India is a heaven for fabric lovers, not just today, but for the last 500 years. India’s fabric production has always been stellar, and the abundance of materials and labor here have created a long history of spectacular cloth. There have been mentions in sources dating back to the 12th Century discussing printed cloth from India, and textile trade went first east, to Malaysia and China,and then, with the growth of European overseas trade, west, to France, England, Holland and Portugal. The magnificent printing and dyeing techniques, Indian innovations, made the cloth from India endlessly valuable and exploded into the European mentality, exciting tailors and customers alike. Textile trade changed the world, and that’s not an overstatement. Interwoven Globe was a fantastic show at the Met about it two years ago, if anyone got a chance to check it out, and it described these global trade networks and their significant beautifully.
The more time I spend in India, the more amazing fabrics I see and learn about. There are so many varieties, methods of creation, techniques and options that it’s wildly overwhelming sometimes, int he best possible way. But I would say that one fabric which most people think of when they think about Indian fabric is block printed cloth, and with good reason. It’s beautiful, it’s interesting, and it screams “Indian fabric”, especially if they’ve put an elephant on it.
Block printing emerged as a popular method in Northern India, specifically Rajasthan, in Medieval India. Soon Surat in Gujarat became the center of fabric trade in India, with painted and printed fabric prized for its colors and complicated dying techniques.
I recently had an opportunity to visit the Anoki Museum of Hand Printing in Jaipur, and I have to say it was a fantastic experience. I would recommend it for all fabric lovers who visit India. So I’m sharing some of my photos with you to entice you into visiting! It’s really an awesome place in a restored Haveli filled with so much wonderful information and fabric and you can buy locally printed stuff in the shop and the cafe is excellent. Seriously, it’s fantastic! I learned so much about block printing, and I’m so happy to know more about this fascinating process which has so many iterations and significance.
Kind of amazing, right, what block printing can do? It’s not just elephants on flowy pants for tourists…
India. It’s a fabric education every day.