Wax print fabric from Amsterdam

Dutch windmill

Windmill at Zaanse Schans

We spent a few days over the bank holiday weekend in North Holland and Amsterdam, where it was unusually hot – as you can see from the blue sky in the photo above.

Wooden clogsWe did a lot of touristy, cheesy (literally) things like visiting working windmills, clog makers, Gouda shops and diamond factories.

I spotted a fine example of yarn-bombing at the Eye film museum in northern Amsterdam.

Yarnbombing at the Eye museumAnd I dragged my dear husband round a few street markets elsewhere in the city.

At the multicultural Dappermarkt on the eastern side of the city centre I found a stall selling what looked like Dutch wax prints (aka Ankara, African/Holland/Java/Indonesian wax) but turned out on closer inspection to be Chinese made. At €15 for a 6 yard length of 46” wide fabric, I didn’t even bother to haggle.

Wax printed cotton fabricI had my doubts at first that this could be a genuine batik fabric at that price, despite the many labels and the selvedge, but I’m pretty sure that it is, because the colours are equally bright on both the “right” and the “wrong” sides – if it had just been printed in the conventional way rather than resist-printed and then dyed, less dye would have reached the back of the fabric. One of the nice things about wax prints is that you can create a symmetrically patterned garment even with a non-symmetrical print by cutting some pattern pieces face down to give a mirror image. But I do doubt whether the resist used for my fabric was wax, as there are no “crackles” where it has cracked in the classic batik fashion and allowed some dye to leak through. And can it really be block printed, as the labels suggest, at this price? My guess is that a semi-flexible resin resist of some type has been applied using a rotary screen, at an industrial scale.

So, this boldly patterned length of cotton has travelled home with me. Fortunately, KLM didn’t at any point attempt to weigh my carry-on suitcase.  I don’t feel any guilt about buying what some may see as a Chinese knock-off in a Dutch market, given that the whole Dutch wax print industry started as an attempt to undercut the Indonesian market by industrialising the batik process. The Indonesians rejected the “Java prints” imported from Holland, but the Dutch then found an appreciative market in west Africa instead. Nowadays African-printed fabrics compete with the Dutch ones in the African markets, and more recently the Chinese have got in on the game too.  One online article I’ve read since my return suggests that fabrics of the brand I bought, Hitarget, are more highly valued by some African consumers than the African and Dutch competition, because of their perceived quality (a reasonably high thread count and vibrant patterns).

Tapestry shoulder bagOn Monday we went to another market in central Amsterdam, the Noordermarkt. It’s billed as a flea market, and there certainly were a lot of second hand goods – including vintage textiles – but towards the western end there were also quite a few stalls selling new dress fabrics and furnishing fabrics. I was very tempted by some beautiful tapestry fabric, both on the roll and in panels, which would have made a gorgeous bag like this one (but prettier). As nobody really needs more than one tapestry handbag, I restrained myself.

Back home, I’ve removed the labels from the cotton fabric by ironing them to soften the glue. It’s had a wash this morning at 40°C to pre-shrink it and remove any residual wax. Unfortunately, it’s now 15°C outside and pouring with rain, not like the weather we had in Holland at all. How am I ever going to get 6 yards of cotton dry?

About yorkshirecrafter

I live and work in West Yorkshire.  I've always enjoyed crafts of all types, from woodwork to lace-making.  I also enjoy anything mathematical, which makes knitting a favourite pastime, especially complicated designs.  I've been advising businesses and industry on environmental matters for 30 years and also have an interest in green living, especially where it saves me money. I live with my husband and our Maine Coon in a 100-year-old cottage that constantly needs something doing to it.  Fortunately, I enjoy DIY too.
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3 Responses to Wax print fabric from Amsterdam

  1. atkokosplace says:

    What a neat read. I had no idea fabric market is so fierce! I don’t know much about it and just buy for what appeals to me. Fabric has become so expensive, I haven’t bought any in a long time. Purple and green is gorgeous together. Great find. I hope your fabric dries! Have a lovely day! Koko

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