I went to Costco this morning in advance of our upcoming celebrations. It’s a tradition on our family to share nosh and libations on New Year’s Eve and continue into the wee hours of New Year’s Day to celebrate my son’s birthday who will be 21 this January 1st! After putting away the groceries I had a well deserved Einstein bagel with cream cheese and Nova Salmon which was part of my Costco haul.
The table runner which the bagel is sitting on covers my dining room table. I pass it daily and rarely give it a thought, but today it really made me see what a treasure it truly is. This is handwoven fabric that is printed in a traditional batik pattern. The coaster under the water glass is a batik printed fabric as well. Batik is a wax resist process where a stamp or “tjap” is used to imprint a hot wax pattern onto the fabric. Once the wax has hardened the fabric is dipped into the dye bath, and the unwaxed areas absorb the dye whereas the covered areas remain untouched. This procedure is repeated several times until all the colors have been applied. Contemporary batik fabrics have become extremely popular in recent years particularly with quilters and fabric artists. Batik as an art form has been around for centuries with its beginnings in the Indonesian archipelago which includes the island of Java where my Dutch ancestors settled in the 19th century. Because of this connection, I am the lucky owner of some extraordinary pieces of Indonesian handprinted batik fabrics.
Most of the pieces in my collection are kain (ki-en) which is a piece of cloth measuring approximately 40″ wide and 84″ long. Kain is worn as a waist cloth, wrapped around the hips and tied at the waist. This is part of the traditional Javanese costume worn by both men and women. There are thousands of batik patterns and many represent geographical regions, symbolism from folklore and local floral and fauna. I know only that batik fabric is pleasing to the eye, but unfortunately I know very little about the imagery. The Textile Museum in Washington, DC this past year had an exhibit of Indonesian batik fabrics that were part of the collection of the late Anne Dunham who is President Barack Obama’s mother. A good resource that I have and refer to often is Indonesian Textiles written by Michael Hitchock and published in 1991. This book is no longer in print, but it can be purchased used at a number of online sites.
Below are photographs of the some of the Indonesian batik fabrics from my own collection.
The two patterns above where printed on the fabric bias as they were intended to be sewn into skirts. The skirts were known as “klokke rokken” or circle skirts in Dutch, and the border print appeared at the skirt’s hem.
Below are three diagonal patterns.
I believe this red and black patterned fabric is the oldest piece in my collection dating to the late 1940’s or early 1950’s.
This dark brown diamond repeat pattern incorporates the image of the Garuda which is a mythical bird in Javanese folklore and also the name of the Indonesian airlines.
The patterns below were printed on fabric squares presumably to be sewn into pillows.
The fabrics below were floral prints with a diamond, square or diagonal background print. Some have a separate pattern for the border.
These last two images were taken from a commemorative fabric printed in honor of the 50th anniversary of the coffee plantation owned by some of my family members in East Java.
The initials “SP” were at one end of the cloth, and “MD” were at the opposite end of this piece of fabric. I have never been to Indonesia, and I have never met any of my distant relatives who may be the owners of this coffee plantation. However, a quick Google search of the words “Panca Windhu” and “Kelaklatak” produced this very informative article about this plantation’s thriving coffee business. Kelaklatak apparently is a village in East Java that is a short ferry ride to the island of Bali. And the woman who was interviewed in this article is Soehoed Prawiroatmodjo, whose initials are SP. I have no idea who she is, but her initials are the same as on my batik fabric which also has the name and location of this particular plantation. A very interesting coincidence indeed!
The bagel was very good by the way!