The Art of Block Printing
We believe the way clothing is made makes a difference in the way it looks and feels. Our Block Print Collection features uniquely detailed pieces that have been hand-stamped using natural dyes to create modern clothing in an homage to intentional and slow fashion. If you are new to the magic that is block printing, allow us to share with you a little about what we love about it.
The History of Block Printing
Block printing has an early history traced back to China around 200 CE, where text and images were first printed onto silk to share stories, calendars and more. Indian block printing began with the Mughal empire (1526-1857), who called for an abundance of production and began selling large orders to the English Empire. At that time in India, in lieu of coins, fabric was used for bartering, which also helped create a massive economy for it and lent to the Indian mastery of block printing.
Towards the end of the Mughal Empire came the British war on Indian textiles. As mentioned in our Khadi Blog, Britain created taxes, banned the import of Indian textiles and sold their cheaper, industrialized goods on the Indian market, causing the ultimate decline of the Indian textile industry at that time. The 60’s and 70’s hippy movement drew attention back to the brightly colored, floral block prints from India and helped create a revived demand for the craft. Still today, the legacy of block printing as a trade is challenged by the allure of industrialization. We are proud to support this heritage craft and the artisans who are committed to keeping it alive.
The Block Printing Process
The blocks, carved from rosewood, teak or pear, are first cut into shape from sketched paper patterns. Each different color and pattern require their own wooden block. After soaking for over a week, the softened wooden blocks are ready and then the printing process can begin. The stamps are applied in one of three ways.
With direct printing, dyes are poured onto a pad. Each block is dipped onto the dye and pressed into place on the fabric.
Discharge printing involves adding bleach to the blocks and printing onto colored fabric. Resist printing is done by stamping a block with paste onto the fabric, dying it then removing the paste after the dye dries to expose the pattern. Block by block, each printer will create a unique design - a process that takes up to five hours for each one of our block print dresses.
“For the complex, multi-step prints such as the carnation print, a printer can do about 40 meters per day once the dress has been dyed. With the dyeing, printing, steaming/processing, it takes about 5 hours of dyeing/printing per dress.” - WVN. Textile Designer
A Return To Handmade Fabrics
Something we love about block printing is its resistance to fast fashion, toxicity and machinery and it’s unique one of a kind hand done look.
It takes a very steady skilled hand to effectively print each pattern in an accurate way. When our founder Kate tried it she felt like it took the precision of a brain surgeon.
The natural dyes and natural woods that are hand-printed one block at a time with the hand and heart of our craftspeople are a stamp of hope for sustainability within a fashion industry largely committed to over-production and fast fashion.
Support this heritage trade and shop our current block print collection featuring the Aurelia Dress, the Nicolette Top, Eliza Blouse and Beaux Dress here.