Dishtowel and Glue Batik

This year, I have been reminded of how much fun it is to make Christmas gifts.  With three small children, I have to admit that it’s not something that I’ve been anxious to do.  However, my kids had a wonderful time making gifts for their grandmas and grandpas this weekend and I think that they will enjoy them for years to come.  There are few things more cheerful and beautiful than the bright, expressive art of children. 

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Batik is an ancient art which usually involves applying hot wax to fabric, dying the fabric and then removing the glue to expose the design.  When our friend Maggie told us that she had done Batik in her art class at school using glue and tempera paint, I couldn’t wait to try it.

My first attempt using washable tempera paint was not successful.  At this point the project became more of a pain than most of them that I post, but I loved the results so much that I decided to post it anyway.  I went online and found good directions on dickblick.com.  As a result, I ended up going to their store to get higher quality tempera paint, which is not expensive, but stains the fabric better (and your kids clothes too, so be warned!).  They recommend using muslin as the fabric, but I just bought a 6-pk of flour sack dish clothes from Target for about $5.oo.

So, you will need: see-through cotton fabric, non-washable tempura paint, washable glue (like Elmers), a pencil and white paper.

First, I had my children draw designs with dark pencil on white paper the size that I wanted to frame, but you can do any size.  Remember, have them draw large designs.  The glue will spread and you will lose small lines and details.  Remind your child that the final result will not look exactly like their drawing.

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Next, cut the fabric to about the same size as the paper and tape it to the paper.  I first taped the paper to a large piece of flat plastic, and then taped the cloth on, but that is not necessary.  You could probably tape the the paper to a cutting board  or counter top with similar results.  You will be able to faintly see the design through the fabric.  I think Muslin would be more transparent than the dishtowel, but I could see well enough.

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Use glue to trace the drawing onto the fabric.  I did this step for my kids since it’s a little tricky and I didn’t want them to get too frustrated.  I squeezed the glue directly onto the fabric, but you could also put some in a dish and use a toothpick to apply it more finely.  Older children might enjoy doing it themselves!

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Let the glue dry completely (we let it sit for about six hours.) 

Mix one part water with three parts tempera paint for best results.  Then, lay down lots of newspaper, have your child put old clothes on and let them paint their designs.  I think it looks the best when they completely cover the fabric with paint up to and even over glue lines.  My two-year old needed a little guidance so that she didn’t mix the colors together on the fabric too much and muddy them.  It’s fine to let the colors mix a little though.

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Now, let the paint dry completely (overnight did the trick.)  Pull as much of the paper as possible off of the fabric.  Put on gloves to rinse the fabric in the sink.  Use your fingers or a soft rag to remove all of the glue and paper.  (The glue will feel slick and as you remove it you will feel the fabric and the paint will come off of where the glue was.)  It took me several minutes to remove all the glue.  The color will fade a little, but the fabric will soften as you remove the paint.  Do not wring the fabric, but blot it with rags or paper towels.  Then, hang it or lay it flat to dry.

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You can iron the fabric between rags when it is dry.  The edges may be left frayed, or you can secure a small, ironed hem with glue or fabric adhesive.  I just left ours and taped them onto white paper and put them into inexpensive photo frames from Target. 

Each of my kids made one 5×7 batik for each set of grandparents.  They enjoyed the project and so did I!  In fact, one of these days, I’m going to help the kids each make a big Batik to frame for their rooms!  I can’t wait to see the snow leopard my son will do! 

If my directions aren’t clear enough, go to dickblick.com and look up “Easy Fabric Batik.”

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