Originally dating back to before 220 AD, block printing is a method of carving a pattern onto a block, covering the block in ink, and repeatedly stamping fabric or paper to create a pattern. With our artisans, once an initial print is made, we do not duplicate the pattern season after season — thus producing small, limited quantities that speak to the ethical, intentional, and unique quality of each Lekha piece.
Lekha’s block prints are designed in-house, and we work with a family of block printers who have passed down the trade from generation to generation. First, the handloomed cotton is soaked for 24 hours to remove starches, then dried in the sun to naturally bleach the fabric. Each pattern is traced onto a small, smooth piece of mango wood, then carved away to create the stamp. Each part of the pattern requires its own block if the print involves more than one color. For example, our spring 2020 teal and coral prints needed an outline block and a shape block given the different colors used and details of the pattern. Mixing the colors is a length process, and no two batches of color will be the exact same since everything is completed by hand. Once prepared, the colors are put into wooden trays with cloth screens to lessen the intensity of the dyes. Blocks are then dipped into the dye, pressed onto the fabric with a mallet or fist, in a rhythmic flow over yards and yards. Once completed, the fabric is checked for quality, dried, washed again, dried again, and finally cut. Due to this natural and sustainable approach to printing, please note that block printed items cannot be washed with extra strength stain removing detergent, which will cause the print to fade.
Various states across India have cultivated their own patterns and dyes. While wood block printing is still the predominant form, traditional block printing has been largely replaced worldwide by screen printing. However, in India, you can still find many families who have passed down the tradition from generation to generation to keep the craft alive.