Introduction: Batik Potato Masher Blind

About: Hello my name is Jennifer Douglas and I have been a textile artist for the last 25 years since graduating from West Surrey College of Art and Design. I specialise in making and teaching silkpainting and batik …

I've been wanting to sort out the Velux attic windows in my house with interesting blinds for some time and thanks to Instructables I'm fired up to get on with some new projects, so here we go....

I have a collection of potato mashers, vintage waffle irons,egg whisks, pastry blenders etc, collected over the years from charity shops and car boots bought with a view to make interesting patterns with. They are usually made of metal which makes them brilliant stampers when dipped in hot wax.

In traditional batik beautifully intricate tjap or cap stamps are made from copper and are used to print using wax on fabric which resists the dye and creates wonderful patterns. I've visited batik factories in Indonesia where this is done and it's the men's job to print with these tjaps, the women tend to do the detailed tjanting work, drawing fine lines and dots by hand with the wax.

I'm going to show how to make wax resists patterns with the humble potato masher and other friends from the kitchen drawer and how to make your own vat of indigo to create individual fabrics for the home.

Step 1: What You Need.

For printing -

An interesting assortment of potato mashers, forks, egg beaters,waffle irons, anything you think might make a good pattern. I just Googled potato mashers and got overwhelmed by the variety available. Some of mine, I've just found out, are vintage and worth a few pounds!

For heating the wax I'm using a flatbed thermostatic frying pan, I think they are still made today. Great for this process, making printing with flat objects very easy.

Cotton fabric the size of your window, I have a good source of good quality cotton from a dry cleaners, they sell huge sheets for a £2.00 which are great to recycle.

Paraffin wax on it's own or mixed with beeswax in small beads or blocks is good.

I also found some spare card handy to mask out areas as I printed the wax.

Step 2: Prepare Your Table and Room

I'm using a blanket on the table to give me a good surface to print on. Place some newspaper and finally some plastic sheeting on top, this will allow the waxed fabric to pull off easily.

Open any windows wide, near to your wax pot as the wax vapours are not so good to breath in for long periods.

Step 3: The Wax Pot

This type of electric frying pan is great for printing with potato mashers. Made by Sunbeam I set the temp for sausages! which on the dial also reads 300, which seems about the right temperature. Try not to melt too much wax as this will make printing difficult with an excess of wax to shake off each time. I have placed a square of felt in the pan to make a printing pad, the wax level should just cover this. The wax is paraffin wax which I rescued from a skip, after a local factory decided to sell up and throw away boxes of the stuff!

Step 4: Printing With Potato Mashers..

I prepared the cotton by ironing in some creases to help establish areas I wanted to print in without having to draw any lines on the fabric (24 equal sections with a centre point ).

The centre was printed first with the apple core cutter and then I worked my way around the fabric with this collection of kitchen tools to print these patterns. I used the card strips, or you could use newspaper, to mask and protect the areas I didn't want to wax, and I think it makes the mashers look less obvious and more interesting.

A good tip is to protect the fabric from wayward drips by a simple piece of paper or card placed across the work, especially near the wax pan.

Step 5: Printing With Forks, Egg Whisks, Frying Spatula,pastry Cutter, Pastry Beater and Waffle Iron!

These tools are so easy to use and such ordinary, familiar objects. I tried to use them in different directions so no two areas were too similar and really liked the sections all coming together as the worked progressed.

Step 6: Half Way! Refill Wax Pan and Turn Work Around.

I'm adding some more wax to the pan and rotating the fabricso I can continue my spiral printed sections.

Step 7: How to Make an Indigo Vat.

Once all the wax work is complete it's time to make the dye vat. I love the magical blue hues from indigo and have been using it in my own work and in my workshops with children and adults for years now. The following recipe for making the indigo vat is one I use written by the Batik Guild UK. and I find works very well. I buy the indigo grains and spectralite from in the uk,but a good craft/dye supplier should have these .

1.Get a bucket with lid and fill with 2 gal boiling water add 300gm of Salt.

2.Add 3 gal cold water

3.Dissolve 20g Caustic Soda in cold water, stir and then add to vat.

4.Sprinkle 60g Spectralite onto the surface and very gently stir in

5.Gently stir in 90g Indigo grains

6.Cover vat and leave for 2 hours or overnight is fine too.

Any stirring needs to be gentle so as not to introduce any air into the vat.

This is a large amount of dye and you could half quantities of dyestuffs. I have since used it for lots of further dyeing and it seems to be going strong after a few days!

Step 8: Stirring Gently and Adding the Indigo Grains

The vat will have an interesting shiny blue/purple surface to it. Leave somewhere warm with the lid on until ready to use.

Step 9: Making a Test Strip

It's a good idea to do a test with a strip of cotton. I tried submerging for 5mins and achieved a good blue, further dips will increase the depth of shade.

Step 10: Time to Dye!

With rubber gloves and plastic pegs at the ready, first wet out the waxed fabric- this makes the dyeing more even. I recommend doing this outside in the garden as it can be messy and smells like bad eggs!

Then slowly lower fabric into the indigo vat for the 5 mins or so, hang up on a washing line and allow to oxidise.Fabric appears green and as it hits the air it changes to blue! Always a magic moment.

Step 11: Removal of Wax -Stage 1. Ironing Out.

This is good to do outside if you can and use an old iron ,not your best steam iron!

I used old newspapers under the fabric and 1 sheet on top and ironed out most of the wax.These waxy sheets of paper are great for lighting your fires in the winter months by the way.

Step 12: Removal of Wax-Stage2. Shocking It Out.

You will need a couple of buckets, some boiling water, some cold water in a second bucket , a squirt of washing up liquid,and a tablespoon of soda crystals. Some wooden tongues and rubber gloves are useful too.

Once you have ironed most of your wax out, plunge the fabric into boiling water which has the washing up liquid and soda in it. Agitate for 30 seconds then plunge fabric into a second bucket of cold water.This should remove all wax and excess dye by shocking it out of the fabric.

Rinse and hang up to dry.The whites of the design should appear much brighter now the wax is removed.

Step 13: Making a Simple Window Blind

I'm hoping to keep this very simple and plan to machine the edges of the fabric then make a seam top and bottom for a bamboo pole to slide through and fix by means of simple "C" shaped screw fixings that will support the poles and make it easy to put up or down. No roller mechanisms here, just a manual fixing type of blind.

Step 14: Finishing Touches

Finally I made a seam at each end wide enough to pass my bamboo stick through easily with the sewing machine. I also turned up the edges to give a snug fit and a neat finish.

With hooks in place in the window frame it was an easy slide in with the sticks and finally had it hanging in place.

I made this for my son's room as it get's so bright in the summer, I think he reckons it a cool shade but he's not sure about me making a matching duvet and cushions.....

I hope this might give you the ideas to find something like the humble potato masher and make something creative for your home too.

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