I use a lot of wax print fabric in my designs for a few reasons.
1. I love the bright vivid colors and patterns.
2. The fabric has a great feel to it, is washable and usually doesn’t require lining.
3. I have a good friend who travels to Africa often and brings me back amazing pieces she finds. Yes, I am lucky (and so are you!).
Given my heavy use of wax print fabric, the term gets thrown around a lot, and I figured it was time to some explaining.
So. What exactly is wax print fabric?
Wax print fabric is characterized by bright, colorful prints and designs that look exactly the same on both sides. It is most associated with Africa, particularly West Africa, as it is the most common fabric used there. The technique for creating wax print fabric designs originated over 1,000 years ago in Java, Indonesia, and they refer to it as “batik”. However, the Dutch are responsible for bringing the look of “batik” or “wax print” to the masses, as they were the first ones who attempted to imitate the Javanese batik fabric design using machinery. The quality of the mass produced fabric at the time was said to be sub-par and cheap.
How is wax print fabric made?
The traditional Indonesian Javanese batik method involves applications of wax to create patterns in dyed cloth. This method yields beautiful works of art, but is time intensive and can be costly. Check out a video of how to make batik prints here:
Most wax print fabrics you find available for sale are not made the traditional way, but rather for a mass audience. A variety of manufacturing methods are employed, which greatly affects their quality, however many companies still manufacture and dye the fabrics themselves.
What makes wax print fabrics unique?
Majority of wax print fabrics and designs are limited in production. Each piece is marked with producer, product name and registration number of the design are printed on the selvage.
What should I look for when buying wax print fabrics?
Make sure it is 100% cotton and try to find smaller batch operations that produce the fabric close to where they sell it.
A short overview, but hopefully helpful none-the-less!