The Art of Block Printing

The roots of block printing can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization. A favorite in both home furnishings and apparels block printed fabric finds its place in our homes through varied products. Be it a king size block printed bed sheet in beautiful Sanganeri print or trendy Indigo Bagru print kurtis these fabrics have gained popularity worldwide. Interior designers have started using block prints in upholstery fabric and curtains to complement the earthy and warm tones that are trending this year in home décor. These prints are traditional yet versatile in such a way that they can be adapted to modern aesthetics also easily.

Essentially hand crafted block print is a tedious and meticulous process practiced exclusively in the towns of Sanganer and Bagru in Rajasthan. The skill has been passed on from generation to generation and the artisan’s skill is unmatched in precision. As we see an increase in awareness towards environment friendly products block printed fabric has become a hot favorite again due to its usage of pure cotton material and vegetable dyes. 

Let’s look at how these beautiful fabrics are crafted and prepared for different products. 

Preparing the cloth

After soaking the cloth for 24 – 48 hours wet lengths of cotton cloth are bet against the river stone and then laid out to dry in the hot Rajasthan sun. This process helps to remove the starch and dust from cloth. Once the cloth dries it can we dyed in the desired color 

Wooden blocks used for printing

The initial design that has to be carved on the wooden block is first made on paper. After the paper design is prepared it is hand carved on a wooden block. The size of the wooden block varies from 18- 24 cm.

Usage of Natural dyes

Mostly natural dyes are used in block printing. Vegetable and plant dyes such as extracts of leaves of Indigoferra Tinctoria, Pomegranate seeds etc. are used along with mordant to fix the dye to fabric. 

Printing process on cloth

After pre preparing the fabric for printing, it is laid tightly on a wooden table and fixed with pins to secure it so that it doesn’t move during the printing process. Dye is generally applied to the wooden block with a sieve. The Block is gently pressed onto the dye palette prior to applying on fabric then it is stamped on the fabric to create the pattern. 

Creating the intricate designs take time and requires precision in aligning the blocks correctly each time they are stamped. 

After the printing process is complete the fabric is given a final wash to fix the colors completely and prevent any color bleed. 

The Prints and patterns of block print are varied.Though Rajasthan dominates the block print market regions of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh also have their own distinct prints that are famous. According to their origin and the colors used, the prints have been given names over a period of time such as the famous Sanganeri print or Bagru Print. Also these prints beautifully complement the minimalistic vibe that the world has caught on to in the few years. 

Sanganeri Print

Originating from the small town of Sanganer which is located near the capital city of Jaipur in Rajasthan the predominant colors of this print are Yellow, Green and Blue. You can recognize a Sanganeri print bed sheet easily from its colors and it’s small floral or geometrical motifs. 

Bagru Print

A small village in Rajasthan by the name of Bagru skyrocketed to international fame with its Bagru print done specifically by the local ‘Chippa’ community. What made this print so special was the hue of colors that could only be achieved in this area due to the composition of its water. The shades of Mustard, Black and Red when combined into bold lines and motifs of flowers and animals or geometrical shapes  lend a vibrant yet earthy tone to the fabric. Not only bed sheets but in apparels too these versatile designs can be adapted to modern clothes easily. 

Khari Print

In the past few decades there came a new technique of block printing called the khari print to give a more rich and luxurious look to fabrics. This technique uses gold or silver dust on the print to give a somewhat embossed look to the design. The embellishment is done on the surface of any designs such as the Sanganeri Print to achieve this look. 

Bagh Print

The region of Madhya Pradesh is famous for its Bagh Print. With simple geometrical patterns or small floral patterns the bed sheets are mostly printed in red or black color. The colors and prints of Bagh print transform your living space to a more calming and peaceful abode. The fabrics have a subtle hue and they can be used for both traditional and modern designs. 

Dabu Print

Dabu print finds its origin both in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Predominantly Grey, Brown and Indigo this print is more modernistic than others. Abstract geometric prints and animal figures are more liked in this. Dabu print bedsheets with small flower bootas and sunflower motifs are also quite famous. 

Kalamkari Print

Not just hand painted but the famous Kalamakari print designs of Andhra Pradesh are used in block printing also. The earthy tones of Yellow, brown, red, blue and greens fill the beautiful prints of divine characters, peacocks and flowers. Giving a more eclectic yet traditional look to your bedrooms Kalamkari print bed sheets have made a place for themselves in the furnishings market.

Ajrakh Print

The district of kutch in Gujarat has given us the famous Ajrakh print. The Ajrakh print essentially creates a web like pattern and makes a ‘Jaal’ like design on the fabric with floral and geometrical designs. The Ajrakh print bed sheets stand out and add a touch of boldness to minimalistic bedrooms. 

Block Printing artisans have been practicing this art from generations and block printed bed sheets have become popular all over the world as they appeal to all types of aesthetic preferences. The home décor trends of 2023 are gravitating more towards using subtle colors and drawing away from the plain white trends. Block print fabrics are perfect for this trend. Whether you are fond of traditional prints or abstract block printed fabrics have it all!

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