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Resist dye

Patterns can be created during the process of dyeing. A widely spread technique is Resist-dyeing. Basically wax or a similar substance is previously applied onto the fabric that prevents, i.e. resists the dye to penetrate the fibers. This technique can also be performed with multiple colors. The desired design can be further printed with the use of blocks in which patterns were incised. Thereby, the pattern can easily be repeated over a larger textile.

In ancient times few examples have been preserved showing the use of this technique. Textiles from the Tomb of the Seven Brothers, from today’s Crimea, show figural scenes done in Resist-dyeing and renowned collections worldwide house resist-dyed fragments from Late Antique Egypt.

The Roman author Pliny the Elder describes in his monumental encyclopedic oeuvre Natural History a rather peculiar technique performed in Egypt of which he had heard of. He describes painting a pattern onto a fabric, which is then put it into the dye bath. It remains unclear, if he refers merely to painting or if we find here the first written evidence for textile printing.

Further reading:

  • Barber, E.J.W. (1991) Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with Special Reference to the Aegean. Princeton, NJ.

  • De Moor, A., Verhecken-Lammens, C. and Verhecken, A. (2008) 3500 Years of Textile Art. Tielt, Belgium.