigh the fabric down (I use rocks) and let the water cool. You can then easily peel the layer of wax off the surface of the water and retrieve your wax-free piece of fabric. I saw this technique in a photo in a book on the hisotry of batik.

Nettie said...

This is soo great! I can't wait to try it. Although I have to work on my patience in letting it dry completely.

T said...

That most definitely IS the coolest. (Insert forehead smack here) I've wanted to do batik, but didn't want to deal with the "special accessories" nor the dry cleaning. I guess I know what I'll be doing this week!

Thank you for sharing!

G Leigh said...

I am definitely trying this! I got frustrated with wax batik, because it was hard to get the wax out. I got a laugh about the Microwave comment - having tried to heat set linen thread in the microwave: who knew linen thread would fry like that? The best part was when I pulled it out; my girls (who were very little at the time) all started saying "I'm not eating that!"

Jennifer said...

Fabulous tutorial- THANKS!!

Linda Womack said...

Oooh, that is SO cool! I love you demos. You do all the stuff I don't have the patience for. Beautiful!

Ellen Shipley said...

This is a really neat technique. Reminds me a little of mud cloth from Africa.

I like the hands-on aspect of this technique. 8-]

Bridget B. said...

Whew! We set some kind of comment record here at the Matchbook - cool! Now I need to catch up and try to touch bases with all you cool folks - thank you so much for taking the time to comment!

MK5: LOL, maybe I could make you some for your blog birthday . . .

Angie: I don't know how rice glue would work - though I have wanted to try using rice flour and cassava flour, and see if there's any difference . . . do let me know if you try it!

Fingerstothebone: If you use this on paper, or in book-making, I really want to know!

Martha: Hair gel! That's brilliant! Now I wanna try it . . . I've been meaning to get some silk scarves from Dharma to play with .. .

Patti: Thank you so much for sharing that much-easier-wax-removal technique! That would definitely work for smaller batches - are you using chemical set immersion dyes, or paints? If paints, would you heat set first? Would the boiling affect the paints? Hmmm . . .

GLeigh: Yes, there much sizzling and burning going on here at the Matchbook Hearth studio - yikes! The kitchen stank for a week, and I didn't use the microwave for like two weeks! Just left it open to air . . .

Ginger said...

I have never done this all new to me thank you for sharing it with us.Really is out standing and looks fun to do.
fabric would look nice on wall or make a book cover with it so many things can be used for.
hugs ginger(lovestodream)

MOXVOX said...

this is really cool!! will have to give it ago very soon! Thanks

Becky S. said...

Great tutorial and excellent results..one question, though, what is the purpose of the alum?

Bridget B. said...

Hello! Tried to e-mail you direct, but no luck! So, according to my research, the alum prohibits the growth of bacteria, ie, meaning you can use it a bit longer in the less-than-refrigerated studio environment.

HAmom3 said...

I tried this cool process minus the alum (stinky growth noted!). I misted on dye na flow - apparently too watered down and got weird results - the resist only sorta worked. The dye migrated to the resist, leaving a dyed circle around a resist dot. Other places the resist didn't work at all, but some it did. How might I salvage this project?? (I have a troop-full of undyed projects as of yet).

smidgen said...

I have just finished my piece of faux batik and it is fantastic! Thanks for the lesson!

Papermoonies said...

I love exploring with new ideas and with things I can use at home
saves me time and money
Thanks so much

Shalanah said...

could you use a tempera paint with the wheat flour paste?

Bridget B. said...

I wouldn't recommend using a tempera paint - they are water soluble, and while they might leave a stain on the fabric, they would run and bleed during the washing process, negating the effect of the resist and giving you a less than desirable result - that said, if you're looking for something non-toxic and kid friendly, it's sure worth a try! you might try watering it down and just using it as a stain.

Kirsten said...

