Handmaker's Factory

My Adventures in Crayon Batik

finished crayon batik fabric

It was only a matter of time that my love of knitting, crochet and sewing would bring me into the realm of fabric design. And, as I recently learned while renovating my home to put it on the market, if there is an easy and hard way to do something, I tend to pick the hard way first. This project proved to be no different.
 
There are many different ways you can approach fabric design, from 'old' school methods like silk screening to high tech digital designs. Being a glutton for punishment, I chose batik. Specifically, crayon batik. I thought I was being thrifty by using up my son's shoe-box full of crayons. I never realized how many boxes I bought in those early years.

Crayon Batik
 
The basic process for crayon batik is to melt the crayons and 'paint' them on your cotton fabric (I used a bleached muslin). Then crinkle up the fabric (the crayon wax will have hardened) to create cracks. Next, take a spray fabric dye and spray your whole fabric. The dye will go in the cracks to create the batik effect. Finally, after the dye has dried, cover it with newspaper and iron off the wax.
 
I started out by organizing all the crayons by color. Then came the first indication that this was going to be, shall we say, more challenging than I expected. I had to peel the paper wrapper off the crayons. You'd think this would be relatively simple but sitting around in a box for the last ten years had a curious effect on the crayons - the wrappers seemed to permanently affix themselves. I had to employ my X-acto knife. I still wasn't fazed.
 
I made my first and only smart decision by cutting my prewashed fabric into small(ish) panels that I could use to make a tote bag. This is a project that should be done on a small scale. It helps if you pencil in your design at this point. After I put my selected colors in an old muffin tin (don't ever plan to use it for anything else, especially food), I set them in the oven to melt. This was a HUGE mistake and made the process a hundred times harder than it needed to be. If you are going to attempt this project, and I don't want my experience to dissuade you - learn from my mistakes, use an electric skillet (just place the muffin tin in a water bath in the skillet). The crayons harden very quickly so I had to keep putting them back in the oven to remelt them.
painting with crayon
 
After a couple of hours and half asphyxiated/high from the smell of crayons, I finally had my two panels covered. Another hint - create a design that uses small blocks of color. I chose to do the background in blue for both panels and ended up running out.
 
I took the whole mess out to the garage, where I had laid out newspaper and plastic, crinkled it and sprayed it with the dye. Wipe/blot off the excess dye (another thing I didn't do but should have) and let it dry.  
 
At this point I was ready for a strong beverage.
 
Once your fabric is dry, collect as much newspaper as you can. Way more than you think you'll need. Cover your ironing board with fabric that you don't mind messing up because some of the crayon will leak onto your cover if you don't. Sandwich your fabric between newspaper and iron it with a hot iron. Keep changing out the newspaper and iron until no more wax bleeds onto it. This is going to take a while, you might want to switch arms and make a mini workout out of it. To be honest, I don't think I ever got all the wax out.
 
Crayon Batik bag

Despite coating my lungs with crayon wax and ruining my ironing board cover, I have to admit, I really like how my design turned out. I'm still trying to figure out how I want to attach the handles on my bag. I've got a couple of ideas I'm working out.

There are a lot of crayons left over and a crayon baked muffin tin, so I'll probably try  batik again - once I find an electric skillet.
 
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Lynn Burdick is a designer, author and Kaizen Muse Creativity Coach 
who loves the thrill of the (thrift store) hunt. When she isn't playing with yarn/fabric or helping others follow their bliss, she can be found jogging, cooking, drawing, reading, dreaming of her own garden or plotting her next adventure. You can learn more about her at www.LynnBurdick.com.
 
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