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Block Printed Sarees - A scion of Indian cottage industry

Posted on July 25 2022

With the gradual escalation of globalization all over the world, the ascendancy of western world has taken the central stage. And India has not been unaffected by it. Even amidst all, one traditional India wear has remained absolutely unfazed. Sarees. 6 yards of absolute beauty, elegance and heritage. The long unstitched yards of fabric is draped in various styles across this diverse country but not one style is synonymous to anything found outside the borders.

Another major alteration, modernism has brought forth is the influence of industrialization. Earlier from fabric weaving to garment sewing were all done by hand. So were the detailing added to beautify garments. Painting, printing, dyeing, embroidery, crocheting, etc were all hand done. This not only took a lot of time but inconsistency in the work produced was also easily spot-able. To combat the demand from the ever growing population, machines were introduced into the fashion industry. This not only sped up the production process but also brought consistency in the details and designs.

But in the midst of machine-produced fashion people soon identified the monotone and lack of uniqueness in the pieces they wore. Every human is different with exclusive aesthetics of their own. Mass produced clothes failed to live up to these expectation and soon people turned towards hand made and hand produced clothes.

One such traditonal and Indian cottage industry scion is the art of hand block printing on fabric. This 2000 years old art-form flourished under the Mughal patronage even though it's earliest signs of existence can be dated back to the Indus Valley civilization. Since forever the seat of block printing has been Rajasthan. The massive state of sand-dunes is known for its colourful prints of gods, goddesses, humans, animals and birds. Floral motifs are also a key feature to identify Rajasthani block prints from the rest of the country. With the passage of time every state has mastered and created a uniqueness of their own. For example,  Gujarat produces ajrakh prints using natural fabric colors, while Kutch's popular motifs come in red and black designs of women, animals and birds. Punjab produces print with floral and geometrical motifs in light pastel hues and Bengal's Serampore is known for using vibrant patterns in their block prints.

What makes block printed sarees expensive?

The process of block printing is a tedious one—the blocks themselves require 10-15 days to be perfected. The blocks are made out of soft but sustainable woods such as teak, sycamore and pear. The designs are then sketched and transferred on the wood block  and are carefully hand-carved in a myriad of intricate designs that are first made using chalk paste or a pencil on paper. Post this, they are soaked in oil for 10-15 days to soften the timber. Once the blocks are ready, they are dipped in the colour and then pressed on to the fabric. This process is repeated over and over again until the length of the fabric is covered. Precision is demanded by the artisans to ensure there are no breaks in the motifs. If there are multiple colors, other blocks are used and the artisan waits for the first print to dry first. The fabrics are left to dry in the sun, and then rolled in a newspaper to prevent them from sticking to each other. The post-printing process sees them being steamed, washed in water, dried in the sun again, and is finally ironed. There are only three widely-used techniques of block printing in India—direct printing, resist printing and discharge printing.

Block Printing – In this process the color is mixed with a gum base and then the block is immersed and stamped on the de-starched fabric base. After drying the fabric, it is steamed and dried. Finally the printed saree is ironed and finished.

Discharge Printing - Sometimes referred to as extract printing, discharge printing is a special block printing process. In discharge printing, the artisan removes color from a piece of fabric, creating a lightened effect to create and reveal a pattern. The process begins with fabric dyed in a rich, saturated hue. Next, the artisan dips a carved wooden block into a bleach paste and stamps the block onto the dyed fabric. Doing this bleaches the pattern onto the dyed ground.  Interestingly, the bleach paste does not immediately lighten the fabric upon contact. As the paste dries on the fabric, it looks almost transparent. The design is barely visible, and this makes discharge printing a particularly challenging process.

Resist Printing - Resist printing is a popular technique for printing color on fabric, where a resist paste or material is imprinted on the fabric and then dyed. Resist-dyeing is basically an abstraction of the woodblock system. Oftentimes the mud, wax, or paste is transferred onto the fabric with a device like a woodblock, into which the design is carved in relief. One of the most esteemed relief-dye techniques comes from Indonesia and can be seen in the very first image of this article. Incredibly intricate designs are carved and then used to transfer wax to the fabric. Once the fabric has been dipped in dye and the wax is washed away, you have one of the world’s most gorgeous patterns.



                                  

Dailybuyys does block printing on silk and tussar silk saree. The finest silk is produced once the silkworms feed on the mulberry leaves. It takes around 6 weeks to grow to their full potential (about 3 inches) when they stop eating and begin to raise their heads – that’s when they’re ready to spin their cocoon.

Attached to a secure frame or tree, the silkworm will begin spinning its silk cocoon by rotating its body in a figure-8 movement around 300,000 times – a process which takes around 3 to 8 days. Each silkworm produces just one single strand of silk, which measures about 100 metres long and is held together by a type of natural gum, called sericin. The cocoons are placed into boiling water in order to soften and dissolve the gum that is holding the cocoon together. This is a crucial step in the silk production process as it ensures that there is no damage to the continuity of each thread. Finally the soap is washed in boiling water. Finally they are bleached and dyed. Producing the finest and softest silk variants.

We at Dailybuyys believe that the power of handicrafts triumphs mill-made garments. Every block is designed, cut and produced at our own factory to ensure quality and precision. Dailybuyys has infused hand block printing on different silk variants - Bishnupuri silk, Murshidabad silk, Tussar silk, etc. Every saree being hand block printed has a unique aesthetic of it's own. No two saree has the exact same vibes. This inconsistency in the printing process makes every saree one-of-a-kind and more human to drape on. The hand block printed silk sarees on Dailybuyys offers you a tangible piece of artisan's love and care to drape around your silhouette and cherish for the rest of your life.

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