The history of handloom or hand woven fabric dates back to the epic ages. Handloom weaving is a creative and innovative act that is essential to the evolution of cloth. Hand woven fabric is the product of tradition and the inspiration of the cultural ethos of the weavers.From the times immemorial, various styles, patterns, fabrics and designs of handloom have been prevalent in every region of the world.
Different weaving areas have their own specialized type of weaving and it has evolved since generations. But at the end of it the beauty and feel that a hand woven fabric brings is amazing. The unevenness and variations in these fabrics adds to its authenticity and identifies it as being indeed Hand Woven and not to be found anywhere else.
Hand block printing is a centuries old Indian art form that utilizes a hand carved teak wood block that is dipped in dye and stamped by hand onto cotton or silk.
The design for the block is usually a traditional Indian motif. The motif is traced onto a block by a master craftsman who then chips away at the block to create a stamp.
The printing process begins by pre-washing the fabrics in the river in order to reduce water consumption. The fabric is then dyed, laid flat on a table and fixed firmly to the table with pins. Four to five basic natural colors are used that are then mixed together to form a multitude of colors. The block is then dipped in the dye and stamped firmly by hand onto the fabric. Finally, the fabric is rinsed in the river and hung to dry in the sun, minimizing energy consumption.
The term ‘ikat’ stems from the Malay Indonesian expression mangikat meaning to bind, knot or wind around. Ikat, known as tie and dye textile design is known around the world. Kat has been used since centuries in India in Orissa, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Each state has its own style of designs most popular being the geometrical patterns in heavy waves. In principle, ikat or resist dyeing involves the sequence of tying and dyeing sections of bundles of yarn to a predetermined colour scheme prior to weaving.
The designs in various colours are formed on fabrics either by warp threads or weft threads (single ikat) or by both (double ikat). Andhra Pradesh is known for its double ikat ‘tie and dye’ style of weaving.
The term “Ajrak”, may be derived from “Azrak”, meaning blue in Arabic, as blue happens to be the one of the principal colours in Ajrak printing. But the popular story among artisans is that the name is derived from the phrase “aajrakh”, meaning “keep it for today”. Ajrakh, as the particular print is called, is the result of a long and laborious process. One of the main differences between Ajrakh and the normal block printing found elsewhere is the ‘resist’ technique.
Traditional Ajrakh printing involves various stages of dyeing and resist printing using natural dyes and mordents, is a 16-stage process which takes anywhere between 2-3 weeks, depending on the number of colours and layers of block print designs used.
Ajrakh is printed as single sided (ekpuri) and double sided (bipuri). Indigo and madder are the primary colours that are used for dyeing. Tamarind seed powder and alum makes red, turmeric makes yellow, and lime is used for white.The resist and some colours are printed on the cloth using carved wooden blocks. These blocks are carved with intricate symmetrical patterns so that the same block can be used for both sides of the cloth.