Malaysian Batik

One of the side benefits to having a husband who travels internationally for work, is you can beg ask him to bring you back interesting items and fabric.batik3

Recently, he traveled to Penang, Malaysia, and the employees in his group were kind enough to scout out a handmade batik place for Joe to visit.  This is a company that does the traditional art of wax resist printing or painting, then dyeing the fabric to create batik.

First rule of thumb when asking for Malaysian batik is the pronunciation.  Here in the US, we pronounce this work as baa (sound a sheep makes) teak’ (like the wood).  The emphasis is on the second syllable.   In Malaysia, they pronounce it Baa’ (sound a sheep makes) tick (as in tick tock).  The emphasis is on the first syllable.

Once we had the correct pronunciation sorted out, the first few times I asked Joe to bring me back some batik, he picked up the imitation batik made for tourists.  The weave of the cotton was very loose, indicating low thread count per inch.  Also, anything with the words, “Malaysia” or “Penang” printed on it was another indication it was not what I wanted.  The last thing to look for is whether the print goes through to both sides or not.  Batik looks the same front and back due to the dying process.  When you work with fabric for a living, you tend to become fabric snobs and desire good quality materials.

This trip, Joe finally was able to find the real deal.   He didn’t know my taste, but what he brought back was fabulous!  Here is a sneak peek at some of the hand made batik he found:batikred

batik2batik4Now that he knows of a good location for batik in Penang, I will have lots of handmade batik prints in my future direct from the artisans who made it!  I will also educate him on choosing designs… the butterflies are great, but the helmet-looking image is odd not my taste.  (Carla note:  Thanks to wonderful blog readers who correctly informed me that the helmet looking image is in fact a “Wau,”  a type of Malaysian kite.)

Hope you have enjoyed this post about Malaysian batik.  Regards, Carla

11 thoughts on “Malaysian Batik

  1. Very nice fabrics for sure. You ARE very lucky that you have a hubby that travels and is willing to shop for you. The helmet one could be cut as a fussy cut and perhaps made to look like a flower or perhaps cut it into hexies then you’d never know it was a helmet! lol Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Carla,
    I’m the one that had the J-42 sailboat and was going cruising – you probably don’t remember me. Did I tell you I lived in Bali for a few years? Well, anyway, when I moved to the U.S. I had furniture and batik shipped back with me and I have a great collection of very, very old, vintage and new. The reason I wanted to post is to tell you a little “story” (not really long enough to be a story) – the Indonesian people that I know get very angry about the Malaysian batik! They always tell me that Indonesians invented the technique but Malaysians are trying to take credit for it!! If I were Indonesian, I’d be more concerned about the batik from India – it is some of the poorest quality fabric (more like gauze/cheesecloth) but the Indonesian people don’t seem to be bothered by it – maybe they realize that there is no comparison. Anyway, glad you get to collect so many things. I, too, have travelled to many places and I treasure all of my goodies.
    Take care!!

    • So glad you wrote! My research indeed revealed that this technique is most associated to Indonesia, and the art moved to Malaysia from there. There is a great Wikipedia article that talks about the history of the technique, different pronunciations, and how the wax resist technique came out of earlier ancient cultures.

      On a different subject, how goes the cruising prep? Your batik collection sounds wonderful, is there photos on your blog? Thanks for your post!

  3. The second image (on black fabric) is definitely not a helmet. It is called a “wau”, a form of a traditional Malaysian kite.

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