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Batik by Janet Whitehead
Batik is a wax-resist dyeing technique used on fabric. Melted wax is applied to cloth before being dipped in dye. Wherever the wax has seeped through the fabric, the dye will not penetrate. Sometimes several colors are used, with a series of dyeing, drying and waxing steps.

Thin wax lines are made with a tjanting, a tiny metal cup with a tiny spout, out of which the wax seeps. Other methods of applying the wax onto the fabric include pouring the liquid wax, painting the wax on with a brush, and applying the hot wax to a precarved wooden block and stamping the fabric.

After the last dyeing, the fabric is hung up to dry. Then it is dipped in a solvent to dissolve the wax, or ironed between paper towels or newspapers to absorb the wax and reveal the deep rich colors and the fine crinkle lines that give batik its character.


  1. Heat the wax in a tin can sitting in a pan of water. This makes sure the wax stays an even temperature and does not begin to smoke or burn.
  2. Dry the fabric bone-dry before waxing or the wax will not penetrate the fabric.
  3. Use cattle urea tablets to give the dye a real bite in the fabric. This produces rich colors. Some people use vinegar and salt instead.
  4. Use paraffin wax if you want lots of crinkle lines. More beeswax if you want less crinkles.

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