Batik fabrics are all the rage! Who doesn’t love batik quilt patterns? It’s no wonder with all the luscious colors and patterns found in batiks today. I starting collecting batiks in the mid- to late-1990s. Back then, they were not as widely available as they are now. There also wasn’t as many colors or patterns, and the range of value was very limited. Today, batiks are a mainstay in the quilting world and I’m still collecting these wonderful fabrics.
Have you ever wondered how batiks are made? Batiks are a dyed fabric. Removable wax is applied in a design or pattern, so the dye doesn’t reach those areas of the fabric. Then the fabric is dipped in dye. Once the dye has dried, the wax is boiled off. This exposes the previous color and design. To create multi-colored designs, the fabric is layered with wax and dyed numerous times. Since the fabric is submerged in a dye bath, it’s dyed all the way through the fabric. Usually, batiks don’t have a right or wrong side. When both sides are virtually identical, I choose the side on which the design is clearer as the right side. When the colors vary from side to side, I choose the side I like best for the project I’m making.
Batik fabrics have more threads per inch in each direction than other fabrics commonly used for quilting, which means they have a tighter weave. Since batik fabrics are wetted and dried in the printing process, shrinkage has already occurred before you buy the fabric. Concerns over colorfastness shouldn’t be any different with batiks than with any other fabrics. Removing the wax from the cloth involves rinsing in boiling hot water, which also washes out most excess dye. However, if you are using intense blues, reds, and purples, pre-washing is recommended.
Working with batiks is as easy as picking up a bundle of pre-cut 2½”-wide strips! I used a bundle of pre-cut strips, plus yardage for the border and sashing to make “Rock Candy” from Love of Quilting May/June 2011. The navy sashing is a nice accent to the bright batiks and adds dimension to the quilt.
Some quilters are not sure how to use batiks. The question is whether batik fabrics should only be used with other batiks or can they be combined with other quilting cottons? The answer is yes! You can make a quilt using only batiks and you can combine them with other fabrics. I used a combination of cotton prints and batiks to make “Rising Star” from Love of Quilting July/August 2015. Using a variety of batiks adds interest to designs and, with “Rising Star,” they helped emphasize the diamond-shape in the center of the quilt.
Because batiks have a tighter weave, they are ideal for foundation piecing. They don’t fray as much when handled and pieces cut on the bias hardly stretch at all. These fabrics have a smooth texture that makes them easier to press and they’ll give you sharp, crisp points. Wonderful and unusual effects are possible when you use batiks in your batik quilt patterns. Use them alone or in combination with traditional fabrics for a fantastic effect. These enticing fabric jewels are sure to stretch your color imagination.