Getting down to business: The art of block printing in Rajasthan

by Meghna Dave in

After spending a few more weeks in Thailand, I headed onward to India where I was scheduled to fly back home at the end of March. But before I headed home, I had a bit of business to attend to. I had planned to travel to Rajasthan to scope out some block print textiles for my business.  Block print fabrics are incredibly unique and beautiful and I'm officially kind of obsessed. Each piece of fabric is different because the designs are literally hand stamped onto the fabric one by one, using a number of wooden blocks in different shapes and sizes.

I knew Rajasthan was the place to go to buy this sort of fabric, but just any ol' block print material wasn't going to cut it. It was important to me that I find fabric that was dyed using the traditional method from back in the day, a method that uses only natural vegetable dyes in the process. I also knew that if I entered into any one of the number of shops in the city I would probably be lied to about what was natural and what wasn't. In addition to that, I was really wanting to create a relationship with the producer of the fabric, ensuring that my business go to the actual creators of this material instead of the middle men who own the shops and just pay the artisans questionable prices for their work. Soooo, I avoided the shops in the heart of the city and did what made the most sense to me.

I went straight to the source.

Needless to say, I found the beautiful fabrics I was looking for. I also learned an incredible amount about the block printing process and met some friendly and interesting characters along the way.

It was such an interesting experience to see the artisans practicing a method of fabric design that dates all the way back to the 12th century. As if I didn't love block print fabric enough as it is, this visit only made me love it that much more. There are literally so many steps that go into making each and every textile. The cloth is first hand stamped with a number of different blocks depending on the amount of colors and complexity of the design.

The fabric is then processed in a wash, which is when the colors really begin to come through and become established on the cotton.

The fabric is then laid out in the sun to dry, further setting the color in the textiles.

After drying, the fabric is washed again and ironed to fix the color permanently. So much goes into this process making each piece of fabric a true work of art. I went home that day a happy girl. I found beautiful cotton with the level of quality and sustainability that I wanted for my business - all natural textiles made with vegetable dyes that were bought straight from the source with fair prices. Done and done.

Get excited, because gorgeous things are soon to come from these!