How to Dye Fabric: No Wax Batik Technique

Batik fabric is traditionally made using wax as a resist. Designs are created by painting or stamping hot wax onto the fabric and then dyeing it. The wax stops the dye from penetrating the fabric. You can create a similar effect much more easily by using glue instead of hot wax.

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Step 1: Apply the glue

For best results use a fabric made from natural fibers like cotton and pre-wash the fabric. Use a washable craft glue like Elmer’s glue to create your design. You can use the glue tip to free hand a pattern, or use a stamp or stencil. I’m drawing a herringbone chevron design. If you’re dyeing a t-shirt or other item of clothing, put a plastic like trash bag between the layers of fabric so the glue doesn’t bleed through. Let the glue dry completely.

Step 2: Dye the fabric

Make sure your work space is covered with a plastic or something to protect it from staining. Then dye the fabric using a technique of your choice to get the effect you want. I’m using low water immersion which will create a mottled look that works well with the batik. Soak the fabric in warm water. Wet fabric takes dye better and more evenly than dry fabric. Heat at least enough water to cover the fabric.

With the water near boiling, pour it into a container. Put on rubber gloves and add the dye, shaking it first, then stir. The amount of dye you use will depend on the color you want to achieve and the amount of water you’re using. I’m using a combination of lemon yellow and tangerine Rit dye. Then scrunch the fabric and put it into the dye. The more tightly packed, the more mottled the result will be. Here I want the batik to be the focal point, so I’m using more water in a larger container so the fabric will dye more evenly. Let the fabric sit for about half an hour. If you’re using Elmer’s glue don’t move the fabric around too much or the glue will start to rub off.

Step 3: Rinse and remove the glue

Rinse in warm water, then cold, until the water runs clear. Depending on the glue used, rub it off as you rinse or peel it off  later. Machine wash on cold and hang dry.

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