Understanding the Rich History of Hand Block Printing, its Significance and Laborious Process

The art of creating block prints has been an ancient traditions in the history of India. Inheriting its origin from a group of age-old regions in Rajasthan, Hand Block printing is a very old textile craft.

Hand block Printing 

This ancient printing technique utilizes a hand-carved teak wood block that is dipped in dye and stamped by hand onto cotton or silk. A process that requires steady movement and careful hand-eye coordination. Most importantly, this traditional technique of fabric printing involves the use of carved wooden blocks that are dipped in dye to recreate gorgeous designs.

Hand Block Printing

As the name suggests, it is the technique in which the printed fabric is created using blocks.

History of Hand Block Printing 

The art of Hand Block Printing has a rich history having its origin from the 15th century B.C. with its roots in India, China and Japan. According to Wikipedia the traces of wood block printing (or simply, "block printing") were first found in China which go back to the 7th century.

hand block print history

Also, it remained the most common East Asian technique of printing until the 19th century.

In present times, many countries practice this art with unique characteristics. In India, the regions like Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh follow the traditional process of hand block printing.

Importance of Hand Block Printing 

Hand block print designs are adored since Mughal period. However, recently hand block printing has taken a different track. Now, it has been an elaborated process. It has always been one of the most admired arts, but many aspects are added to it, to modify it as per the current fashion. This printing has an incredible demand in clothing industry for sarees, suits, and dresses. Apart from this, it is also very much popular for products such as handbags etc.

Today, we must appreciate the painstaking effort of the artisans that goes into every stage of creating this magic. Certainly, this has tremendously contributed towards the economical growth of the nation.

Process of this Beautiful Handcraft

The process of hand block printing has always been labor-intensive and time consuming. Moreover, there are several ways by which a fabric can be printed. It is one such technique, which involves carving a desired pattern or design on a wooden block. Then, covering this block with ink or dye and then stamping it on the fabric. Different stages of the entire process are mentioned below:

Washing the fabric 

First and foremost, the fabric to be printed is first washed free of starch.

Placing the fabric

hand block print process placing the fabric on table

Afterwards, the fabric is then stretched over the printing table and fixed with pins.

Block carving 

block carving

This stage involves carving a desired pattern or design on a wooden block, covering this block with ink or dye and then stamping it on the fabric.  Once the blocks are carved, they are soaked in oil for a good 10-15 days to soften the wood.

Preparing the dye

hand block printing process of dyeing

Second, once the wooden stamps are ready to print, an expert hand block printer mixes the basic colors to obtain the desired complex color for final printing.

Application of dye 

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Further, the block is then dipped in the tray full of dyes of different colors. The wooden block is gently pressed onto the palette of dye before being applied against the fabric. Then it is slammed hard on the fabric with fist. The design goes from outward to inward.

Final washing and drying 

Block printing in India final washing

Once dyed, it is washed thereafter, to remove excess colour. Then, it is dried in the sun. Once the printing is complete, the fabric is dried in the sun, then washed again (with acid & water) and dried again. That is how the colour is established.

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