Hand block printing in India
India has always been revered for its richness, variety, and quality of its handloom industry. The entire world looks up to India for its rich weaves, unique textiles, and legendary prints. But today, nearly every clothing item on the market is mass produced using machines in no time. You will hardly see time-invested craft being used in the women’s clothing line today. Something that reflects our culture, our values, our beliefs. It’s difficult to imagine us carrying centuries-old Indian culture on
our bodies with pride. Taking from the cue, one such art that still thrives in the remotest parts of India, especially Rajasthan is the legacy of handblock printing on clothes. In small villages of India, there still lies a dedication to keeping alive this century-old tradition of block printing.
What is hand block printing?
Handblock printing is the process of dipping wooden carved blocks in fabric dye and stamping them along the length of cloth to create rich patterns. The prints are designed manually and take around seven to ten days to complete these beautiful motifs. Stunning hand block print demands skill and patience to create a uniform and clear patterns. The uniqueness of hand block printing lies in the fact that it is done by skilled artists who have been in this field for decades and not machines. In fact, detailed hand block prints can never be attained by automated machinery wherein a 100 meter of fabric comes out in the same colour and same design. Often times in hand block print, one wooden block is not repeated for the entire print. It is a
series of blocks that create a pattern usually with varying colors.
One block would be carved with an outline of an elephant, the next block could be the colors for the elephant and the next could be the leaves around the elephant. All of this requires every block to be carved differently with intense precision, something that machines cannot emulate. Designs & Patterns
India has always been linked to rich weaves, varying fabric, our love for colors and unique prints. Our prints and fabrics borrow from a particular region where they are being produced. In the case of hand block printing, Rajasthan.
Hand block print is inspired by nature, Indian mythology, an architecture of temples and forts, rural life and geometric patterns. These prints in rich vibrant colors, strike a silent conversation with the onlooker. Be it floral, animal prints or abstracts, our artists and craftsmen endeavor to produce something new every time they get to work. Not only does this stunning art respects Indian culture and tradition, it celebrates it as well. What results is an elaborate, humbling, and utterly fascinating series of clothing that is not only beautiful but skillfully made with natural materials by real artisans.
Aachho is one of the few retailers in the hand block-printing industry who designs, dyes, prints, stitches and packages the products entirely in-house to ensure that the highest standards of quality is delivered to you.
I) Choosing the right fabric for handblock print
First, we embark on a journey to search for best quality raw fabric to print the block prints on. We look for fabrics that are soft to touch and also strong enough to hold the designs printed by hand. We use high-quality fabric like Cotton, Voil, Rayon, Chandheri, Doriya etc. which offers our customers a wide variety of options to choose from.
II) Preparing the fabric
As with most ancient practices, every process in hand block printing, including the preparation of cloth is labour-intensive and time-consuming. The chosen fabric is pre-washed and soaked in cold water for about 24-48 hours to ensure it is free of any starchiness so that the fabric takes the dye evenly. In traditional facilities, use of camel dung, soda ash, and castor oil is used for treating the fabric. This process is repeated multiple times until the desired state of the cloth is reached.
The artisans then beat the lengths of the cloth against river stones to make the fabric even softer. Then, they lay them out in the sun to get dry and naturally bleached. All these steps can take up to 2-3 days to complete. So, you can imagine the effort that goes into just preparing cloth for printing.
III) Creating the block
Now, we have come to the most artistic and slowest part of the hand block printing process i.e. carving the wooden block.
A masterful craftsman, known as “kharodi” traces the chosen design, which is typically influenced by the nature, beliefs, and customs of the region onto a wooden block using sharp knives or chisels. Each design carved on a wooden block takes at least 48-72 man hours to complete. The patterns are carved in a way that each impression specifies where the next stamp must take place ensuring clean and even efforts. A separate block is made for each colour. Small holes are made across the height of the block to prevent air pockets and ensure even
impressions. Only highly experienced carvers work on complex designs, and the most intricate details are saved for last to avoid damaging the delicate process.
The readied wooden blocks are then dipped in oil to prevent pigments from permeating deep. Two to three weeks into the oil bath, and a block is ready for printing.
IV) Colour & Dye Once the wooden block print is ready, the next step is to prepare the right colour combination according to the fabric and design to be printed.
The traditional block printing process involves mixing together natural dyes, which may be plant- based or vegetable-based.
