Fabric : Cotton cloth in its natural grey state and silk are used in this process. The different types of fabrics sourced for block printing are:
Fabric (plain weave with 4 ends in a dent and 2 weft threads picked together):
- Ded Mulmuls (warp and weft counts 100, 30s and 80s)
- Lattha or mill made grey cloth
- Handloom fabrics
- Dosuti sutti fabric (4 ends in a dent and a single weft thread pick, plain woven)
- Maheshwari sarees
- Chanderi sarees
Mordant: Mordents are metallic or mineral salts that enhance or change the color of the dye, when added to the fabric.
Dyes: Natural dyes such as 'Geru' as well as synthetic dyes are used.
Wax : Originally, wax that was prepared and boiled overnight was used. The blocks were dipped in wax and pressed onto the areas of the fabric, where the white color of the cloth needed to be retained.
Mud (for Dabu): Used for drying the resist printed areas.
Wood shaving: Traditionally, wood shavings were spread onto the wax printed areas of the cloth, to help the drying process, but they have been replaced with mud.
Harda: Used to bring an off white tint to the white cloth.
Dhawdi flowers: These flowers are used as dye and mixed along with Alizarin.
Alizarin: This is used in the above mentioned process of printing.
Green pomegranate rinds: These are used in the above mentioned process during the printing.
Tools & Technology
Mej - 'Mej' is a long wooden table on which the fabric is placed and block printing is done. Its height is such that it allows the printer to print in a standing position.
Phathiya -This is a small rectangular table of about 1.75m by 1.35 m. Thick layers of coarse jute are spread over the 'Phathiya' as base, to absorb any leakage of color while printing. The 'phathiya' used for printing the resist paste.
Gadi - 'Gadi' is a trolley rack with two shelves made of wood. This movable rack is used for placing the blocks for printing and the printing pastes.
Saj - This is the tray which holds the printing paste. This wooden trough is 30 cm long, 25 cm wide and 7 cm deep. The bottom of the trough has an asbestos sheet.
Katli - Katli is a bamboo or metal mesh which is placed inside the Saj. It serves as a sort of inkpad when the blocks are dipped into the tray.
Tamda - These are copper vessels used for alizarin dyeing. There are two types Tamda depending on the capacity - one which can be used to dye 200 mts of cloth and the other a 100 meters.
Tarseia - This is a huge shallow copper vessel used for cold dyeing. For example, the 'Naspal' or 'Harda' treatment is done after Alizarin dyeing.
Handi - Vessels used for storing the resist paste. These are shallow, broad-mouthed earthen vessels of different sizes.
Paundi - This is a cement tub used for bleaching and washing purposes.
Measuring tape - For measuring the lengths of raw fabric to be cut.
Brush - Used for cleaning the printing block and ridding it of dried flakes of printing paste.
Dastana - These are gloves used by the dyer to protect his hands from repeated stains.
Blocks - Wooden blocks with required patterns are brought in from Pethapur, Gujarat which has been a source of blocks for many years.
The fabric is first cut into different lengths as per the requirements of the product being made such as garments and bed sheets. Taking into account the amount of shrinkage the cloth will go through various processes, the craftsmen cut the fabric accordingly. After this the cloth is soaked in water for 16-20 hours. During this step, the yarn swells up and the impurities and starch is removed. After this, the cloth is beaten on stone platforms and strained to remove the excess water.
Mordant are metallic or mineral salts which enhance or change the color of the dye when added to the fabric. When the fabric is immersed in 'Harda' solution the fabric changes to a cream yellow color. The harda acts as a mordant for the alum paste and increases the pliability of the fabric, thereby allowing a uniform absorption of printing paste. The fabrics are dried in the sun.
'Geru' or ochre is used on the cloth to make outlines of the design that has to be printed. Two people are involved in the process. Geru color is used to draw guidelines that can be washed away after printing.
The cloth is spread out on the 'Mej' or table. The printing blocks are dipped in the alum paste and their impressions are printed on the fabric. The fabric is then dried in the sun. This step takes one day to complete.
The process of washing fabric is called 'Bichalna' or 'Pachalna'. In this process the fabric is washed and dried several times.
The fabric is boiled in 'Alizarin' and 'Dhawdi ka phool'. The 'Dhawdi' flower keeps the red color of alizarin from spreading onto the printed alum. After it is boiled, the fabric is taken out and dried, without washing. Once the fabric dries, it is dipped into a solution of gum and water. This enhances the fastness of the color.
Traditionally wax that was prepared and boiled overnight was used. The blocks were dipped in wax and pressed onto the areas of the fabric, where the white color of the cloth needed to be retained. Wood shavings were spread onto the wax printed areas of the cloth. This process is now considered to be laborious and has been replaced with mud-resist paste or 'Dabu' which is a better method, as mud takes time to dry. In this technique, mud printed areas are sprinkled with a fine dust made up of thin roots and soil used in growing wheat seedlings. This also increases the adhesive strength of Dabu.
This is a cold dyeing process where the cloth is dipped in a solution of indigo dye. This process takes two minutes for each fabric. When dipped, the cloth turns to a rich green color. When this is exposed to dry air, rapid oxidation takes place and the green color turns to a deep blue shade. The process is repeated till the required shade is achieved.
For the fabrics on which mud-resist paste is used, washing continuously with running water removes all the mud. Whereas, wax can be removed only if the fabric is immersed in boiling water, till the wax melts and leaves the fabric. The melted wax, floating in water is reused.
Sand is spread over the base cloth on the 'Mej' or 'Phatiya'. The Nandana fabric piece is placed over it and the printing is done on the red colored regions with gum and lime paste. Sand is spread over the gum to speed up the drying process.
Green pomegranate rinds are crushed and boiled to create a solution called 'Nasphal'. This solution is dabbed over the cloth to change the color of Indigo to a darker shade of green. The fabric is then boiled and left to dry in the sun.