DESTINATIONS, Rajasthan, India

Family travel in India: block printing

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Our trip in Rajasthan included a visit to a textile workshop in the market town of Pipar, 60km from Jodhpur. In a workshop lined with the hand-carved wooden blocks used to block print fabric, we learnt a little about the process – and Meg got to block print her own fabric.

WHERE: Chhipa Family Textiles, Pipar, Rajasthan.

HOW: We took a private tour arranged from our guesthouse – Chandelao Garh.

FOR THE KIDS: This is a great outing for children with the opportunity to learn about hand block printing fabric and the chance to print their own fabric.

DETAILS: The visit to the textile workshop was included as part of our private tour visit to Pipar town (Rs1000, NZ$20, US$16, €12 per person). We also bought some beautiful fabrics from the business directly.

Central to the printing process is the deep vat, about 5m deep, it’s contents fed and nurtured like a good bread starter. The vat at this workshop had been used continuously for 60 years and contained a thick sandy dye soup that is topped up daily with indigo, lime, molasses and water. The indigo itself comes from the leaves of the indigo plant and is one of the worlds oldest dyes used in textiles. India is believed to be the oldest center of indigo dyeing in the Old World.

Block printing Rajasthan India
Block printing Rajasthan India

The fabric is prepared to resist the indigo dye. A resist paste, made of earth, lime, gum and fine powder is block printed onto the cloth preventing the dye from penetrating the stamped design. As each length of cloth is stamped, it is dusted with sawdust to prevent smudging whilst the paste dries. The lengths are then dried in the sun and  dipped in the indigo vat.

The fabric comes out of the vat looking green but the sun oxidises the indigo and turns it to the familiar blue colour. It can be dipped several times to achieve the desired shade of indigo blue. The cloth is then washed to remove the resist paste and is dried and ready to sell.

Block printing Rajasthan India
Block printing Rajasthan India

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