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Batik T-Shirts

Source: The Martha Stewart Show, September 2010


Add colorful images to children's T-shirts using the ancient art of batik, a wax-resist dyeing technique, with this how-to from Julia Silver Gordon.


  • Packing tape or sheet laminate

  • 100%-cotton garment or tote bag purchased pretreated for dyeing or treated at home with soda ash

  • Batik wax

  • Microwavable mug, double boiler, or slow cooker designated for crafts only

  • Tjanting tool (batik pen)

  • Rags for cleanup

  • Powdered fabric dyes in various colors

  • Small bowls, jars, or disposable plastic cups for mixing dyes

  • Sponge brushes: one for each color dye

  • Newspaper

  • Natural-bristle paintbrush

  • Large bucket

  • Table salt

  • Household machine washer and dryer

  • Household detergent


  1. Print baseball or layer cake templates, or draw your own design on white paper with a thick black marker. Cover front of paper with clear packing tape or laminate to protect.

  2. Insert template into T-shirt, facing front. Melt wax in microwave, double boiler, or small slow-cooker (reserved for crafts only). Wax does not need to be hot, just melted.

  3. Dip tjanting tool in wax, filling up reservoir. Wipe off excess wax with rag to avoid drips. Trace design on T-shirt slowly, allowing wax to penetrate fabric.

  4. Mix powdered dye: about 1 teaspoon per 4 ounces water for each color. Remove stencil and insert newspaper between front and back of shirt. Use a sponge brush to paint dye onto shirt within wax outlines. Let painted T-shirt dry with newspaper still inside.

  5. Reheat wax. Cover painted areas with a coat of wax using a natural-bristle brush. Allow wax coating to harden.
    Tip: Place T-shirt in freezer to speed the cooling process.

  6. Once wax is hard, bend and crack wax in several places to get the veined batik effect.

  7. Choose a color of dye for the background of the T-shirt. Mix dye in a large bucket. Add the T-shirt and 1/2 cup of salt to the dye. Keep shirt in dye for 15 to 30 minutes, stirring periodically.

  8. Pour out dye bath. Wring tee of excess dye and rinse with cold water.

  9. Machine-wash T-shirt on hottest setting, with regular household detergent. If wax remains after first wash, wash again. (The wax is biodegradable and will not harm the machine.) Dry T-shirt in dryer to set dye.

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