For those of you about to begin your Nature’s Jewels quilt and for those of you just curious – here is my tip about how to know which side of your batik or hand-dyed fabric to use as the face-up side.
Some quilters hesitate to call them “right” and “wrong” sides of the fabric, but the fact is, in the making of these fabrics, the wax and often the dyes are applied to one side making that a preferable side to use as the right side. So in this article, I’ll continue to use those terms, and if you prefer to think of them differently, just translate in your mind!
Some background first…there is a difference between batiks and hand-dyed fabrics. Batiks will have used a wax-resist technique to show a featured motif over a dyed background.
This could be something as simple as an all-over dot pattern, or as elaborate as large flowers, foliage or geometric designs. Dyed fabrics will not have that motif, and are more likely to look like a texture than an image.
I’m going to first show you some fabrics with obvious right and wrong sides. After that, I’ll show fabrics used in Nature’s Jewels. I’ll bet after you see a few examples, you’ll be able to tell without my help.
I always find with batiks (with a motif), it is easier first to look for the WRONG side. The batik below is a good example. The first photo shows the wrong side. Places where wax was used – in this case in large quantities – have small splotches or spots on the motif that is obviously not part of the intended design. This just means that the wax didn’t fully saturate through the fabric.
Looking at the same area on the right side, the motif is clearer and more filled in with color.
So the clearer side is the right side – the side the wax was applied. Can you use both sides as the right side? If your pieces are small – sure. But if you are using large pieces or using it for borders where you want to be consistent on all 4 side, better to stick with just one choice – whichever you prefer (in this case the right side is definitely more attractive).
Here’s another similar example:
See all of the splotches in the turquoise motif? Now see the view of the right side.
Definitely clearer. Don’t worry about every last line or dot – some of those seen in the above photo are part of the nature of the wax and of the process. I just look for the side with fewer of the discrepancies, because I pefer the motif to look crisper and clearer.
Here’s a batik with attaractive qualities on both sides. The wrong side is shown on top, and the more yellow right side on bottom. Notice more of the blue comes through in the square motif on the bottom half. I would tend to use both sides just for fun, especially in a scrappy quilt, because they are each so interesting.
And here is a dyed fabric, where it is obvious the dyes were added to the right side of the fabric (top half of the photo), giving a richer, more intense appearance. In this case, I wouldn’t use the wrong side (bottom half of photo) at all – unless it suited a specific purpose.
OK – so now you have a pretty good idea of what to look for – more intense color and clarity of the motif. We’ll look at the fabrics used in Nature’s Jewels. I’ve used about half batiks and half hand-dyes in this project, and I’ll admit that on some it’s hard to tell which is the right side. And again – if it’s too much work to distinguish, just use the pieces as they come. Oh – I should tell you that there is no consistency as to which side is face out on a bolt of fabric. It could be the right or the wrong side so don’t use that as your guide!
I’ll start with the batiks – especially the ones with more wax coverage (larger motifs). The main leaf print is a perfect example. Both of these photos (above and below) show speckles on the leaf design – both show the wrong side.
I didn’t bother to show right side because you can just imagine that the leaves are more filled in and clearer on the right side. The same goes with the peacock feather motif below.
I chose the most obvious places to point out the speckles. But another thing to look out for on these batiks is that the overall colors of the background and motifs are prettier, richer and more colorful on the right side.
In the green filligree batik, see the wrong side then right side – look at the lighter portions of the motif. I’ll bet you’re getting the hang if it now!
Now moving on to some of the smaller motifs – the polka dots – that have less wax coverage. These are harder to tell but I think the Midnight with big dots is the easiest:
The dots aren’t clear so they don’t show on the background as well as they do in the photo below.
The batiks with the small dots are even hearder to distinguish, but the orange dot definitely has a more attractive side.
Notice how much brighter the top half is and how much clearer the dots are on the top (right side). Can you tell the difference on the cream dot below?
I like the upper right side because there is so much more color in the dots. And another reason I chose to use that side is because of the huge value difference between this fabric and ALL of the others in the Nature’s Jewels quilt. So I chose the side that bridged the gap a little better. If I had used the lighter side, the difference would have been even greater (maybe too great).
Moving on to the dyed fabrics from Nature’s Jewels, I almost always choose the side with more details. That means more value difference, more speckly places – just more interest. So that means it is usually easier to find the RIGHT side on these fabrics.
Still gorgeous, but less distinction.
I confess – even though this is one of the most amazing fabrics, I chose to use the wrong side face up because I felt that the right side was too busy for this project. The sharp lines on the right side created a false impression of a seam that I didn’t want. And in the border elements where I used this fabric, I tried to use the pieces that were the most green and the least red so that they looked different from the red squares opposite each of these pieces.
Here’s another dyed fabric in the quilt. Above you can see more speckles – more details. Below – less interest. OK – I admit it’s harder to tell on this one.
So when you do your quilt, don’t worry about it! What was more important here was the flow from one piece to the next (see the center portion of the quilt). That meant using whichever side achieved the best continuity.
And the last one I have to show if the beautiful blue Bayou dyed fabric. Both sides warmed my insides, but I preferred the side that showed more of the green mixed in.
Now that you know how to tell one side from the other, how important is it that you pay attention to the right and wrong side of the fabrics? It’s only as important as you want to make it. Here are some points to consider:
- You can use either or both sides of these fabrics and still have an effective quilt.
- Sometimes you may choose the brighter side because you intend to make a brighter quilt, and the same holds true for the opposite – you may choose the less vibrant side to tame down a fabric.
- If you can’t tell – or have to struggle to tell the difference on a fabric, then just take the pieces as they come. Don’t spend the extra time if the overall effect will be the same.
This is a subject that I can go on and on about, but I hope this is enough to let you stop wondering if there is a right and wrong side.
I’d love to hear feedback. Look for more tips soon!