Culture Baby Blog
  • A History of Block Printing and Ikat
  • Natalia Rankine-Galloway
  • IndiaTraditional craft
A History of Block Printing and Ikat
Our Indian items here at Culture baby highlight some of the most beautiful colors and textiles to come out of India.  Both our dresses and our blankets and burp clothes feature block printing, an ancient and highly labor intensive process.
Though widely in use in various forms throughout Asia for centuries (you may be familiar with Japanese wood block prints for example) the exact birth place of the technique is unknown: examples of block printing in India are seen in Rajasthan in the north to Andhra Pradesh in the South.   Ancient texts indicate that the craft was practiced at least as early as the 13th century CE and block printed items were being sold as luxury goods in Europe as early as the middle ages.  

The process was revived in 1957 after falling off in popularity and is today experiencing something of a renaissance and is now practiced in two styles: Sri Kalahasti and Masulipatnam. Our dresses, burp cloths and blankets are printed in the Masulipatnam style.

The process begins with the cutting and carving of wooden blocks into geometric or decorative shapes, floral motifs or animal figures.  The blocks are then dipped into vegetable dyes and stamped onto the fabric. Bit by bit, stamp by stamp, the bright fabrics we think of when we think of India are covered with these hand-cut patterns.  Because of the man made nature of both the block and the print, you can expect every block printed item to be unique.

The making of the natural, vegetable dyes for the printing is also an ages old tradition.  The colors are made from leaves, stems, flowers, bark, minerals, and naturally occurring metals.  For example, the pink color of our baby blankets is achieved with Alizarin, a natural mordant dye and alum; our grey blankets are made with molasses and iron.  Ochre hues seen on our burp clothsare achieved with a local Indian pomegranate and myrabolan flowers.

Some of our baby dresses are made using an Ikat weaving style that is common to many world cultures and is thought to be one of the oldest forms of textile decoration.  Ikat fabrics are woven by hand on narrow looms and dyed in a process similar to tie-dye, creating beautiful and unique designs that last.  

  • Natalia Rankine-Galloway
  • IndiaTraditional craft

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