Resist dyeing

Resist dyeing (resist-dyeing) is a term for a number of traditional methods of dyeing textiles with patterns. Methods are used to "resist" or prevent the dye from reaching all the cloth, thereby creating a pattern and ground. The most common forms use wax, some type of paste, or a mechanical resist that manipulates the cloth such as tying or stitching. Another form of resist involves using a chemical agent in a specific type of dye that will repel another type of dye printed over the top. The most well-known varieties today include tie-dye and batik.

Basic methods

Wax or paste: melted wax or some form of paste is applied to cloth before being dipped in dye. Wherever the wax has seeped through the fabric, the dye will not penetrate. Sometimes several colors are used, with a series of dyeing, drying and waxing steps. The wax may also be applied to another piece of cloth to make a stencil, which is then placed over the cloth, and dye applied to the assembly; this is known as resist printing.

Paper stencils may also be used; another type of resist printing. The same method is used in art in printmaking, in one form of screenprinting.

Mechanical: the cloth is tied, stitched, or clamped using clothespegs or wooden blocks to shield areas of the fabric.

Chemical: a modern textile printing method, commonly achieved using two different classes of fiber reactive dyes, one of which must be of the vinyl sulfone type. A chemical-resisting agent is combined with dye Type A, and printed using the screenprint method and allowed to dry. A second dye, Type B, is then printed overtop. The resist agent in Type A chemically prevents Type B from reacting with the fabric, resulting in a crisp pattern/ground relationship.


Resist dyeing has been very widely used in Eurasia and Africa since Antiquity.

Traditions using wax or paste

Traditions using tying or stitching

Traditions using printing

  • Japan- Katagami and Bingata with stencils
  • China - about 500 AD the jia xie method for dyeing (usually silk) using wood blocks was invented. An upper and a lower block is made, with carved out compartments opening to the back, fitted with plugs. The cloth, usually folded a number of times, is inserted and clamped between the two blocks. By unplugging the different compartments and filling them with dyes of different colours, a multi-coloured pattern can be printed over quite a large area of folded cloth.

Other traditions

See also


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