RSS Feed
  1. Original Home Decor Ideas: Batik Pillows

    July 16, 2012 by lena

    Throw pillows are a great way to freshen up the look of your living space. Whether you would like to create a different vibe or add some flare to your old furniture, the multitude of colors and patterns that pillows come in, will help you accomplish a unique new look.  For best results think outside the box: don’t go for the common styles, patterns and colors that everyone has in their homes, screaming IKEA or Crate & Barrel. Instead, consider batik. Batik fabrics can be used for DIY pillow projects, can be purchased as ready-made pillows, or can even be hand-made. Batik patterns and colors offer a wide spectrum of rich original colors and patterns the likeness of which you will not find anywhere else. 


    Whether you like geometrical patterns or pattens of stylized flowers, animals, people and mythical creatures batik has it all. While most batik fabrics that are available today are manufactured at a factory, they are still replicas of many of the original centuries- old ethnic patterns. Many of the ancient batik patterns have been lost, but today it is still possible for true batik connoisseurs to find original hand-made batik fabrics that are not mass produced.

    Batik patterns are exquisitely detailed. Every line, dot and shape is filled with symbolic and cultural significance. Since original batiks were used primarily for religious and ceremonial purposes as well as for the royal family, every pattern was produced with great care and could take months to complete. Today, we can enjoy the timeless beauty of these fabrics in our own homes.


    Batik fabrics offer a beautiful color pallet. For people who do not like flashy bright colors, these fabrics are a real gem. Most hues are bright yet soft at the same time, and will not be irritating eye sores in your living space. Traditional colors are primarily earth tones: rich hues of brown, red, orange, and yellow as well as gorgeous deep indigo blue. For many centuries these colors were all made from natural dyes, mixed from ingredients taken from the earth such as tree bark, leaves, berries, roots, vegetables, etc, producing natural colors that are difficult to replicate using modern chemical dyes.  For people who enjoy brighter colors, batik fabrics from the later period, influenced by the Dutch and the Chinese, offer a new range of colors such as hues of pink, green, purple and light blue.


    People who love to sow can great creative and make their own batik pillow covers from batik fabric. Batik fabric can be ordered on line from specialty fabric stores and is usually cotton. What is great about these bolts of fabric is that many of them are replicas of the ancient batik patterns and motifs that you will not find in store-bought batik pillows. You can also combine different patterns together for a unique quilted look. The added benefit of making your own pillow covers is that you can make your own custom sizes and then stuff the pillows yourself.


    Today there is a wide variety of batik pillows available on line. Many of them are handmade and imported from Indonesia (the original birthplace of batik), India, Thailand and Malaysia. It is possible to get cotton batik pillows for as low as 10 dollars and silk ones can as cost as much as $150 for one pillow. While modern batik pillows may not offer the detailed authentic look of original batik fabrics, they have the benefit of sporting more modern, minimalistic designs and brighter colors. Some artisans do still produce original batik patterns that can be recognized by their highly detailed, seamlessly flowing designs.


    If you want exclusive batik pillow covers and have some time to spare, venture out and try making your very own batik. Blank pillow covers, wax, dyes and all necessary batik making tools are available in all major arts&crafts stores and there are plenty of books, on-line batik making guides and video tutorials on YouTube. Once you make your first batik you will gain a true appreciation of this ancient art form and will never look at piece of batik fabric the same way again.

  2. Direct and Hidden Costs of Different Fabrics used in the Batik Making Process

    April 30, 2012 by lena

    In the batik making process, you need to consider what kind of fabric you will use to make your designs on. The choice is usually between cotton and silk, and there are some direct and hidden costs associated with each one that you need to consider.


    Direct Cost

    Depending on the quality and type of cotton you buy, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $ 20 per yard. I would recommend getting the most light-weight cotton fabric that does not stretch, such as batiste, because you will have a much easier time making batik on it and will avoid the hidden costs associated with other types of cotton fabric.

    Hidden Costs

    Out of all the types of cotton that you can buy, stretchy, jersey cotton fabrics pose the most issues and therefore have the highest hidden cost, even though you may be paying fairly low prices for the fabric itself.

