The best resist for batik is certainly wax, usually a mixture of beeswax and paraffin. Wax must be melted, heated above the boiling temperature of water, in order to write with it on fabric, however. The potential for burns is such that we should not use real wax in teaching children how to do batik. The fumes from melted paraffin may also be damaging to sensitive lungs, especially if the wax is overheated.
What should we use as a substitute for melted wax?
There are many different water-soluble resists commercially available, each with its own devoted fans, such as Presist or Sabra Silk Resist. There is generally a problem with immersion dyeing with any of these resists, however; immerse the resist in a dyebath and it just dissolves away, in the dyebath or in the soda ash presoak. Gutta is a truly waterproof resist made of rubber dissolved in solvent, but the toxicity of the solvent makes it less than ideal for many uses. None of the water-soluble resists can mimic the crackle of batik, with the exception of potato dextrin which can be difficult to use and is thus most suitable for experienced dyers.
Elmer's Washable School Glue Gel
Elmer's Blue Washable School Glue Gel
Elmer's Washable School Glue Gel,
a water-soluble glue marketed for use by children. (Do not use white glue!) The "peace" design shown above was written on a prewashed white cotton shirt with blue Elmer's Washable School Glue Gel, which was dried with a hand-held hair dryer until completely dry. The shirt was then placed in a bowl, and dye mixed with soda ash was poured over, barely submerging it. In order to speed dye fixation and reduce the time in which the dye solution might dissolve the Elmer's blue glue gel, after about five minutes the dyebath was then heated in a microwave oven until hot. The shirt was then machine-washed, first in cold water and then in hot water with Synthrapol detergent, to remove both excess dye and the blue Elmer's Washable School Glue Gel. Sometimes many washings in hot water are required to remove every trace of the glue.
My favorite blue dye
Note that the brilliant fiber reactive blue dye used in this example is one of my very favorites, a rich glowing medium blue dye, Cibacron F-GF.
Dr. Steve Mihok points out that the color in this dye is provided by a triphenodioxazine structure. The dye is sold by PRO Chemical & Dye as Sabracron Intense Blue F-GF, and by Jacquard as Procion MX 232 Bright Blue - in spite of the fact that it is actually not a Procion MX dye at all. It is similar enough to the Procion MX dyes to be used interchangeably with them, and combined with them. I recommend it highly, but unfortunately it has been discontinued by the manufacturer, Huntsman Textile Effects, so it is no longer available. The best substitute is Procion blue MX-G, also known as cerulean blue or C. I. reactive blue 163.