Chhipa shirts and kaparas are all block printed by hand in a small village, in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Block printing is an ancient process and a beautiful craft, which has been handed down through generations of families.

B L O C K   C A R V I N G

Firstly we design our prints, making sure that they work in a repeat. The repeat must fit into a rectangle, normally around 6 x 7 inches, which is the size of blocks our printers like to work with.

Above: Deepak and Raju check the repeat of our ‘Bump’ design

We give the block carvers print-outs of our designs, which they oil down, so that the paper becomes transparent. The oiled designs are nailed to a cross-section of locally found wood.

Above: Our ‘Fan’ design is oiled and nailed to the wood ready for carving, and our ‘Stripe’ is partially carved.

Carving begins, using a nail and long piece of solid wood; large areas of recess are chipped away crudely, whilst smaller details are finely carved.

Above: Carving our ‘Bump’ block

Above: Liz holds our nearly completed Mountain and Weave blocks, from our Collection No.2


C O L L E C T I O N   O N E  -  D A B U

There are different processes used within block printing to give different print finishes. For Collection No.1 we used Dabu, which is a resist printing method.

Firstly, a smooth mud made of black clay and other natural ingredients is mixed, the easiest way to combine it is by using your feet.

Lengths of fabric are pinned to the print bed to hold the fabric straight. Then, the printing block is dipped into the mud and carefully stamped onto the fabric. This is repeated along the length of the fabric, with the printer registering the design by eye.

Above: Birjuji prints a sample of our ‘Stripe’ fabric

A fine sawdust is generously sprinkled onto the wet mud if the print, without it the fabric would sticking to itself, ruining the print.

After laying the fabric out in the sun to dry the mud, the print feels crisp, which means the fabric is ready for dyeing.

Indigo is a natural dye extracted from the plant indigofera tinctoria, it is thought to be one of the oldest fabric dyes. Our Collection No. 1 was indigo dyed in a 12ft indigo vat.

The fabric is slowly pushed into the vat using a wooden stick, until the fabric is full submerged, the areas with the mud resist print will not take on colour. Fabric can be dipped numerous times to build up a darker shade of indigo. On our Bump and Cross prints, the fabric was dabu printed twice and indigo dyed twice to build up the shades of colour on the print.

Above: Deepak dyes a sample of our ‘Stripe’ and ‘Fan’ prints for a second time to get a deeper shade of indigo.

Once dyed, the fabric is laid out on the surrounding land, these areas are referred to as drying fields. Cows will often wander across the fabric, as well as children on bicycles. The sun is important in the process, as it helps fix the dye to the fabric.

After drying the fabric it is ready to be soaked, which will soften the mud resist, before washing.


C O L L E C T I O N   T W O  -  D I S C H A R G E

Collection No.2 was printed using a method called discharge printing. This method starts with dyed cloth, and then an agent is printed, which removes some or all, of the colour from the fabric.

Firstly our fabric is washed to remove any impurities, for small amounts this is done by hand, and for larger quantities a jigger can be used.

Above: The jigger uses two rolls, sending the fabric from one of the rolls back to the other, submerging the fabric in the middle through a cleaning bath.

The cloth is then dyed to the desired colour. We mix small amounts of colour to make a dye recipe, before dyeing the full quantity of fabric.

Above: Sham places the dye in a small piece of cloth before picking up the edges to create a pouch, which he dips and mixes into the water in the bucket below.

We use natural vegetable and mineral dyes where possible, sometimes these dyes are boosted with acid free dyes to achieve brighter colours.

The fabric is pinned to the print table, and the wood block is dipped into the print tray and then stamped onto the fabric. It’s important for the print block to have an even pressure applied to it, so after placing it down it is hit firmly with the printers fist.

Above: Idrish prints small samples of our ‘Mountain’ print

Discharge paste can be difficult to see when printing because it contains no colour. It will appear as a darker mark on the pattern until dried in the sun and then steamed.

Above: Idrish prints a length of our ‘Weave’ print

After steaming the fabric, it is washed in water, which finally reveals the print

The fabric can then be left to dry or it can go through a second round of printing, such as our ‘Sand’ print, which is dyed, discharge printed, steamed, washed, dyed and discharge printed a second time, before a final steam and wash.

Above: Idrish prints the second layer of our ‘Sand’ print

When sampling our fabric is washed and dyed in large buckets, but in production we used concrete baths to wash the fabric.

Above: Deepak washes our ‘Sand’ print

After a final wash, Liz and Deepak hang our samples to dry on a washing line so that cows don’t wander over them and they don’t pick up dust from the ground.

Our finished fabric is taken to our stitcher-man, Masterji Vikram in Jaipur, to be sewn into shirts.