    - Costs associated with waxing difficulties

    Most cotton fabrics, especially jersey fabrics require more wax to make the design then light weight flat cotton such as batiste or silk fabrics. While you may not notice a difference when you are making outlines of the design with wax, you will notice that when you have to block  a large area with wax, the fabric soaks it in, and you need more wax to cover it. Also,  wax has a harder time penetrating the fabric in an even, consistent way, which means that you will need to re-wax those areas from the back, which in turn means you are spending more of your time and extra money on the wax itself.

    Costs associated with dyeing difficulties

    Thicker types of cotton fabric require more dye to get the same brightness and intensity of color as with thinner fabrics.  Also, it is more difficult to dye these fabrics in an even way, and often stains appear. This means that you have to spend extra time and extra dye to cover up those problem areas with a darker color. Jersey fabrics are particularly difficult to dye, because they soak in a lot of dye, coming out a lot less bright then expected and also have the highest chance of dyeing unevenly and staining.

    Costs associated with wax removal difficulties

    It is difficult to remove wax from cotton in the boiling process. You need to buy  more baking soda to throw into the boiling water to remove the wax, and you may need to boil the fabric (depending on its thickness more then once). Also, it takes a long time to wash the residue wax out of the fabric after boiling it. You may feel that the cotton fabric does not feel as soft after the processing, which means that you may need to soak it in fabric soften and in the worst case scenario take it to the dry cleaners, as they will completely remove the residue wax. Jersey fabrics are the most difficult to rid of wax, and usually you need to end up spending extra money and take it to the dry cleaners.

    Note about Extra Time

    As you can see, using cotton fabrics often requires you to spend a lot of extra time to do a good job. If batik is your hobby, this extra time is spent for your own pleasure and does not directly translate into dollars. However, if you are starting a business and want to sell your batik designs, your time immediately equals money. Spending more time means that either you have to charge more for your products in order to offset the cost of the extra time you spend, or keep the price the same and effectively loose money, because you end up working extra hours for free.


    There are many choices for silk fabric that vary greatly in quality, and in the way they look and feel. However, all silks have one thing in common: while they cost more upfront, they have hidden savings in the form of not having to spend extra time and money on issues with waxing, dyeing and removing the wax. Why? Because silk requires very little wax to make the designs, takes the dye beautifully, producing stunning colors with no stains and no need for a do overs, and finally the wax boils out of silk in seconds without the need to spend a lot of extra time to wash the residue wax out or boil it again. If you know how to work with silk, you spend overall less time on producing batik designs on it, as compared to the amount of time spent working on other fabrics.

    Direct Cost

    Depending on the quality of silk and your luck finding bargains you can expect to pay $12-$40 per yard. While this may seem like a lot of money to spend upfront, you need to consider the fact that if you are planning to sell your work, you will be able to sell silk items at a higher price as luxury items, than items made form other types of fabrics.

    Hidden Cost

    While overall working with silk as opposed to cotton can save you both time and money, it is only true if you know how to work with silk and have strong batik making skills. Because of the flowing and smooth nature of silk, it is much more difficult to make consistent dots and lines on it with wax. Working with silk requires a lot more control of the tjanting and knowledge of how to regulate the temperature of the wax  so that it does not leak and ruin the fabric with stains. To avoid wasting money by accidentally ruining a nice expensive piece of silk fabric, I recommend first practicing on thin, light-weight cotton and then graduating to working with silk.

  3. Traditional Batik Processing and Fabric Patterns

    December 29, 2011 by lena

    Hand made batik is a highly involved process that requires time, patience and fine skills. In creating a batik pattern, an artist draws the design with hot melted wax, utilizing a special wooden handled tool, called tjanting. Sometimes several colours are used, with a series of dyeing, drying and waxing steps. At the end, the cloth is boiled to completely remove the wax, and all the elements of design finally become exposed. It takes an artist many hours of intense concentration and labor to produce the intricate details that are the hallmark of hand-made batik. Indonesia has for centuries been the place where batik craftsmanship has continued to develop and thrive, elevating this beautiful craft to a central place in Indonesian social, cultural and religious life.

