How to Block Print Fabrics (India, Part 2)

We traveled to Jaipur and toured for two days after leaving Dehli. To picture the city of Jaipur you need only to watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Much of it was filmed in this magical city where time seems to stand still. Food from the surrounding countryside is delivered by harnessed camels or horses, or wheeled-in on carts pushed by locals. Brooms made from rough-hewn straw are used to sweep the streets. Women are dressed in colorful sarees or in burkas and legs are always covered. Scaffolding and ladders are made of eucalyptus or bamboo lashed together with twine. Street cows, goats, pigs, monkeys, and dogs roam untethered. All of this amid a background of beeping horns and voices of many dialects. There is a vibrancy in this city that is extraordinary.

It is a six-hour drive from Delhi to Jaipur. While on our journey we pulled off the highway in Shahpura where we encountered scores of monkeys scampering about accepting food gifts from drivers — offerings given to the gods for assurance of safe travels. Monkeys are sacred animals in India along with cows, elephants and (can you believe it?) pigeons.

One personal hope for this day was to find a block-printing factory. My son and daughter-in-law had given us a block-printed tablecloth from Jaipur five years earlier. I have wanted to see how it was made ever since. I told this to our driver Ravi, and he was on it. He brought us to Arawali Textiles a store frequented by many tourists. It is located on the road from Jaipur to the Amber Fort. There, we received a brief demonstration of the basics of block printing by a salesman named Surendra whom afterward brought us into a store full of beautiful tablecloths, napkins, and reams of decorative fabrics. As we departed, Surendra gave us the now dry sample of the elephant print.

In this video, Surendra shows us how he makes the print.

This introduction to block printing was a good start, but I wanted to see more. I wanted to see fabric being printed in a factory. Once again, Ravi delivered. He found The Gandhi Cottage Textile Factory.

This is where we met a very charming young man named, Ali, a salesman for this family-owned business. Ali gave us a lesson in block-printing and a tour of the factory. It was closing time, but the good-natured Ali invited us to come back early the next morning to see the factory in full production. Then, he sold my husband fabric, called in a tailor, and had a shirt made for him that was ready when we arrived in the morning.


What follows are two videos that show the factory in production mode with Ali as the narrator.

Ali’s uncle showed us the post-production stages of newly printed cloth.

He dipped it in a bucket of salt water and lemon juice to set the color. That’s where the magic happened, and the colors exploded. This step is followed by a plain water rinse.


In this last video, the adorable Ali talks about dyes, carved blocks, and setting the color.

Here are three block-printed tablecloths and coverlets we purchased from the Gandhi and Arawali stores.


Places We Visited in Jaipur

Jal Mahal Jaipur, aka The Water Palace on Man Sagar Lake

These statues of a royal procession are in a park along Man Sagar Lake directly across from the Water Palace.

One of the gates that make up the walled old Pink City in Jaipur.

Inside the Pink City: Hawa Mahal, aka Palace of the Winds

The Amber Fort

Elephant rides are available at the Amber Fort.

I spied these quilts while on the elephant ride and later purchased the elephant quilt.

City Palace of Jaipur

The Peacock Gate in the City Palace

Jantar Mantar Observatory has the world’s largest sundial as well other ways of charting celestial movements. It was built between 1727 and 1734.

Street Life in Jaipur

Delivering Milk to the Marketplace.

Chicken and Yogurt Deliveries

Grain Deliveries

Sugar Cane and Vegetable Deliveries

Eucalyptus Scaffolding and Bamboo Ladders

My favorite colors, in both food and fabric, abound in India.

Those were the highlights!

Related Posts:
Cooking 35,000 Meals a Day in a Sikh Kitchen in Delhi (India, Part 1)
A Stepwell, Parcheesi, Brick-Making, and Chapati-Making (India, Part 3)
Room with a View: the Taj Mahal in Agra (India, Part 4)
A Cook’s Tour of a Farm in Southern India (India, Part 5)
Shopping for a Saree in South India (India, Part 6)

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