Kain Pelangi in the history of Malaysian Batik

Kain Pelangi or “Rainbow Scarf” is a resist + dye fabric using sewing stitches in designs which were pulled through the fabric to bunch or “ruch” the fabric, tied and then dyed. It was first introduced in the Kelantan and Trengganu states in the east coast of peninsula Malaysia in the early 18th century and originated from the Bandhani cloths of Jodhpur India. Obviously, this was introduced by Indian merchants and became popular amongst the populace of the east coast. Ladies used these as scarves or head coverings .

Although strictly not made using the wax-resist technique of batik, it is part of the history of batik in Malaysia. The makers of this fabric used natural dye from brazilwood, turmeric, pomegranate, mangosteen skin, indigo, orseille, logwood, madderwood, henna mixed with tamarind seeds and gambe, onion skins and safflower to color the fabric.

This technique later became out of fashion since the 2nd World War, and today you will find the simpler rainbow design produced by circular tie dye methods as illustrated in the photo.

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