    Traditionally, both Indonesian men and women have used hand made batik cloths as part of their dress attire by wrapping it around the body.  Smaller sized cloths have been made into hats by wrapping them around the head. Batik has always been much more then just an intricately decorated, beautiful piece of fabric.

    Every detail and element of design that you see has a deep spiritual and cultural meaning. Depending on the meaning of a particular pattern, that cloth is used as part of special social, political and religious occasions. Even today, many Infants are carried in batik slings decorated with symbols designed to bring the child luck. Certain batik designs are reserved for brides and bridegrooms, as well as their families. Special funerary batik is used to cover the deceased person in the funeral ceremony. Other designs are reserved for the Sultan, his royal family or their attendants. Before modern dress became common in Indonesia, a person’s rank and social status used to be easily determined by the pattern of the batik he or she wore, which consisted of wider stripes and wide wavy lines.

    The significance of batik in Indonesian modern cultural life becomes all the more apparent when one visits the city of Jogjakarta, which has for centuries been the hub of batik craftsmanship in Indonesia. From batik courses for tourists, to countless artisan shops that produce hand-made batik paintings, to clothing shops selling batik clothing, it is clear that the hand-made batik tradition continues to thrive. On my visit to Jogja, I was particularly impressed with the artisan shop that is located on the premises of the royal Sultan palace that produces hand-made sarongs with royal patterns for the royal family. I had the pleasure of speaking to the  women who make these exquisite royal batiks for over 40 years, ever since their mothers have passed on these fine skills to them.

    Image of Hand Making Batik in the Royal Palace in Jogja, Indonesia

    Here are some of the common traditional batik patterns and explanations of their cultural meaning that can be found Indonesia today. Before advancements in modern textile printing, designing these cloths would take countless hours of meticulous labor, and one would have a truly original batik cloth, the likeness of which could not be replicated. Finding these gems of craftsmanship today is very difficult, as traditional patterns are now printed on large textile printers just like any other modern clothing pattern available in stores today for a small fraction of what an original hand-made batik would cost you. Still, the batik tradition lives on, and continues to attract artists, designers and people from all walks of life who value creating and owning articles of clothing and home decor that have both a unique look and a rich history.

    Batik Cuwiri: this design is often used in everyday wear, and means that the person wearing this motif is supposed to look well put-together and respectable.


    Batik Kawung: this pattern is traditionally used by the king and the royal family, symbolizing courage and justice.


     Batik Sido Mukti: this pattern is used in traditional wedding ceremonies, and intends to bring happiness to the newly-wed couple.

    Batik Parangkusomo: in Javanese “kusomo” means the flower that blossoms, and it symbolizes that the person wearing this batik looks beautiful.


    Batik Nitik Karawitan: this pattern symbolizes that the person wearing it possesses great wisdom.

    Batik Parang Rusak Barong: this motif signifies power and ability to stand up for oneself. It is intended to help a warrior magnify his strength.


    Batik Udan Liris: this pattern symbolizes fertility and is intended to be worn by women who would like to have a child.


    Batik Tambal: the patchwork nature of this design symbolizes new spirit. Therefore, it is believed that if a sick person is covered with this batik cloth, they will recover quickly.

  4. Modern Batik Clothing Design

    April 10, 2012 by lena

    Many designers in Asia today value the rich history and culture of traditional handmade batik, that once used to be a major part of many Asian and African countries’ religious and social ceremonies. While most of the batik clothing today is manufactured using the latest textile technologies such as digital printing, designer still like to create fabrics that have an authentic batik look and connect back to their ancient roots.

    Many Asian designers use the traditional colors that are typical of batik fabrics such as rich earthly towns, reds, and indigo blue. Batik designs are distinguishable and easily recognizable because of their bold, eye catching patterns. These patterns are very different from modern textile design, because if you look closer, you will see a lot of intricate details that make up the larger design. In previous centuries, every element of design had deep spiritual meaning and clothing was adorned with these symbols for a variety of purposes such as protection, power, health and luck amulets. Unfortunately, today many of these symbolic elements have been lost, and few fashion designers know the real meaning of the ones that remain, using them for decorative rather than spiritual purposes.

