July 18, 2016

Journey to Batik-tutorial: Statement Shirt

To start making your own 'Statement shirt' there are a few things you need:

- First: Only make positive statement shirts; if you have shit to share, don't share it!
- A shirt (preferable white) or cloth from linnen or cotton
- a nice piece of fabric that fits with what you want to express. I used a piece of Wax print for this shirt
- a piece of Fusible Interfacing ("Vlieseline, Vliesoflix"), the one that sticks when you iron it
- an iron
- vinegar or salt
- flowers or vegetables from your garden
-  a big pan(s) and a colander 
- sewing machine, fabric scissors, pins, thread

The Shirt

For this 'Statement shirt' I started from scratch. I wanted it to take time and, more importantly, effort to make it. If you want to make a statement, you have to work for it!
I used an old bed linen to copy one of my favorite shirts. The design of the shirt is quite easy, just a T-shape for the front and back. I left the length of the shirt a bit longer then the original so I could make it fit nicely at the end.
You can also use a shirt (or linnen bag). It can already be a colored one too. I did the same with two 'Statement shirts' I made last year, see here and here.

The Colour 

Before you can dye your fabric, you need to boil it in water with one cup of vinegar for an hour. You can also use salt. The vinegar and salt make the colour sticks to your fabric. After an hour rinse the fabric with cold water and let it drip out a bit.
To make the natural dye you can use many different things. Search online and you find endless possibilities. Because I didn't really prepare for making natural dye, I just choose to use a flower that was well represented in my garden and so far cultivated that it is pretty, but useless for insects. The pink flowers of my Hortensia. I cooked the flowers for an hour into enough water so I could soak the fabric in it. You can let the cooked flowers soak overnight, but I decided to use the dye straight away.
I'm no expert on natural dye, this is my first attempt, so use online information to do it right.

The Tie-Dye

When your natural dye is finished you can put your still wet fabric into it. You can make it an even dye, but you can also play with knotting so bits stay white or a lighter shade. Look up Shibori from Japan, Mudmee from Thailand or Tie-dye from Ghana.
It is nice the experiment with knotting and you can follow workshops almost everywhere to explore the different ways of decorating natural dyed fabrics. I made (too) quick tie-dye knots in the fabric before putting them in the dye.
I left the fabric in overnight and the next morning I ironed the fabric dry. Use a towel between the fabric and the ironboard and a towel between the fabric and the iron. The ironing fixates the colour.

The Statement

A little reminder: Only make positive 'Statement shirts'; if you have shit to share, don't share it!
To know how big the statement can be on your shirt, you need to measure where you want it. You don't want it to high or to low. The statement needs to be on the shirt between your nipples and shoulders. Measure the maximum space you have on the shirt or bag.
I print the letters, but you can also write the letters on a piece of paper. With the paper letters you can check if your statement is going to fit on your shirt.
Choose a piece of fabric that is big enough to cut all the letters out. You can of course also use different pieces of fabric. Choose a fabric that is thick and not to stretchy.
Iron the 'Fusible Interfacing' on the back side of the fabric. 
I first cut out the letters till a little edge is left. I pin these to the fabric and cut them out with fabric scissors. Place the letters on the shirt and pin them on the right spot. It is a good idea to try the shirt before ironing the letters on the fabric. 
When the letters are on the right spot, iron them on the shirt.

The Sewing

If you work with an already finished shirt you can start with sewing the letters onto the fabric. Of course they already stick to the fabric after the ironing, but it will secure the letters & gives it a nice effect. Choose for your thread a contrasting colour, neon or glitter can be nice too, or a colour that is in the fabric, but subtile. I used neon and light green, because the color is in the Wax print and it contrasts nicely with the lilac of the fabric. Now zigzag around the letters. Make sure the thread goes around the edges of the letters. 
If you make a shirt yourself, it is easier to first sew the letters into place, before putting the shirt together. After I sew the letters, I lined the neckline and sleeves. I pinned the shirt together and sew around the edges. I first tried the shirt before lining the bottom of the shirt.

Congrats, your Statement shirt is finished!


I started making this shirt to express how I feel. I want to express my worries about everything that is going on. The killing of humans and the killing of our planet.
In the three days it took me to make this shirt even more terrible things happend and I can't believe this is the reality. This is what we are doing on this beautiful planet.
My thoughts go out to everyone who is suffering from violence, both mentally and physically.
I hope by sharing this tutorial, more people feel the freedom to share their thoughts and dare to wear this statement with me: Stop Killing!

