Using the Wrong Side of Batiks for More Options


I work with a lot of batiks because they give me the painterly effect without much effort on my part.  The one downside to batiks, however, is that pale colors are quite difficult to find in any variety.  If you have been following the Purple Finch Finch posts, you will know that finding an almost white with limited yellow, hints of whisper blue grey and tinges of faded lime green for my Japanese Snowbell flowers has been no easy task.  Manufacturers have only just started releasing white batiks with barely there hints of color.

Working with white is not simply choosing a pure white and stitching it down.  White reflects light and color in both light and shadow.  Yes, there is a variety of color in white.  Without these hues, the white would be be flat and boring and very much one dimensional.  The eye smacks up against a visual brick wall–in other words, no depth.  This depth is essential to create the dimension and realism which pulls the eye around and into the composition.

With many batiks, if you turn them over, you get a variety of even lighter hues in comparison to the front.  I call it getting more color and hue bang for my buck.  One fabric, many options.  Many times I have looked at a batik and thought to myself, if it was just one hue lighter it would be perfect.  Well duh, I finally took a look at the backside and there was the perfect hue!  I think when you grow up learning to sew at a young age and gain lots of experience with garment sewing, you are mechanically trained to think of the wrong side as, well……. the wrong side.  I am re-training my brain not to see “the wrong side” but another option for achieving what I desire with color.



Not all batiks are like this.  Some have the color permeating through consistently to the back just as vibrant as the front.  I am finding more and more, especially with the pale colors, that this may not be the case.  Some batiks have an obvious wrong side.  This “wrong” side has expanded my palette exponentially.  It was my salvation for the flowers.

So if your batik “white” is not pale enough, turn it over.  Most likely you will see that instead of one shade of white, you now have two with a very subtle transition between them.

I should add that with cotton prints, this rarely offers up a viable option. Cotton prints are “printed” and this means the ink is rolled on the surface without penetrating the fibers.  The batik uses dyes that actually penetrate the fibers in varying degrees.  This is why the batiks offer more choices without sending up a red visual flag that a “wrong side” was used and not very successfully.  You do not want people to stop and think, “did she mean to do that, or is it a mistake?”.  You want no interruption with the eye as it takes in the design.



Sometimes I still have to give a little bit of artificial enhancement in the form of a slight (almost negligible) smudge of colored pencil.  In this case, as I replied to a comment in an earlier post, Prismacolor pencil #PC1005 “Limepeel”.  A slight touch for the deepest shadow area and then I used my colorless extender and a stiff small brush (flat) and blended it out.  I could now see in fabric, what I was seeing in my head.  Color me happy.