Traditional Batik Techniques using Indigo Leaves
- Hmong Batik Making -
A century old tradition of the Hmong people
Batik is a resist dye technique created by wax drawn patterns. The batik design is used in the Hmong household and predominantly worn as traditional clothing for both men and women. Batik is used to decorate the pleated skirts and other articles of dress. An old local folklore says, that not having a written language, the Hmong created symbols from their surroundings and these symbols are used throughout their batik designs.
Batik pattern inspiration is derived from nature, such as snail shells, animal teeth, ferns and pumpkin seeds. The Hmong people traditionally use hemp as the base fabric. The hemp is locally grown, harvested, and loomed the plant itself has very low environmental impact. It can be grown and processed without any chemical treatments and yields three times more raw fiber as cotton.
Bees’ wax is collected from the forests and heated in small metal pots. Tools and stylists are handmade using wood and metal nibs. Personally, my favorite tool emulates the swirly pattern of a snail shell. The stylist or tool is then dipped in bees wax and used to mark the fabric with desired pattern.
While walking through the villages you can find indigo plants growing in just about every corner. Once harvested the leaves are placed in a large barrel with water and a handful of organic ingredients to make indigo dye that can last for up to 5 months!
The hemp is then submersed in the barrel of indigo dye, to take on the distinct Hmong indigo color. Sticks are used throughout the dying process to sporadically flip fabric allowing the dye to absorb evenly. The fabric may be left in the dye for one to two days and then left to dry in the sun, depending on the depth of blue desired. The dying process can take a number of days.
The fabric is then placed in a pot of boiling water over open fire. The heat will melt the wax off the fabric. The finished textile remains, allowing the pattern to be seen more visibly.
A vigorous washing will help in removing any reaming wax or residue, revealing the textile and the batik pattern in its full beauty. Traditionally the cloths are used to make blankets, and clothing such as skirts and jackets.