Coach Foster is a comic book guy. He likes all the superheroes, but the Punisher is his favorite. He’s usually running around with a Punisher t-shirt, has a Punisher patch on most of his BJJ gis and the logo is pretty badass. So, when I took his gi and offered to dye it for him, I thought this would be a perfect second project for my burgeoning batiking skills.
If dying fabric is a skill, batik is a true art form. In theory, the idea of applying wax to fabric as a resist for the dye is a pretty simple thing. You melt some wax, put it where you need it and voila. Right? Wrong.
There are different waxes out there. I use a mix of Bee’s Wax and Paraffin Wax. The more paraffin wax you use, the more crackle you’ll get. I wanted a significant amount of crackle in this, so I used a bit over 50% paraffin.
I use a little 7” electric skillet to melt my wax. It works great. In fact, this is exactly the kind I bought, although I got it locally on sale for under $15.
But here’s the thing. According to the interwebs, the wax melts beginning at about 160F and the smoking point is around 240F. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot, where the wax is just right. Too hot and it penetrates to much into the fabric and you don’t get any good crackle. Not hot enough and it sets too much on the surface of the fabric and crackles right off.
I am not good enough yet to have total control over this, so I’m trying to pick projects that are forgiving.
Where you see it looks darker, that’s where the wax was too warm and the saturated the fabric. In those spots, I can expect it to be completely white in the final product. Up toward the top of the skull, I wasn’t quite warm enough, and that wax just flaked right off in the dye.
Here’s an action shot while it’s still in the tub. Bear in mind that the color is darker than it will be in the final product because it’s still wet. This is after about 10 minutes in the tub.
And another one below after almost 30 minutes, just before I added the soda ash. The second one is from my iPhone, but you can see on the forehead area where the dye has broken through the wax.
And after removing the wax, it’s pretty clear that I didn’t get the wax to penetrate nearly enough in the forehead. It’s okay, though. I think it turned out really good. The bottom half was perfect and looks EXACTLY how I’d hoped it would.
The picture below is after taking off the wax, but just before washing it one last time. I like the color a lot and in the picture below you can get a better sense of the final product. I was hoping it would end up more toward red than purple, and while I was pretty confident it would lighten up some, it’s always a little iffy using a color I haven’t used before. As you can see, it’s a bright red, on the darker side but definitely not purple. The flash was on, so it looks brighter than it will once washed and dried completely.
And here’s the finished product. After seeing it out of the wash, I have to say that I’m really, really happy with how it turned out. I would have liked a little more skull to have stayed in the top right part, but the overall effect of it being messy is intentional and came out pretty much how I thought it would. Bear in mind that the color is actually in between the two pictures. The first is without a flash and the second is with the flash.
So, there it is. A one of a kind gi for James Foster, owner of Foster BJJ in Kent, WA.