Block Printed

There are many types of block printing, often characterised by the area and heritage of the craftsperson.

Some block printing is the kind you might first imagine - a block is dipped in an ink, and used to stamp a pattern on the fabric. This is a pretty simple concept when using modern inks, but when working with natural dyes the chemistry and technique is entirely different and often confusingly complicated to the uninitiated. The little video here shows black being printed, which is not black ink but a combination of myrobalan dyed fabric meeting a fermented iron paste which chemically reacts to make black (you can see the black developing).

Other techniques, known as 'resist', do sort of the opposite of printing. Blocks print wax, mud or gum over the parts of the design they want to protect from colour - creating a barrier. Fabric is then dyed and the substance removed to reveal a resist print in the original fabric colour.

What's true in all cases is the use of a pattern block (or blocks), although this again sees a lot of variation depending on the artist. Some blocks are hand carved out of wood, while others are made by hammering nails into a board in the desired shape (this is more common for wax resist as the metal can create unwanted colour changes to natural dyes while printing).