At Baliza, other than using GOTs certified Organic cotton and herbal dyes for printing our dresses, we also proudly use hand printing methods like block printing and silk screen printing to make our prints come to life. Printing fabrics in large scale is normally done on rotary machines which often need a print run of 500-1000 yards. But since we print on a very small scale we chose methods which are wholly done by hand. One of them is Blocking Printing.
Block Printing is an ancient method of printing on fabrics using a wooden block carved with the pattern and then dipped in ink which then makes a pattern on the cloth. The method though seemingly simple depends on the skill, patience and experience of the printer. Some block printed fabrics require upto 5-6 blocks to create the pattern and only the very skilled can carry out the precision that this task requires.
What makes Block Printing so unique?
We have outlined 7 special facts about block printing here you may not know.
- There is not just one single method of Block Printing. Though Jaipur in Rajasthan India is best known to be a hub of block printed fabrics, various other parts of India have their own unique take. Ajrak, Dabu, Batik, Kalamkari all are very distinct in style and look.
- There is a reverse method of block printing called Discharge Printing. As the name suggests the fabric is first dyed in a plain colour. Then the dye is removed from the part of fabric on which designs are to be made by use of a chemical. Then these parts are printed with a different block and pattern.
- Resist Printing is a type of block printing in which the part of the cloth which is not to be dyed is covered with the paste of resin and clay. Then the fabric is dyed with the desirable color and then it is block printed once the clay is removed.
Picture courtesy - oni fabrics
4. Chintz today is used to describe any floral fabric, but the term originated from the Hindi word ‘chint’ or ‘chitta’ meaning spotted or variegated. During the 18th century these very delicate designs were all hand-drawn with a simple bamboo pen called a kalam (literally ‘reed’ or ‘pen’) and were produced entirely for the European royalty and very wealthy. What was most attractive about Indian chintz was the brilliance and fastness of its colours.
5. For every new colour that is printed on the fabric, a new block needs to be created. Very often fabrics have 4-5 colours which means 4-5 blocks are needed. The more fine the design and the more number of colours used the more expensive the fabric.
6. Though the blocks for block printing can be created using linoleum or rubber as well, the blocks in India for printing on fabric are always made using wood. The type of wood used is typically a local one called Shisham. Sometimes the blocks for the sharp outlines of patterns are created using beaten metal on wood.
7. Did you know that various types of blocks have different names? A base filler block is called ‘Datta’. The block that makes the outline is called the ‘Rekh’ block, the background or negative space of the design block is called ‘ Gadh’ and ‘Salli’ are the blocks used for Stripes!
The most important and beautiful aspect of hand block printed fabrics is that it is eco friendly and sustainable in every way possible. Not to mention that they provide a livelihood for thousands of artisans without whom this ancient art form would be all but dead. Even though commercial methods of fabric printing and digital printing are much faster and precise, a block printed dress will always have minor imperfections that makes it all the more perfect!
At Baliza, we love our artisans and respect every part of the process. We ensure fair work and pay conditions for our partners at Ladli where our production happens.
We occasionally conduct simple hand block printing workshops to share the process with you. If you would like to learn more do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To check out our block printed designs and dresses you can click here.