Paint a Silk Scarf with the Batik Technique

Today, we are going to talk about how to paint a silk scarf with batik. This is one of my favourite techniques to paint on silk. This may be because when I started to paint on fabric I first learnt to do batik, or because it allows me to create transparencies and effects such as ‘crackelure’ that I would not be able to achieve with other techniques.

What is Batik?

It’s a painting technique which involves ‘preserving’ colour by applying wax. The wax is usually mixed with paraffin in different percentages, depending on the effect we would like to achieve.

There are many ways of doing batik, but it is important to always bear in mind that the colour that will be preserved is the one that is covered with the wax, and that the colours will be added up if we apply various layers.

We can do batik on different natural fabrics (cotton, linen, wool, silk), on synthetic fabrics, or even on paper. On silk, the results can be spectacular.

Pañuelo de Seda Batik

Batik utensils

What do you need?

The wax can be applied with a Chinese brush, a flat or rounded brush, wooden, metal or cardboard templates, or with tjanting. A tjanting is a small brass or copper bowl which is filled with warm liquid wax that comes out steadily through a spout while you draw.

When I teach somebody to do Batik for the first time, we always start by painting a silk scarf, as I explain below.

We need: a pongee 8 silk scarf, a frame and hooks for silk, a Chinese brush, bees wax and paraffin, silk paints in different colours, a silk painting brush, newspapers and an iron.

How do you do  Batik?

We begin by preparing the wax. We pour the mix of wax and paraffin in a wax melting pot (if you don’t have an electric one, you can use any pot,bain-marie) and we allow it to become liquid. While we wait for the wax to melt, we tense our scarf in the frame using the hooks.

Pañuelo de Seda Batik

batik silk scarf

We then apply a light background colour to our silk scarf -pink, for example-and we let it dry completely.

When the wax has melted, we dip our Chinese brush in it, and we move it backwards and forwards for a few seconds. This will make the brush soften and get fully soaked in wax.
We begin to draw, making circles, dots and lines with the wax, to create a fun, abstract design. Everything we ‘paint’ with the wax will stay pink.

Now we apply all the other colours to our scarf. We allow it to dry completely, and then we take off the wax.

To remove the wax, we place a sheet of newspaper on top of our scarf and a few sheets underneath. We apply heat with an iron, which must be as hot as possible, so that the wax is transferred to the paper. We repeat this step until no more wax is absorbed by the newspaper. Finally, we fix our silk scarf and we can now use it.

Pañuelo de Seda Batik

batik silk scarf on frame

I hope you’ll enjoy doing batik as much as I do.

If you want to explore this ancient technique further, you can send me a message via email to susana@suhzo.com or via WhatsApp on +34682833892.

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