Saturday, March 17, 2012

[baby edition] Batik Baby Blanket Part One

A friend of mine just welcomed home a sweet baby this week.  And this time it is a girl!  Is it just me, or does it seem like all of the new babies lately have been of the male gender?  Boys are super fun.  But I have definitely been in the mood for some girly girl.  I love making gifts for babies!

Have you noticed the gauzy lightweight cotton blankets that are all the rage right now?  They are big and wonderful for swaddling new little ones.  And perfect for spring and summer!  But they are a little bit pricey.  So, I decided to make my own.  The fabric isn't that expensive, especially if you have a coupon.  You could probably pick up what you need for between five to seven dollars.  Some of the blankets that I have seen at the stores have cute little images printed on them.  Hmm.  That's a little harder without some special equipment.  After a little bit of research, I decided this would be the perfect time to experiment with batik!  And I did.  And oh-my-goodness it is so much fun!  I might just have a new addiction. 

What the heck is batik, you ask?  It is the traditional fabric of Indonesia.  If you want to know all of the amazing details, click here.  Basically it is a technique for dying fabric that uses wax as a dye resistant.  Huh?  You apply hot wax to your fabric in whatever design you want.  When you place your fabric in a vat of dye, the places on the fabric that have been "waxed" resist the dye.  It can be very complicated and involve multiple dyes.  Or it can be very simple.  I opted for simple.  I almost always opt for simple.  Babies don't need much to make them happy.

For this project you will need:

beeswax (you can use paraffin, but it will not produce the clean lines that beeswax offers)
double boiler
cookie cutters or other simple shapes to dip into the wax
fabric (washed, dried, and ironed)
dye (I used RIT liquid dye)
non-iodized salt
bucket or non-reactive bowl
non-reactive stirring stick
paper towels, old rags, kraft paper or the like

Step One:  Wash and dry your fabric before you do anything else.  I bought a yard and a half of fabric that was 45 inches wide.  By the time I trim it up and hem it, I should have a square blanket.  You need to remove any starch or chemicals that would prevent the dye from setting.  You will probably want to iron your fabric as well.

Step Two:  Chop your beeswax into smallish pieces and place it in the top of a double boiler.  I decided that I didn't want to put the wax into my nice pan.  So I used a clean tuna fish can for my wax and placed it into a small pan of water.  It doesn't take much wax to batik a baby blanket.  I used maybe a two inch cube of wax for the whole thing.  Heat and melt your wax.  I used medium heat until it was melted and then turned the heat way down.  Be careful, you don't want to heat  your wax all fast and furious-like.  And don't leave it unattended.  There is a flash point where the wax will ignite.

Step Three:   Line your work surface with paper to prevent staining and to make wax clean-up easier.  I used some of paper from my daughter's art easel.  Place your fabric over the top.

Step Four:  Apply the hot wax to your fabric.  I used flower shaped cookie cutters.  Place the cutter into the hot wax for at least thirty seconds to warm it up.  I attached a clothespin to protect my fingers from getting burned.  Those metal cookie cutters get HOT!  Pick up your cutter with the clothespin and allow the excess wax to drip off for a second.  Then place your cutter onto your fabric and allow the wax to soak in and then remove.  This just takes a few seconds.  It's very much like rubber stamping.  You want the wax to be translucent on your fabric.  If it is opaque, your wax isn't warm enough.  It hasn't completely absorbed into the fabric.  You may get some drips or imperfect stamps onto your fabric.  I think it adds to the charm!

Step Five:  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  I kept dipping and stamping until I had the finished design that I was wanting.  After every five or six stamps, I needed to return my pan to the stove and reheat my wax.

I used a frosting piping tip for the center of my flowers.   I also thought it would be cute to use it to add some random "polka dots" for whimsy's sake.  Just be warned, the wax is really hard to clean off of small cutters and piping tips.  They may or may not be usable for their original purposes when you are finished.  Look around the house, you will find all kinds of things that make interesting patterns.  Wooden blocks, wooden spools, metal rings...they all work great!

Click here for part two--wherein we actually dye our sweet little blanket!

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