Friday, July 19, 2019

Beautiful Batiks: Fabric Inspiration

And now, for something a little different! Recently, a nearby small local quilt store had an information session about hand-dyed Batik Fabrics, from a company called TrendTex which is a wholesale distributor here in Canada for several fabric lines, including Hoffman Fabrics, which was the focus of the presentation.

This list of Magnum's iconic shirts is a fun read! The presenter opened with a shot of this shirt (the back of a man with dark hair wearing it), asking if we could recognize the shirt or the wearer. No one did, but it's in The Smithsonian Museum now!

Hoffman is the California company that is credited with bring Batik into the main stream via Hawaiian Shirts in the 1980s (worn by none other than the original Magnum P.I., Tom Selleck)! They sell traditional Bali Batiks and more contemporary Indah Batiks under the brand name Me + You. Interestingly, this line is also selling Solids made of Batik cotton, which are a great compliment to the busy traditional patterns.

The Goody Bag, which came with a small roll of Batik squares, a branded chocolate bar, a pen, a handy little tape measure and a lint roller

At first I was hesitant to attend, since I'm not a quilter (yet) and the event was directed at quilters, but one of the shop ladies encouraged me and I'm glad I did! For the grand sum of $5, I got a great goody bag with small squares of Batiks perfect for backing ornaments or small embroideries and an information session about the TrendTex company and the fabrics they carry. When we took our seats, we also filled out a small questionnaire (about how often you quilt, etc.) that doubled as a ticket to a prize drawing of fabulous fabric sets (charm squares, jelly rolls, quilt kits). Not surprisingly, I didn't win a thing LOL If mine was the only ticket in the drawing, I'd still lose 😂

These were the fabrics in my Goody Bag! The assortments were random.
I particularly liked these indigo blue and turquoise combinations:

There were also discounts on Batiks cut off the bolt, but all of the fabrics I was really interested in - the vibrant rainbow hues - weren't available, unfortunately. There are so many different types of quilting fabrics, sewing notions and embroidery threads on the market these days that it can be overwhelming, especially when you live in a rural area like I do and have to order most of them online without being able to see them in person first. I wish there were more information sessions like this, just so we - as stitchy customers - could get a better idea of what we can buy! And where we can buy it 😊

Because TrendTex is a wholesale distributor, based in British Columbia, you can't buy fabric from them directly. However, if your quilt store is serviced by TrendTex, you can ask the owner(s) if they would be willing to order a specific item in for you; they may be happy to do so and you never know until you ask! The Batik section of the TrendTex website is fun to browse, just to get an idea of the patterns and colours available.

Some of my favourites are the rainbows:

And the foliage (leafy botanical) designs:

I have never used a Batik fabric, although I've often admired them at the quilt store! They are quite expensive, and the reason for this is that they are traditionally hand-dyed and hand-decorated, usually using a labour-intensive wax-resist dyeing technique.

The presentation included a YouTube video about traditional Batik making (Batik of Java: A Centuries Old Tradition by The Asian Art Museum), which shows intricate, beautiful fabrics I'd never seen the like of before:

I was a little disappointed that we didn't see a video about the methods that are used today for manufacturing Batik quilting fabrics. But when I got home, I discovered this documentary by Mr. Batik about modern methods of production:

And I was also able to find a video from Hoffman about their Batiks! There is no narration but it gives a great, quick overview of the dyeing process.

It is very interesting to contrast between the videos and see what has and hasn't changed with the creation of Batik fabrics over time. I found the making of the copper stamps ("cops") very interesting, and during the workshop, a vintage cop was handed around to us - it was incredibly heavy! Thee speed and accuracy of the printers with these heavy block stamps is amazing!!

While modern Batik is not the artform traditional Batik was, it still makes beautiful fabric where each bolt is different. Although it's important to note that there are ethical concerns about the working conditions in Batik factories, especially around the handling of toxic dyes and chemicals. We were told during the presentation that Hoffman Fabrics takes pride in its workers and provides the best possible conditions; even though the process looks primitive, the hot local conditions make heavy protective clothing very uncomfortable to wear.

For anyone wanting to read a little more about the history of Batik fabric, there is a quick overview here and a more detailed account at the Batik Guild.

I also discovered a video by American Patchwork & Quilting with seven tips for sewing with Batiks; although the video is for machine sewers, the tips are adaptable for hand sewers and embroiderers too!

Towards the end of the powerpoint presentation by the TrendTex representative, we were surprised with another roll of gift Batiks, slightly larger squares, again in random assortments. We were able to pick from several that the rep held out to our row, and again I missed the bright rainbow colours but I am very pleased with the pretty fabrics I did get, especially the chrysanthemum print:

Here's some close-ups:

The fabric on the bottom is much prettier in person, with very light blues and yellows:

I'm really looking forward to trying to stitch on these beautiful Batiks. One thing I learned from the information session that really surprised me is that the repeated dyeing in the wax-resist method makes the cotton fibres draw tightly together, and indeed Batik fabric has a smoother feel when compared to quilting cotton. The representative said that this makes hand-sewing with Batiks more difficult, so I'm glad to have smaller pieces of fabric like this to practice with.

Some more of my favourites - this one reminds me of sea kelp:

And I love the traditional Batik wax dots on this pretty colour mix:

And finally, my very favourite of them all - this lovely chrysanthemum print:

One thing I've noticed about Batiks is the beautiful, unusual colour combinations. A favourite Batik print would be an excellent jumping off point for developing a floss colour palette for a stitchy project! And the variegated nature makes them an attractive backing fabric, in my opinion, for stitchy patterns that use a lot of colour, or for when you can't match a single shade exactly. They are lively, colourful and powerful prints, even when used in small amounts!

What do you think of Batiks? Have your ever worked with them, or would you like to? And would you attend a fabric information session?


Katie said...

Thanks for sharing. They are beautiful. I have some to use for finishing. I love their look.

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thanks so much for commenting Katie! I love the look too; a blue batik might look lovely with your seaside stitching 💙