Batik and Indigo Dye Techniques of the Ethnics

Batik and Indigo Dye Techniques of the Ethnics

Modernization has found its way to the most remoted areas, brought along new and fascinating changes to the mountainous villages, and the Hmong community is not an exception. However, in spite of all the modern alterations, the Hmong has managed to preserve their traditional crafts, one of those is the indigo-batik technique.

With every kind of costume, patterns are usually added to make the person who wear it stand out. With ethnic people, decorations along with patterns additionally act as methods of representing their unique cultures, lifestyles as well as their levels of handicraft and aesthetics. Apart from weaving and embroidery, the Hmong is also skillful in another technique of decorating their clothes, which is the wax relief method. In this manner, the chosen patterns are drawn directly onto the fabrics using hot and melted bee wax. The wax dries quite easily, so the wax container needs to be kept on live coals while the artisan is drawing. After it dries up, the cloths will be ready to go through the next step, which is indigo-dyeing.

If you had a chance to visit any Hmong village, you might have noticed the color of indigo on the hands of Hmong women, which was the result of the indigo-dyeing process. When moving to a new place, one thing that is indispensable to any Hmong families is the indigo seeds. Every year, the seeds are sowed in February and harvested in July. After being harvested, the indigo plants are crushed up for extracts. This concentrated liquid is then poured into a pine-wood barrel together with water and coal ashes and reserved for about a week before being used for coloring. According to the ethnic people’s knowledge, coal ashes are added to keep the dye long-lasting.

The fabrics need to be dyed several times before the desired dark blue color is achieved. In the final step, the cloths will be dipped in boiling water, which makes the dried bee wax melt, revealing the patterns in white. The whole process, from drawing with wax, dyeing naturally until the cloth is ready to be used, usually takes up to one month. The fabrics then are perfect to be used for men’s jackets or women’s coat-tails as the materials and patterns are eye-catching and also very enduring.

Nowadays, with the development and expansion of machines and automation, the indigo-batik technique is also applied in industries, giving rise to the output of Hmong print cloths. Nevertheless, almost every Hmong households still stick to the traditional manual process. The hand-drawn patterns of the Hmong might not be able to compare to the uniform printed patterns in terms of perfection; however, it is the flaws and irregularities that adds up to the uniqueness and individuality of the patterns specifically and the costumes generally.

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