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block printing

hand block printing Wood Block Printing by hand

Chandni Chowk’s prints are made under fair trade conditions in India using the ancient method of Wooden Block Printing by hand. Block Printing is very much part of  India’s rich textile history where it continues to be used  for textile production despite competition from mechanised printing techniques. Giving regular work to the skilled Block Printers and Block Makers ensures that their ancient trades continue, and provides work for many people compared to the less labour intensive mass production methods. Many layers of work from direct printing, resist printing, discharging, dyeing and washing can be required for a piece of fabric to be completed. On average a printer would need to make about 300 impressions to produce one meter of cloth with five colours in the design. The end result however is a beautiful and unique piece of fabric, carrying a little of the printer’s skill, creativity and culture.

Discharge Block Printing
This is, in effect, the opposite to direct block printing. Instead of putting colour on to a fabric, a paste is used to remove colour from the dyed fabric. Oxalic Acid and Citric Acid (fruit juice) act as a  bleach. They are mixed with gum to form a paste. This is then printed using a block, carved into the required design, onto an area of fabric which has already been dyed. It is left to dry for 48 hours and then washed and boiled. The result is a bleached-out pattern. Discharge can be used on its own, or in conjunction with other printing techniques to create some very fine and intricate patterns.
Mud-Resist Block Printing
This method uses a waterproof paste as protection to prevent the dye from colouring  part of the fabric. The picture shows cloth which has had a waterproof mud resist (made from clay and acacia tree gum), placed onto the areas that  are to  be left undyed (at least by this stage of the process). Mud -resist requires quite a bold block design because of the gooey consistency of the paste used. The fabric has then been dipped into an indigo dye and laid out in the sun to dry. Once dry, the mud resist will be washed off and the areas it had covered will have been protected from the indigo, and so remain mostly un-dyed, creating one stage of the pattern. This may then have other stages added, for example  a more intricate design printed directly over the bold, main pattern.

Hand Carved Wooden Blocks
Block Printing requires wooden blocks to be carved by hand. The carving of the blocks is in itself a great skill, with each block carefully chiselled to a precise design. Complex patterns may require four, five or even more blocks, each one carrying the separate imprint of a particular element of the design. Such a  design could use  forty or more blocks. The quality and intricacy of the block enormously effects the appearance of the final print. Chandni Chowk is lucky to be working with some of India's finest block carvers and printers. To watch our short film of wood block carving please follow this link; Wood block carving

There are many variations on the Block Printing techniques.
This picture shows a printer putting cotton wool into areas of the block so as to soften the edges of the block when printed. The end result is a less defined, more ‘water colour’ effect on the fabric.
Care instructions for Chandni Chowk fabrics; care instructions