Articles from Grandma's Scrapbasket Newsletter
Batiks: History and Process
Published December 2005
Batik (pronounced Ba-teek) prints are so common in our society today that it’s hard to imagine a life without their beauty. This ancient printing craft, originating in Java, has been practiced there for centuries. Batik is generally perceived as an indigenous Indonesian (Java) textile, although influences from all corners of the world have enriched its inherently beautiful design.
Batik prints are generally composed of flower motifs, twining plants, leaves and buds, birds, butterflies, fish, geometric forms and patterns, small animals and insects. The innovations in batik patterns are endless and there are nearly 3,000 varieties on record. The word “batik” is Indonesian in origin and occurs as “ambatik” in Javanese. It means “drawing” and “writing.” These two words describe what it means to print batik: to draw patterns and designs freehand with hot wax, followed by painting between the waxed sections. Then the fabric is re-waxed, dyed, and boiled.
Performing the batik technique can be done in a factory for mass production or in smaller quantities per yard. This is done by hand, which is the traditional way to batik print. The factory method was put in place about 1850 in order to compete with a burgeoning European fashion market. This method uses a metal stamp, called a “cap,” to apply the hot wax. The stamp is heated, dipped in the hot wax, and the surface of the cap is then pressed onto the cloth. The traditional method, done by hand, utilizes a wooden, pen-like ‘canting’ filled with the hot, liquid wax that is drawn onto the fabric’s surface.
The next steps are the same, regardless of the beginning method. The newly waxed cloth must be laid out for painting. Colors are brushed between the wax lines to complete the designs. Then the colored areas are re-waxed in black so the background dyes do not penetrate the new pattern.
Next, the cloth is dyed. It is washed in or pulled through a chemical agent that helps the dye to bond to the cloth. After the excess bonding agent drips off, the cloth is pulled through the dye to produce the illustrious color. Lastly, the cloth is boiled. Stirring the cloth in boiling vats allows the excess wax to be scooped off using perforated ladles. After the excess wax is removed, the brilliance in design and color are revealed, and a finishing batik print is ready for use.
To view Grandma's line of batiks click here
Butterflies: Symbols of Hope
Published January 2006
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, butterflies were a symbol of hope in an uncertain economic time. Many butterfly quilt block patterns were designed during that time period and butterfly quilt blocks remain popular today.
The common name “butterfly” is believed to have originated in England. The Anglo-Saxons thought that the yellow color of the spring Brimstone species looked very similar to the color of the butter that they churned; hence, the name “butter-fly.” The ancient Greeks called butterflies “Psyche” which also means soul. They believed that when we die our souls go to heaven as butterflies.
In France, butterflies are called Papillion. Parking tickets are also called Papillion because they are written on big pieces of yellow paper. When placed under the windshield, they flap like a big yellow butterfly.
There are approximately 28,000 different species of butterflies throughout the world. Approximately 725 species are found in the in the United States and Canada. Nearly 2,000 species have been found in Mexico. About 80% of all butterfly species are found in the tropics. Monarch butterflies are probably the most impressive in size. Monarch butterflies are found throughout the United States.
Butterfly quilts can be either pieced or appliquéd. Quilts that are done using appliqué appear to be more abundant than those that are pieced. Many times the butterflies on quilts from the 1930s time period were attached to a background fabric; then buttonhole stitched in place with black embroidery floss.
Butterfly designs also appeared in Redwork quilts. Earlier redwork quilts (1880-1920) were done using red embroidery thread. By the 1930s and 40s, the butterflies were stitched in a multitude of colors. Some quilters even used satin stitches to complement the outline stitch.
Today, butterfly quilts come in all colors, shapes and sizes.
Types of Needles for Handwork
Published June 2006
There’s an old Oregon pioneer story about a community that had only one sewing needle. In 1853, Grandmother Drain would loan out her darning needle to the other 15 families in the area. It was the only needle available. One day, Jimmy Chitwood’s mother asked Jimmy to take the needle back to Grandmother Drain. She carefully pushed the needle half-way into a potato so that it would be easy to see and carry.
Eight year old Jimmy was well on his way when a mother bear and two cubs interrupted him. Startled, he ran for cover behind an old stump. Once the bears left, Jimmy quickly hurried down the path. He was so scared that it took him a while to realize he had lost the potato! Jimmy ran home to tell his mother and every one was soon out looking for the needle. After a while, Jimmy remembered the stump he had hidden behind and hurried over to it. There was the darning needle, still stuck in the potato. It was delivered safely home.
A few years later, Grandmother Drain was mending clothing when the needle broke in half. The community had no needle until a peddler rode in on a mule. When he heard about the broken needle, he gave a new needle to every family in the community. Later, that same peddler, Aaron Meier, opened a store in Portland. He went on to develop the Meier and Frank Company, one of the largest retail department stores in Oregon.
Chenille: These needles are identical to tapestry needles except they have a sharp point to pass through coarse fabric.
Darners: These needles are used for darning work. Sizes 14-18 are known as yarn darners.
Easy Threading: Perfect for people who find it difficult to thread a needle. These are standard needles with the top cut to allow the thread to pass through it from above.
Embroidery: These needles have a longer eye for threading stranded cotton. They are the same length and point as an ordinary sewing needle.
Long Darners: Another form of darning needle, the extra length and large eyes make these suitable for mending wool.
Milliners: Although traditionally used in the millinery trade, they are now commonly used for pleating and family decorative stitches.
Quilting: Also known as “betweens,” these are designed for quilters. The short length of these needles allows faster stitching than an ordinary needle.
Sharps: These are general sewing needles used by dressmakers. Size 16-18 needles are also known as carpet sharps.
Tapestry: These large eye needles allow the user to thread tapestry wool or six-stranded cotton, while the blunt end enables to needle to pass through canvas without tearing.