    Some designers do not shy away from bright colors, and now there is an array of richly colored designer batik fabric that is made in to sarongs, saris, and other pieces of formal and evening wear available for women who like to turn heads with their attire. Popular hues include bright yellows, reds and oranges, which look especially great in the spring and summer. If you are looking for a lively piece to spice up your beach attire, then a brightly colored designer batik sarong is you best bet to get a lot of compliments on the beach.

    Batik is not only popular in Asia; in recent years batik patterns and colors have been becoming part of both mainstream and couture fashion in the West. This fusion of traditional Eastern motifs and patterns combined together with ultra modern Western silhouettes and lines result in unique and beautiful pieces that would complement any woman.

    There has also been a resurgence of interest toward the traditional processing of batik, and a handful of textile artists in the West are now offering unique batik clothing lines that are handmade from beginning to end. While most batik artists offer handmade scarves and ponchos, a handful of others actually venture out to make more difficult pieces such as dresses, skirts and tunics. Given the easier alternatives for textile design, this is an impressive feat on the part of these artists, as producing a handmade batik takes many hours, requires great skill, patience and planning. However, the finished product is worth all of the effort, being a true work of art, the likeness of which cannot be replicated again. This unique quality makes handmade batik truly special and is a great fashion choice for the discerning ladies who want to wear an exclusive garment that no one else will have.

  5. Guide to Buying Handmade Batik on the Internet

    January 26, 2012 by lena

    Perhaps you have heard and read about batik, and are interested in owning a piece of this ancient art either in the form of clothing or home decor. Or perhaps you are looking for that unique gift that will wow your special someone, and the exotic feel of batik fits the bill. Chances are that you will Google “batik”, and low and behold you will get many websites to choose from that are selling just what you are looking for and more: unique, authenitc batik shirts, bags, pillows, ties, table runners, scarves,…etc. You may even be pleasantly surprised at the great variety of choices and for the most part very reasonable prices. Before you get too excited and charge your credit card, there is something you should know about batik and the places that sell it on line. The majority of the products that claim to be authentic batik are factory made printed look-alikes that are made in China, Indonesia and India. Now, you may not care about authenticity, if the look and price satisfy your needs. However, if you are interested in buying a truly one of a kind work of hand made batik, the following tips will help you distinguish between factory made batik, and unique products created by artists, so that you can be happy with your purchase.
    Tip 1: Look for detailed information on the site about batik, how its made, the artist’s inspiration, links to other batik artists galleries, etc. Most batik sites that sell factory made batik provide a brief and general overview of what batik is and how it is produced. However, artists that make hand-made batik usually take their time to describe and discuss their creative process at length.

    Tip 2: Since you cannot hold the batik in your hands, you can at least try to make sure that the person claiming to sell authentic batik actually made it with their own hands by checking if there are videos and pictures that show the artist at work on the site.

    Tip 3: Look at the variety of batik colors and patterns offered on the site. If the site has many different patterns that they can customize in different colors, then you can rest assured this is printed fabrics, or batik stamps at best. This is especially true if the seller is not based in America, as there are a lot of small and large printing shops in Asia that sell batik on line. Also, if  a company is selling rolls of different batik fabric that you can order by the yard, it is definitely not hand made work and not even batik stamp. Artists that make hand-made batik will have limited editions or even just individual pieces for sale, as it is not possible to reproduce the exact same batik design.

    Tip 4: Don’t be fooled by “bargain deals” on authentic batik. Regardless of where you are in the world, real artists that make hand-made batik will charge premium prices because it is incredibly labor intensive and because it is a one of a kind work of art. Even in Indonesia, where factory made batik is sold for pennies on every corner, you will not be able to buy an authentic batik for at least 10 times more then the asking price for the prints. Batik artists living in Europe and the US will charge even more, based on the extensive time it takes to produce a design, higher cost of materials and higher cost of living than in Asia.