Block Printing Style | Procedure of Block Printing on Fabric | After Treatment of Block Printing

Block Printing
The printing of fabric by hand, using carved wooden or linoleum blocks, as distinguished from printing by screens or roller is called block printing. Block printing is a special form of printing first developed in China. The earliest known example with an actual date is a copy of the Diamond Sutra from 868 A.D (currently in the British Museum), though the practice of block printing is probably about two thousand years old.

Procedure of Block Printing 
The fabric to be printed is washed free of starch and soft bleached if the natural gray of the fabric is not desired. If dyeing is required as in the case of saris where borders or the body is tied and dyed it is done before printing. The fabric is again washed to remove excess dye and dried thoroughly. The fabric is stretched over the printing table and fastened with small pins. This is an important stage as there should be a uniform tension in the fabric and no ripples. Color is mixed separately in another room. Usually pigment dyes are used for cotton.

The first step in block printing is the production of the original document. This is laid on a
large, smooth wooden block and fixed into place, reversed. Next, craftsmen of various skill levels, ranging from master carvers for the fine work to less talented artisans for cheaper blocks or less important sections, carve the original painted, drawn or written image into the block of wood. The block can now be covered with ink and used in a press to create duplicates of the original. 
Color paste must be applied to the block surface in a controlled manner, and this was achieved by using a ‘sieve’. A small tub was nearly filled with a starch paste and a waterproof fabric, stretched on a frame, rested on the paste. A piece of woolen fabric was stretched on a slightly smaller frame and fastened to make the sieve. The sieve as saturated with color paste and placed on the waterproof fabric. For each impression, the ‘tiered’ (a boy) spread the color paste on the top surface of the woolen sieve with a large brush and the printer charged the block by pressing it on the wool. The block was then carefully positioned on the fabric, using the pitch pins as guides, and struck with a mallet. After printing a table length with the first block, the second was printed and then any others required to complete the design. 

After Treatment of Block Printing
The fabric, after printing is dried out in the sun. This is part of the fixing process or aftertreatment of printing. It is then rolled in wads of newspapers to prevent the dye from adhering to other layers and steamed in boilers constructed for the purpose. Silks are also steamed this way after printing. After steaming, the material is washed thoroughly in large quantities of water and dried in the sun, after which it is finished by ironing out single layers, which fix the color permanently. 


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