This is so awesome. I was considering trying some batik, but the wax always deterred me. I did have a question or two, though. Could one use an embroidery hoop or needlepoint hoop for stretching the fabric? And what sort of fabric did you use? Would regular old cotton be okay? Eek, I can't wait to try this out! Thanks so much!

Bridget B. said...

Any old cotton is fine - you'll just want to wash it first to get rid of any sizing on the material. And sure! If you're using a small piece of fabric, totally try an embroidery hoop to stretch the fabric! Good Luck!

Katie said...

Thanks for the tricks and your post. I was just wondering, you just wash that flour stuff off in your home washing machine? Does it not leave anything nasty or clog up your stuff? I have always wanted to try batik, but getting the resist off is just frightening to me. Def don't want to deal with hot wax, or glue, this is something I might do.

--- Ruth --- RuRebo --- said...

That is a wonderful idea!
I'm going to try that dying soon!

Bridget said...

Katie - I didn't have any problems with the wheat paste in my washing machine, but keep in mind that I tediously picked chunks of dry wheat paste off the fabric first! And then heat set it. By the time it went into the washer, there were only trace amounts of the wheat paste left.

landm920 said...

Love your demo. I was wondering how did you fix the dye? I am used to doing the soda ash & salt soak. Do you pre-soak the fabric in the mix, let it dry, then use the paste? I have Jaquard Procion dyes. Maybe dye-na-flow doesn't require that?

I followed the steps in your directions but when I got to the dying stage realized I hadn't pre-treated (procion dye) so I tried a higher concentration of dye to water and while it doesn't just run off in a hand washing the suds get a little pink even after a few washes. It doesn't seem fixed. Do you think ironing would be enough at this point?

I'm going to teach this to my students and want to be prepared.
Any for certains would be great.

Bridget said...

Hello Landm920 - I didn't use Procion dyes in part because when I have used them with cotton, I always used them as immersion dyes - and I would NOT suggest full immersion given the water solubility of the resist. Dye-na-Flow is a different product, and only requires heat setting. That said, when I used Procion dyes, especially the reds, I always got a lot of bleed, even when the dyes were set. If you're using it as a paint-on dye (and you may want to see if Dharma Trading or your dye source has instructions for using Procion dyes as paint-on versus immersion dyes) try letting it dry completely, picking off the dried wheat paste, then washing it with Synthropol detergent - that should help!

landm920 said...

Thanks! What do you think if I soak the fabric in the soda ash mix - let it dry, do the resist, let that dry, then do the mist dying, take off the paste, then iron (or should I wash first with the detergent you mentioned to get the residual paste off then iron?)then wash with the special detergent. Does pre-soaking and drying sound like a solution for the procion dyes?
I have tried talking to Jaquard before about dying and they are very by the book - any derivation and they throw up their hands/disclaimer.

QuilterGuy said...

I found an easy way to take the paste off the fabric after it has dried. Purchase a CHEAP plastic putty knife from a home improvement store or big-box store. Use sandpaper to round off the sharp corners of the knife. Place your fabric on a hard surface and CAREFULLY scrape down the surface. This will take the paste off a lot faster and easier than picking it off my hand.

Michele Lasker said...

Why do you need to use alum?

Michele

Bridget B. said...

The alum prohibits the growth of bacteria, so that it doesn't get stinky as you work with it.

bella said...

What a great idea! I look forward to trying this out with kids.

JillW said...

Just to clear up some confusion -- Dye-Na-Flow is paint, not dye. That's why you don't need a mordant like soda ash, and you set it with heat. Take a look at the Dye-Na-Flow page at dharmatrading.com.

But this doesn't take anything away from how neat this technique is. In fact, it's part of what makes it work. I can't wait to try it out!

Harriet said...

If you don't use alum, how long before it gets stinky? I want to do it as a project with kids at school but am having reall difficulty finding alum in the uk that looks safe for them incase they put fingers in mouths etc. Supermarkets don't seem to sell it here.

Bridget B. said...

