Travel the world, and you will discover a huge range of traditional printed fabrics, from elaborate floral fabrics from Asia to geometric patterns from Africa. We often enjoy the design and colors of these clothes very much, without really knowing how the effect was achieved, and how complex the printing methods are!
Here is a look at some of the most popular fabric printing techniques.
Traditional fabric printing methods
- Printing with Engraved Wood Planks: India is renowned for having the most detailed fabric designs. Although many of their textiles are sewn or woven, block printing is frequently used. It is ideal for reproducing repeating patterns on clothing.
Wood carving is an art form in itself, and it requires a team of specialized sculptors, who can transform a piece or a plank of wood into elaborate patterns. The ink is applied to the block of wood, which is then pressed onto the garment. This method is also used by many artisans across Southeast Asia.
- Batik: Indonesia (and more specifically Java) is famous for its Batik printing, although it is a technique that is also used in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Singapore and Nigeria. First, the garment is washed and struck, then the artist applies the design in hot wax, using a stencil-like instrument. Then the piece of fabric is dyed and the wax removed, revealing the patterns underneath.
Each country has its own variation of batik, both in terms of technique and patterns used. For example, Javanese batik uses repeating geometric shapes, Japanese batik features animals, birds and flowers, and European batik more often depicts images of houses or animals.
- Screen printing: China is the birthplace of what we know as screen printing, although the technique has continued to evolve over time. Dating back as far as the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 BC), it is primarily a form of stencil use. The fabric is stretched over a frame, a stencil is attached to it, and then ink is applied to the surface. When the stencil is removed, it reveals a visible pattern.
These days, techniques are much more elaborate, and use specific chemicals and meshes to create more elaborate designs.
- "Tie-dye" or tie-dyeing: One of the more recent forms of printing on fabric is "Tie-dye", which appeared in the
United Statesin the mid-1960s. Always associated with hippie culture, Tie-dye involves folding, balling, or tying clothes (often with a rubber band), then dyeing the fabric. After the operation, there remains a pattern and psychedelic and vivid.
More tie-dye shapes require additional steps, such as applying multiple additional stains, used in a certain order, or using another form of "resist" like stenciling rather than rubber band.
- Calico: Calico printing was created in India, and it originally used block printing techniques. However, at 17th century, Europeans began to embrace the style, and adapted the printing method, instead using copper rollers to create the patterns.
Hargreaves and Company, in Preston, Lancashire, was one of the first to mass-build fabrics using the calico technique, in 1785.
Traditional fabrics, modern techniques
Of course, today's printing methods have evolved, allowing the craftsman to work at a faster pace. Nevertheless, the remarkable patterns, imagery, and shapes, are still very present in the clothes found today, and each of his clothes has a story to tell.
If you want to see examples of her traditional-inspired clothing, Click here.