Block-printing is a craft technique that involves printing fabrics by hand using handmade wooden blocks that are dipped into vegetable dye and then applied directly onto the fabric.
1. The first step involves dipping the fabric to be block-printed in lukewarm water for one full night.
2. Next, the fabric is dried and then “hardaay” (a powdery/flour mixture of tree bark) is applied to the fabric, enabling the fabric to properly catch and retain color during the natural dyeing process.
3. For fabrics that have an off-white outline in the print, a resist process is needed in which lime and gum (all natural) is block-printed onto the fabric; the natural gum comes from a tree called “Baavaria”.
4. The fabric is then block-printed by hand using wooden blocks hand carved with the print on them. The blocks are dipped into vegetable dye and applied onto the fabric by hand. This process is done either once or five times depending on the design and colors in the print.
5. Finally, the fabric is washed, dried and dyed into the main base color desired and eventually washed and then dried again.
Some block-printed fabrics require 5-6 steps whereas more complicated traditional Ajrakh-design block-prints can require up to 15 steps! In general, block-printing 6 meters of fabric can take artisans anywhere from 2 to 5 full work days.