Jill W - thanks for clarifying that! It's a paint that feels like a dye, so I get confused!

Harriet - I don't know how long it will take before it starts growing bacteria and getting stinky, though my thought is that would take several days to be noticeable. Try prepping the mixture the day before class, then using it all up or discarding the leftover. You should be fine.

janet561956 said...

Thank you - have been looking for the quantities of the paste for ages .I used to do this at school 40 years ago and want to start again.Its fabulous
Janetd

MamaMay said...

I love this so much! I featured it on my blog:
http://allawesomelinks.blogspot.com/2011/07/batik-with-flour-paste.html

ender artur said...

Very clever.I will try it immediately.Thank you very much.

Ender ARTUR

Shelly G said...

This would be a great project to do with kids. Much better than wax for young ones. Thank you for creating such a detailed tutorial.

Varsha Rai said...

Instead of Alum, could we use salt to help the flour stay fresh? Basically use the concept where we make our own playdough with salt, but liquid consistency of course? This might help reduce growth of bacteria

butterflyangels said...

I have a niece and 2 girls that are 10 and 7. Every summer we have "Quilt Camp". THIS will be this summer's project! Make our own batiks, then create something from it. Thank you! This is AMAZING!

Sexyladydee said...

Wonderful! I have been preparing myself to do regular batik and now that Dharma has a resist I can wash out I bought supplies for a summer project. Now I am going to try this first with my youngest daughter. I just wanted to know if you thought I could use her Tye die kit to paint the fabric as well. I can already see the quilt coming out of this fabric. Thank you so much.

Bridget B. said...

You really want to color the fabric with PAINT, not DYE - with dye, the fabric needs to soak, and this will eliminate all of your hard work creating the design! The stuff I use in this tutorial is actually a sprayable liquid paint, so no, I wouldn't use the stuff from the Tie Dye kit . . .

gml said...

Can the fabric use for clothing? If not, then how can I make a flour paste.

sillsuthcork said...

As in the UK, here in Ireland, alum is not available - it's used in cooking,i think but you can't get it on its own.

Susan said...

So glad I stumbled across this
I want to try it

Ismanto Id said...

Nice blog. Thank for the explanation.

Momma said...

We use tie-dye kits to do this all the time. It works beautifully. I wasn't sure why you thought it wouldn't work until I read the comment where you mentioned "soaking".
You don't need to soak any of the tie-dyes we have used. Even the kind where you need to pre-soak the fabric(in soda ash and water)...you can let it dry after it pre-soaks and then put on your design as usual.
One of my kids did do some "dip dye" style tie-dye at an art camp one year...they 'sort of' soaked those ;)
What passes for 'fabric paint' around here mostly just sits on top of the fabric, and if it was watered down it tends to flake off pretty fast :/

Bridget B. said...

Hi, "Momma"! When I did traditional batik, I used Procion fiber reactive dyes and did full immersion of the fabrics in several repeats - I'd apply wax, submerge totally in the dye bath for several hours, pull, rinse, dry, re-wax to preserve the first color, then re-submerge in a darker color. The crackle was very rich, as was the color. I doubt that the flour paste would hold up to that method! Of course, I was also doing large batches, 30 shirts at a time for commercial resale. The method I'm describing in this post uses a fabric paint that feels like a dye, but doesn't have any sort of chemical reaction with the fabric.

Carol Purdy said...

Bidget, can you use an acrylic paint, or will that not adhere to the fabric? Thanks, Carol

Carol Purdy said...

Bridget, can you use an acrylic paint?

Bridget B. said...

Hmm....Carol, acrylic paint does adhere to fabric but it stiffens the fabric and changes the "hand" significantly. Golden makes a product called GAC 900 that you can can mix with acrylic paints to make it work better on fabric. You try that, and then just paint it on. I wouldn't recommend trying to spray it, however, unless you also mix the acrylic with Golden Airbrush Medium. Mixing acrylic with water damages the ability of the acrylic to bond.

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