Hand Block Printing
We absolutely love block printed fashion and textiles. On my first trip to India I fell in love with this traditional and ancient artform. I knew that I just had to bring the beauty and love home. It’s all over my home in the form of quilts, cushions and tablecloths. As well as the many items of clothing hanging in my wardrobe. Now I can bring it to you through our store! You will love it on beautiful tablecloths, cushions and fashion pieces like maxi dresses, jumpsuits and skirts. So what is hand block printing?
Firstly a little bit about the history…
Block printing is an ancient artform, it is thought to have originated in East Asia, the longest surviving wooden blocks date back as far as 220 in China. China used the hand block printing method to print on textiles and later paper. Block printing remained the most common form of printing books and fabrics until late in the 19th century.
Hand block printing in India dates back to the 12th Century and was thought to have originated in the South, however it was prominent all over India. The art form flourished and received royal patronage. Surat in Gurjuart became prominent for the trade of painted and block printed cotton fabrics.
The medieval age saw Rajasthan become known for it’s printing on fabrics. Today that’s where you will find the art flourishing in modern fashion.
Indian hand block printing is our favourite and what we love to stock for it’s beauty and gorgeous designs and patterns.
So how do we get the vibrant and gorgeous prints we see on all the beautiful clothing and homewares?
Hand block print fabrics have become so popular due to their vibrant colours and beautiful designs. We love that our designers and suppliers are choosing to use natural dyes on their products however some use synthetic chemical dyes.
As with everything done in India there is meaning and belief behind the most used colours; Red, the colour of love, Yellow, the colour of Spring, Blue is for Krishna and Saffron for the yogi.
The Bunta is the main tool used for printing, which is a wooden tool hand carved in different shapes, designs and sizes. Like pretty paisley, beautiful mandalas, lotus flowers, floral motifs, animals, birds and butterflies.
Each Bunta is made from teak wood by highly trained craftsmen, they have a handle and on the underside the unique design is etched.
The blocks also have 3 holes drilled for free air to pass through which allows for the release of any excess dye. Every new block is soaked in oil for 10-15 days prior to use so the wood grains are softened.
Traditionally hand block printing was done on cotton, calico and silks. But we are loving the work our designer from ISHANI Designs has been doing with her range. She has worked closely with the artisans to bring her vision to life on soft, flowing and breathable rayon. The prints really come alive and become so much prettier in clothing when rayon is used as it falls around the body beautifully.
Printers keeps their blocks at hand usually in a wooden trolley that can be dragged along as they work. The fabric is usually washed to remove starch and brighten it. It’s then stretched nice and tight over the printing table and fastened with pins.
The printing is then started and moves from the left to right. The printer coats the block evenly with dye and then slams it down into the fabric to ensure a good impression onto the fabric, the dark colours are the first to be printed. The process is then repeated with the printer lining each print up with a marker on the block so we get a nice even pattern. Then this process is followed for the next colours.
The fabrics are then usually dried in the sun or steam dried. The colours and patterns will really come out once they are set and dry. The fabrics are then washed and ironed to help lock in the dye and colours.
Now I’m no expert I’ve just picked up this knowledge along the way on my travels here and there. (That’s me pictured above on one of my trips to Jaipur, India).
I hope you’ve found this interesting and enjoyed learning about hand block printing,
Love Edwina xo