Under the pigment tray is another tray containing a thick viscous liquid made from pigment binder and glue. This gives the colour tray a soft base which helps to spread colour evenly on the wooden
block. An artisan knew as;Rangrez helps in making the right colour as per the instruction on the fabric.
V) Block printing
The fabric is stretched over the printing table and fastened with small pins. This is an important stage as there should be a uniform tension in the fabric with no ripples. The printing starts from left to right. The colour is evened out in the tray with a wedge of wood. Wooden blocks are dipped into the dye and pressed firmly onto the fabric, and finally the blocks are hit with a mallet also known as a hammer.
This process is repeated over and over again, by only the steadiest hands, until the pattern has completely covered the length of fabric.
If there are multiple colours in the design, the artisan lets each colour dry before applying the next, each with a new stamp. It is extremely time consuming and requires precision so that there are no breaks in the designs.
VI) Post block printing care
Once the block printing process is complete, the fabric is sun-dried to fix the colours onto the fabric. It is rolled in wads of newspapers to prevent the dye from adhering to other layers and steamed in boilers constructed for the purpose.
After steaming, the material is washed thoroughly in large quantities of water and dried in the sun, after which it is finished by ironing out single layers, which fix the colour permanently.
Once a final check to detect any quality issues is conducted, the block printed fabric is sent to be cut and designed. In this phase, artisans known as “masters” skilfully cut the handblock fabric in distinct patterns like- Anarkali , Kurti , Gher, Angrakha, Chunnat , Kali , Kurti, Lehenga etc.
Further, the patterned fabric is passed onto the “karigars” who stitch the final product as per the cutting instructions given by the “masters” with definitive degree of artistic skill and precision. Best quality threads and with high-quality machines the product is being processed to an end product.
VIII) Finished product
Before the product reaches our happy customer, 3 layers quality check is done in-house to avoid any chances of customer dissatisfaction. This is followed by ironing in boiler press and safe packaging.
We ship our products through leading courier companies in India like FedEx and Aramex (Both for domestic and international) to ensure fast and secure deliveries.
Aachho for hand block print Fashion has the power to change lives. The lives of artisans, craftsmen, printers, tailors, designers and many more who have woven their souls into what we wear today.
We, at Aachho, are driven by a genuine desire to offer livelihood to the artisans and creators of these weaves by celebrating the oldest printing technique that has stood the test of time. Hand block printed clothing in India is a time and skill-intensive technique that strikes a perfect a balance between time-honored traditions and modern best practices. We are constantly blending traditional printing techniques with fine fabrics and designing them into modern silhouettes desired by the urban Indian woman of today. By using block printed fabrics to
create our apparel, we honour and support the expertise and experience of our indigenous artisans and craftsmen. The hard work behind the handmade manufacturing of these simple-looking hand block print fabric separates us from the crowd.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
1) What is block printing?
Block printing is a printing process that involves applying text or images on a fabric by hand using a block dipped in pigment or dye. This process can be used to print onto fabric as well as paper.
Generally, “block printing,” “hand block printing,” and “woodblock printing” refer to the same process.
2) How long does it take to create a piece of wooden block?
The process of creating a designed wooden block can take 7 to 10 days,depending on the complexity of the design.
3) How many blocks are used for one garment?
If the design requires only one colour, then it can be made with a single block. Generally each design has 2-4 colours. Each colour has a separate block. Sometimes as many as 5-8 blocks are used depending on the design
4) What is the inspiration behind the designs carved on the wooden blocks?
The designs and motifs of block prints are inspired from a specific region they are produced in. They can be largely grouped as floral, figurative and geometric categories. The designs have large bootas, small bootis, trellis or jal, (kind of designs) small border and large borders and sometimes geometrical designs also.
5) Which colours are used for block printing?
Not all colours can be used for block printing. The traditional block printing process involves mixing together natural dyes, which may be plant-based or vegetable-based.
6) What is a mallet or a hammer used for?
A hammer is used specifically in the printing process where the stamping of the wooden blocks on the fabric requires force. The hammers helps to create that force and produce a clean, clear print.
7) What makes the hand block prints look bright and vibrant?
Once the fabric is printed, it is sun dried for a significant amount of time so that the colours look brighter and lively.
8) Where can I buy handblock printed suits in India?
Aachho.com proudly produces a variety of hand block printed clothes and accessories for the woman of today. Shop with us today or contact us if you have any questions.