BootsnAll Travel Network

Resist that wax

Last week we went to see a local cloth dyeing operation, where they use the wax-resist process. (I was under the impression this process is known as batik, but someone told me that batik is different, so I’ll just refer to it here as wax-resist.)

It was about 10 in the morning and hot as could be. It felt like the sun was right on top of our heads. The dyeing place was not marked with any signs; we only found it because our friend had been there before and remembered where it was. It consisted of a small building adjacent to a open-walled area topped with a roof, plus a roofless gravel and dirt area where the completed fabrics were spread out to dry.

dyed cloth drying 1

The first step in the wax-resist process is to apply wax to the cloth, using styrofoam blocks with designs carved into them. Some of the blocks were carved with geometric designs, and others were carved to look like something in particular, like a leaf or a flower.

applying wax

Two men applied wax as we watched. They would dip a foam block into a steaming vat of hot wax, then press it repeatedly to form a pattern on the plain white cloth.

Next, a woman would bring the cloth into the dyeing area, which was even hotter than the sunny yard because of the multiple vats of hot dye sending huge quantities of steam into the already humid air. A man took a piece of cloth that had been stamped with wax and submerged it in a vat of dye. He stirred it with a long stick for a while before fishing it out. The areas that had wax would remain white, while the rest of the cloth would become whatever color the dye was — red, blue, or any number of other colors they had there. Sometimes they would repeat this process with different colors, resulting in a multicolored cloth.


After the cloth had been dyed and wrung out, two men would spread it out and put it in the sunny yard to dry. The many pieces of 12-yard-long fabric, each with a unique color and design, looked gorgeous lying next to each other in the bright sunlight.

dyed cloth drying 2

dyed cloth drying 3

Anyway, we couldn’t resist buying some cloth after observing the dyeing process and seeing the beautiful results. Not sure what we’ll make with it yet. A shirt? A dress? Our friend makes quilts with it.

finished cloth to buy

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.