Monday, December 6, 2010

Batik Dyeing with Children Using a Flour Paste Resist Method

During this year's Bermuda schools fall vacation brought with it a terific Fiber vacation camp! Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation offered an exploration of the Sea through fiber! It was fantastic! The children worked hard and created some  amazing results considering their age range and time restraints.

Our program began as children created the foundation for their piece. The backing for a wall hanging diorama  was a piece of batik that the children painted to depict the water. I wanted the children to be able to do the batik work themselves. Some of the children were as young as 5, so using hot melted wax seemed inappropriate. Hot wax can be dangerous to work with and is also a messy process. I always enjoy looking for an alternative way for children to achieve the same results that they would get using a more traditional or labor intensive method. In this case, the hot wax method was not an  option. After doing a bit of research I found references on line to using a flour paste resist. Brilliant! I experimented with this completely safe option and it worked beautifully.
 Teaching at a non-profit with lots of "stuff" hanging around is a good fit for my resourcefulness. I needed a frame for each child's fabric to be stretched on for painting. I found a variety of old picture frames that had been used in the gallery at one time as well as some wooden weaving frames we had made for a class project a few years ago. Perfect!
We also had some yardage of cotton muslin for fabric. After deciding on a dimension, I tore the fabric to size. Tearing works better than cutting cotton. You get a straight line and it's very fast. I mounted the fabric to the frames using masking tape. This worked well but I recommend you not do this too far in advance. In a damp environment the tape won't hold for too many days and might have to be done over.
Once the fabric is stretched on the frame, it is Batik ready!

I made a flour and water paste the consistency of thick pancake batter; thick enough to create a dam that the dye could not pass over and not so thick that it was hard to paint onto the fabric. Brush choice for putting the paste on might affect the results depending on how wide or stiff it is. I liked using a 1/2" - 3/4" flat brush. This is what the flour paste looked like after painting it on my sample. I chose to make a design that made me think of waves or movement in the water. After the flour paste was dry, it is ready to be dyed. Drying time can vary from a few hours to overnight depending on the weather and temperature.

There are several dyes that will work well with cotton. Dylon dyes can be purchased at Joanne Fabrics so is very convenient. Procion dyes are also a good choice and can be purchased on line at Dahrma Trading Company. It may also be available at other shops that sell fiber related supplies. We happened to have some Dylon dyes in our stash so we used that. The mixing directions are easy to follow. Since you should be careful about inhaling dye powders, I prepared them in advance of our class.
I used two colors and randomly painted them on my piece with a sponge brush. I kept it flat to dry so there was no chance of dyes running and this is what I got.
The hard part of this project was washing out the resist. Once the dye was completely dry, the best results came from using a scrubby sponge after soaking the piece for a 15 -30 minutes in room temp water. Although it took a bit of time, you don't have to scrub much and this serves to rince any excess dye from your piece at the same time.

I was very pleased with my result. I knew the children would find success! See my next post for the next piece of this project!

Until next time........................................

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