Dhokra + Kantha + Weaving + Leather + Printing + Jewelry + sasha skills

sasha craft >> Printing

Block printing is an ancient craft in India, where wooden blocks are carved with intricate patterns and these are dipped in colour and repeatedly pressed on fabric. There are numerous motifs, colours and fabrics, typical to each region in India. These motifs have evolved over time and have great cultural significance. The patterns also evolved because of influences from Europe and the Middle East who have been major buyers of these fabrics over centuries.


In West Bengal, Burdhaman and Serampore have been centers for printing since the 1800s for both textile and paper. Textiles printed here have a market all over the world and over time have evolved a distinct style and flavor.

Bardhaman has been a district capital since the time of Mughal Empire. Later on it became a district headquarters of British India.

Bardhaman Raj was founded in 1657 by Sangam Rai, of the Kapoor Khatri fam­ily and his descendants served in turn the Mughal Emperors and the British government. Subsequent rulers tried hard to make this region culturally, economically and ecologically healthier. There are several famous colleges, and Bardhaman soon became a centre for the arts, classical music and poetry.

Process of Printing

The wood block is carefully prepared as a relief matrix, which means the areas to show 'white' are cut away with a knife, chisel, or sandpaper leaving the motif to show in 'black' at the original surface level. The block is cut along the grain of the wood.

First the Fabric is de-gummed (where all the starch is removed) and scoured and washed. This is to ensure that the dyes are taken in properly and evenly.

The colours are prepared. The dye-water is raised to a high temperature and then the wet fabric is dipped into it, the crafts person checking frequently to make sure the desired colour is matched. Dyed fabric is then put in the fixing solution, before it is washed.

After drying, the fabric is stretched very carefully and precisely on the printing table and secured with pins.

The blocks – basically wooden reliefs with designs – are dipped in a colour bath and pressed hard on the fabric. The printer inks the block and brings it into firm and even contact with the cloth to achieve a continuous print. For colour printing, multiple blocks are used, each for one colour, although overprinting two colours may produce further colours on the print.

If the design has more than one colour, the second block is dipped in a different bath and aligned precisely into the pattern that has been already printed. Great skill and accuracy is required to produce a pattern that seamlessly flows, without the block being visible.

The fabric is then steamed in boiling water or in a steamer to fix the colour. The last stage is when the printed fabric is dried in the sun, again to fix the colour. This makes the block printing process dependent on sunny weather and on rainy days, the prints do not turn out well.

Screen printing is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil. The design is transferred to a stretched nylon or polyester fabric using photo-reactive inks. This forms an opaque and transparent area. A roller or squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing or pumping ink past the threads of the woven mesh in the open areas.

Dyed or plain cloth is fixed on the screen table which has a paraffin wax coating. This allows the cloth to stick absolutely flat, which is crucial for the process.

A screen – a frame of a very thin filament with the designs printed on it – is aligned on the fabric. Colour is loaded at one end of the screen and pushed through with quick strokes of a squeegee. Two craftsmen working unison to makes sure the colour is printed evenly across the fabric.

The printed fabric is steamed and dried. It is then ironed and sent off for delivery.

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