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The Beauty of Block Printed Textiles

Textiles in our life are used in a wide variety of the everyday items we used. Everything from clothing and table linens to kitchen towels and wall art. Did you know that block printing is one of the most ancient of fabric printing known to man? It's origins are ancient and the same techniques are applied to many items we see today. How block prints are produced is just as fascinating as the results they produce. Let's take a look at the history of block prints and see the beauty it beholds.

The History of Block Printed Fabrics

Block printing on textiles first developed in ancient China and Egypt. In the 16th century, merchants traveling to India discovered beautiful cloths with bright colors and and intricate designs. Soon the prints were all the rage in Europe. Textiles from India were being imported to Europe and were showing up on table linens, draperies and especially fashion. Soon factories in Europe, especially France and England, started to produce their own block printed fabrics. Since the fabric used for this printing was cotton, lower class women in France began to wear the brightly colorful fabrics. Soon the block printed fabrics made their way to the court of Louis XIV where they became a rage in fashion. In England the fabric was know as chintz and in France as Indiennes.

Robe à la française, France, block-printed cotton, c. 1770. LACMA

Robe à la française, France, block-printed cotton, c. 1770. LACMA

18th Century Block Printed French Quilt

Block Printing Today

Today block printing is still a thriving business in India. Still using the same methods, individual hand carved wood blocks are painted and then pressed onto the cotton. Multiple wood blocks are used in a design. One printed on top of each other with different dyes. The result is the familiar colorful patterns of block printing.

As in centuries ago, block printed fabrics are used in fashion and clothing. They can still be seen in table linens, bedding and other textiles. Modern designs and patterns still use the same technique and have taken the ancient practice to meet modern tastes for homes and fashion. Check out these hand crafted block printed napkins. Made in small batches in Jaipur, India using wood blocking techniques. Beautiful additions to a contemporary table setting!

Today the center of block printing is located around the city of Jaipur, India . Many are family run businesses still using the same techniques used centuries ago. Some families have been in the block printing business for over 300 years! The care and talent that still go into making these fabrics is a testament to the craftspeople that carry on the tradition today. Also block printing method is an environment-friendly process of dying. Discover the beauty that is block printing!

Hawa Mahal Palace, Jaipur, India. The center of the Indian block printing industry.

Intricate wood blocks used in block printing. These blocks are painted then pressed onto the fabric creating colorful and detailed patterns.


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