Creating Layered Fabric Designs using Batik

Batik can be a really fiddly process that may seem a little scary to try at first – but it doesn’t have to be! In this project we have layered wax and
dyes to create a wonderfully abstract fabric design that can be used for embroidery, quilting, lampshades, clothing or just a piece of artwork in its
own right. It’s so much fun to play around with batik in this way and to surrender to being surprised by your outcome! Here’s how to create an abstract
layered batik: 

Stretch your fabric out onto a batik frame using silk pins. A lightweight cotton works best – we used
Prima cotton.

Heat your wax pot so that the batik wax melts. We turn the dial to 5 1/2
on the Tixor Malam wax pot to get the wax nice and
hot without risk of smoking. The batik wax gives a slight crackle
whilst going on smoothly. Heat your tools in the batik pot. Use on natural fibre brushes in the wax or they will melt! When your brush has heated,
make marks on your cloth by splashing and dripping the wax. Keep dipping your brush into the wax to keep it hot. If the wax is not hot enough it will
turn white on the fabric, sit on the surface and won’t resist the dye.

Don’t make too many marks at this stage. Everything you have waxed will stay white in your finished batik so be mindful not to fill up all the space too

When you have completed your first waxing it’s time to mix the dye. Mix 1/2 tsp of Procion MX dye with 50ml of cold water. Mix this quantity for each of the colours you want to use. For this project I am using
Bright Turquoise, Lemon Yellow, Golden Yellow and Magenta. Put a pipette in each colour. Use the pipettes to take small quantities of dyes and mix your first colour. 

Start with the palest colour you are going to use and work up through the tones getting darker and brighter. The colours will appear darker in the pot
than they do on the fabric and will dry paler still. 

Mix up your chemical water. This will be your fixative, stopping your dyes from completely washing out of fading. Mix 5 tsp urea (colour brightener), 2 tsp soda ash (fixative)
and 1 tsp calgon (for hard water areas like ours) with 1/2 litre
of warm water. 

This mixture will have a life of a couple of hours only. After this point it will no longer work to fix your dyes so mix up a fresh batch if this time
has elapsed. 

Add your chemical water to the dye mixture you have just made. You want at least the same amount of chemical water to dye. 

Use your dye mixture to paint onto your cloth. Use a different brush to your wax brush and don’t muddle them up. Allow your dye to dry completely. You
can speed up this process by using a hairdryer. Keep the hairdryer moving and on a cold setting to avoid melting the wax!

When the dye in completely dry, you’re ready for your second waxing. If the cloth is damp, the wax will sit on the surface and not resist the dye. Use
the paintbrush to add more marks and splashes or use a tjanting to draw lines and squiggles. Different tjantings have different sized spouts creating thinner or thicker lines. 

Each time you add wax, you are preserving the colour beneath it. These wax lines will stay yellow when the next dye colour is put on top.

To mix your new dye colour, add more dye and chemical water to your first colour. This will help you build up the tones so that you know each layer will
work well over the last. 

Use larger brushes to swipe larger wax marks on your cloth – just make sure the wax is hot enough to show a darker greasy mark when applied.

Again, add to your dye mix with more colour and fixative, going darker and bolder each time.

Build up more wax when the cloth is completely dry.

You can use your pipette to add spots of rich bright colour or spot with a smaller paintbrush. The dye will spread over the wet cloth, stopping at waxed

To create even more interesting marks try some sgraffito – use a tool such as an etching needle to scratch into the wax. This will create lines for the dye to access the fabric creating delicate dyed lines with
furry edges.


When you’ve built up your layers so that there is not much unwaxed cloth you’re ready to crackle and dip dye. If you like the look of your fabric at this
stage then you can stop now and skip ahead to ironing the wax out. Crackling your batik will completely transform your design, making it much more
complex and textured. 

If you want to crackle your design, use a large natural fibre brush to cover your whole batik in a layer of wax.


Allow the wax to cool and harden before scrunching up your batik. This will crack the wax, revealing areas of fabric for the dye to penetrate. The more
you scrunch your batik, the more crackle you will get as more dye is allowed to get in to your cloth. We scrunched this batik A LOT so that lots of
dye can get in. You never quite know what you’re going to get after you’ve crackled so it’s always exciting watching it happen!

Mix up a dip dye recipe in a bucket or washing up bowl using 2tsp dye, 2tsp soda ash and 300ml water. We used a mixture of Black, Lemon Yellow and Bright
Turquoise dye to get a sludgy green.


Wear gloves as this dye will stain hands and clothing. Un-scrunch your batik and press it into the dye. You can see the dye getting into the fabric and
dyeing where the wax is cracked.

Once the fabric is covered, remove it from the dye bath and lay it out to dry. Blot off excess dye with kitchen paper. 

When it has dried it’s time to remove the wax. Place your batik on a large wad of newspaper and place another piece on top. Use a hot iron all over the
newspaper. As the wax melts it will saturate the newspaper. When one piece has been saturated, throw it away and replace. Continue until very little
wax is coming out of the cloth.

It’s best to use a separate iron here to the one you use for your clothing or sewing as it can get a little waxy. If your iron starts to smoke at all,
turn it off at the plug to cool down and then wipe away any excess wax from the surface.

When you have finished ironing, your batik is finished! This one has a lot of crackle where the dye has penetrated the cloth, creating lots of weird and
wonderful textures and patterns.

If you intend to use your batik for clothing or home-wares you will need to remove the remaining wax (if not, skip this final step). You can do this by

  • plunging the batik into boiling water for a few seconds (in a large pan not used for food). The wax will melt and rise to the surface. Remove the batik
    with tongs and give it a scrub to remove any flaky wax. Repeat a couple of times until all the wax is out. Wash your batik with a little Metapex to remove any remaining dye.

  • OR some dry cleaners will remove wax for you if you smile sweetly. 

Be aware though, after the wax is removed the batik will appear paler (especially if it is over boiled)! It’s better to go bold and bright with your dyes
to allow for a little fading at this point. 

To complete this project you will need:

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