The art of Indian block print textiles is a labor-intensive, painstaking process that has survived from ancient times to the present because of the beauty of handmade products. In India, this ancient printing technique utilizes a hand-carved teak wood block that is dipped in dye and stamped by hand onto cotton or silk. The result is truly unique, hand-block printed fabric that connects us to a rich tradition and history of handmade crafts. India is a hub of cotton hand-block prints. Almost every state across Northern India has its own hand block printing tradition that has been preserved by several generations of prolific craftsmen. Just to quote a few examples – Gujarat has Ajrakh, Madhya Pradesh has Bagh and Rajasthan has Bagru, Dabu & Sanganeri block printing traditions.
The process of hand block printing includes:
- Block Carving - The block maker traces the chosen motif or design onto a wooden block, usually made of teak, a deciduous hardwood tree native to India. The woodblock is oiled and sanded before the craftsman carefully chips away at the block, leaving behind the desired design for the stamp.
- Base Dye - The fabrics to be printed are first washed to get rid of the starch, dried in the sun, and then laid down on a large table - fastened using pins. Colours are prepared in separate trays using glue & pigment binder.
- Printing - The block is then dipped in the tray full of colours, and slammed hard on the fabric with fist. The design goes from outward to inward i.e. the outline is printed first with black or dark colour and then filled in using different colours.
Once the dye has dried, the completed block printed fabric is sent for washing and curing. The fabric is washed by hand using a sustainable water source and hung to dry in the sun. Just as the method of washing reduces water consumption, this sustainable method of drying the fabric minimizes energy consumption for a smaller environmental footprint than many manufactured processes. Once the fabric has dried, it sent for curing.
Silk provides a beautiful flat surface for a screen print, and the natural fiber absorbs ink evenly and effectively. Just keep in mind that silk can tend to move around or slightly shrink throughout the printing process, so be sure to prewash the fabric and use table adhesive to keep the delicate fabric firmly in place. It is a natural fiber known for its luster, shine, strength, and durability, and it has a long trading history across the world. Silk is the epitome of luxury due to its high cost to produce, soft feel, and elegant appearance, and it is thus a popular textile in high-end and couture fashion design.
While silk holds the status of being one of the strongest natural fibers in the world, the fabric itself is incredibly delicate and requires special attention when it comes to cleaning, drying and storing to ensure it stays in pristine condition. Silk takes to dying incredibly well, but while it can uphold the most stunning bold and vibrant patterns, printed silks can be prone to bleeding. Check your garment for colour fastness. Dab a small amount of water and detergent on a cotton ball and test it on a small corner inside. If the colour stays, use mild water paired with high-pH soaps (7 or less) as detergent. Stir the detergent into the basin before leaving your silk garment for a good soak. Gently swish the garment in places where there are stains. For the final rinse, use fabric conditioner to keep your silk garment smooth and supple. You can remove the moisture by rolling the fabric in an absorbent towel and lay the item to dry. Avoid direct sunlight and heat as the warm temperature affects the composition of the fabric. Instead, dry it indoors.Caring for silk is easy breezy. Now go on, indulge yourself in gifting luxurious silk ensembles for your loved ones, or for yourself.
trueBrowns has recently introduced its newest collection - M E E R A. It's an amalgam of soft silhouettes, consciously crafted fabrics & vibrant color tones. In Meera, we represent the true essence of truebrowns women. The collection is filled with Hand Blocked floral motifs on muslin silk fabric. It brings back a pleasant nostalgia from early autumn celebrations. Our fuss-free, vibrant silhouettes will feel like an extension of who you are. Come, dive into the world of vibrant hand block prints with trueBrowns.