July 11, 2016

Buy a Batik

Taking a break from scraping off wax from the Batiks
Yogyakarta, 2009

Young girl learns the art of Batik from her mother
Jeruk, 2009

Batik brand labels 
Solo, 2009

Batik hanging to dry
Yogyakarta, 2009

These are titles of recent news articles. Strong titles that can be read as cries for help from the Batik industry towards the government and also towards buyers. The problem the Batik industry has, is the same they had in 2009: Printed Batiks flooding the market while Batik Tulis is not being sold. The solution was to make Batik the officially UNESCO heritage of Indonesia, but this solution turns out not to be the right answer. Or not yet, because how can a heritage exist if their is, as it seems, no need for the product. Or is it not that they don't want the product, but just can't buy the right product?
The problem, about which I wrote about several times on this blog*, may lead to the demise of the Batik industry. And with a technique like Batik Tulis, when the knowledge is lost, it may be lost forever.
A serious cry for help and I hope it will be heard.

My upcoming project, The second journey to Batik, is actually inspired by this problem. Batik as a technique has been under pressure for a long time, but I noticed that in the Indonesian culture & Art it is very alive. The philosophy of Batik as I call it, the language of the patterns, is used in many Art forms from painting to tattoo’s, in dance and fashion. But can Batik exist without the actual Batik Tulis, the handwritten cloths that inspired all of these cultural things on Java. It is something I'm trying to figure out this year during my three month stay on Java.
I will visit many artists, fashion-designers, museums, experts and of course Batik makers. I hope to answer: Why is Batik so inspiring and how can we use this inspiration to make sure the making of Batik Tulis will exist for many more generations to come?
In the article 'Ignorance may lead to the demise of industry' the suggestion is being made to educate people so they can buy actual Batik Tulis and not printed Batik. I think this is a very good idea, but how to do it?
As I wrote in a previous blogpost before, I got my heart broken earlier when I received as a gift a printed Batik. My heart also broke when I ordered a blouse from a brand I love, who claimed to support real Batik, that turned out to be made with printed Batik. Ignorance is in this case is as dangerous as deliberately. And without sending blame, I hope together with other real Batik lovers we can secure te future of Batik and try to find ways to bring the buyer back to the product!

In this video about the Museum Batik in Yogyakarta (with English subtitles) at 9 minutes a short and nice explanation by the museum director about how to recognize a real Batik.
So how can you recognize a Batik Tulis from a printed Batik, or better said Tekstil Motif Batik, a textile with a Batik pattern/motive. Forget her first tip about if you buy the expensive Batik, you buy a real batik, because price can be misleading. It is an important thing to realize, because I meet a lot of people in the Netherlands wearing printed, or better said fake Batik, telling me it is too expensive to wear actual Batik. From my own experience this is just not true. It is a point of view and it really depends on what you classify as "too expensive". You have to realize what it means if you buy printed Batik.
Here is a little exercise so you can decide what you are willing or able to pay for an actual handmade fabric. Just visit your local textile market and buy one meter of a printed textile. You can then easily decide for yourself what you would pay if that same meter wasn't made by a machine. What would you pay for that fabric if it was woven, coloured, painted, embroidered, stamped or batikked by hand?
Her second tip, the 'Look-alike' tip means: see if the pattern repeats perfectly. It is a good tip and easy trick. Just fold the fabric so two parts of the same pattern are next to each other. If the pattern is the same, "sama", it is a printed Batik and not handmade.

One thing that help the Batik industry is for sure to just buy a Batik.
Because it is difficult to get your hands on a real Batik Tulis in the Netherlands, I can buy one for you during my journey!
Let me know for what amount you would like to buy a Batik (staring price from 50 euro). You can let me know if you would like to have a Batik from a specific region or city, or if you want it in your favorite colour or with animals, insects or plants you like on it. I can also help with selecting the right Batik for you. Contact me for more information at sabine{@}sabinebolk.nl.
Hope to buy a Batik for you!

To read more on how to recognize a real Batik read my previous blogpost 'The real deal' & 'Batik: Pattern vs. Technique'

P.S. I want to apologize if this cry for help is maybe not appropriate with everything that is going on in the world today. I believe if we support heritage, culture and love, we will become more united. We will learn to appreciate life more and we will be more understanding towards each other. Learning about Batik, taught me a great deal about my Dutch heritage and specifically a heritage people don't like to talk about. I hope by sharing the positive, I can create room to acknowledge the negative when it comes to our (Dutch) history and also our present blind spot when it comes to "our world view".
I also promise to buy real handmate wooden shoes.