Making of a Carved Block for Printing-
The intricate process of Hand Block Printing starts with the making of Butas-- the wooden blocks used in creating block print fabrics. Buta designs are carved onto seasoned teak wood by skilled artisans. Each Buta has a wooden handle and two to three air vents that release excess dye.
How is Fabric Printed-
Cotton fabric is washed and dyed before printing. It is then stretched onto a long printing table and pinned. The printer uses a wooden trolley with an upper rack for trays of dyes and a lower for printing blocks. He moves the trolley along as he works through the length of the fabric. The printer starts by evening-out the dye in the tray with a wooden wedge. He then dips the block into the outline color and prints from left to right. The block is pressed hard on the fabric to ensure a good impression of the print onto the fabric. A notch on the block is used as a marker to guide repeats of the print. The master printer usually prints the outline and leads the printing process. For multicolor designs, a second block is dipped into a different color and then a third block is dipped into the third color etc. The colors need to nest in the pattern to make the complete pattern. A two or three color print takes more time to make than a single color print.
Dyes used in silk printing are different from cotton dyes. Indigo sol and pigment dyes are cotton dyes that have to be used the same day they are mixed. Black, red, orange, brown and mustard can be stored for a longer period of time. It is difficult to gauge consistent shades of color while printing.
Fixing and Drying-
It is only after the fabric is processed with a salt wash that the final color shows. To fix the dyes into cotton fabric, the cotton fabrics are dried in the sun. They are then rolled into sheets of newspaper steamed in boilers. Printed Silk fabric is also steamed after printing for fixing the dye. After steaming, the fabric is washed thoroughly in large quantities of water and dried in the sun. Finally, the fabric is ironed into single layers and the printing process is complete.