block printing with a hand-carved abstract stripe block
Printmaking,  Travel

Block Printing in Jaipur: Abstract Stripe Block

When I signed up for the trip to Jaipur, I knew I’d love every part of it. It was a whole week that revolved around fabric – what could be better?! But there were two things that were a million times better than I had imagined. First: I was absolutely enthralled with block printing and, more than anything, loved that this class gave me some much-needed creative space to play. And second: everyone on the trip was wonderful, kind, supportive, talented, and FUN.

The combination of these two factors made every single day a treat. On the first few days of the trip, when we were designing our own blocks and printing with Jen, there were great ideas being manifested everywhere. Everyone was working on something unique, and it was pure joy to take a break from carving my own blocks, walk around, and look at the eye candy that everyone else was making.

block printed fabrics created by my trip mates

With block printing, it’s impossible to be perfect (unless you’re Brigitte Singh…) and Jen’s attitude, which I worked to emulate, is to: accept that the imperfections will happen, plan for them in your work, and embrace them as part of what makes a handprinted textile so special.

This attitude, the acknowledgement that imperfection is part of the charm of the craft, was so freeing! And as we all began printing gorgeous pieces of textile art, I was constantly inspired. There are infinite options for beautiful blocks and then, once you start playing with repeats, the variety of interesting work you can create is simply boundless.

All that is to say that after I had made my peacock block, I wanted to try something entirely different.

I wanted to make a fabric I’d be likely to sew with and wear, so that pushed me in a more graphic direction. I was also armed with the knowledge that my prints would be imperfect, and those imperfections would make the fabric interesting and beautiful. So I got the basic idea in my head but then I just winged it.

hand carved block for block printing - abstract stripe

I started by carving a bunch of stripes into one rectangular block. I varied the stripes slightly on purpose (especially since they were bound to vary slightly by accident). I then cut the block into two separate blocks, but I cut it jagged so that each stripe would be a different height.

block printing with a hand-carved abstract stripe block

Then I printed rows. First in a hot pink, because I loved how my test print came out when I borrowed a friend’s pink-inked roller. Then orange, and finally a deep but bright navy.

I had packed a few scrap fabrics for the trip without knowing what I’d be printing. I threw this gray crosshatch print in my suitcase on a whim, and I love the way the overprint plays with the existing pattern.

I had also packed a big cut of this blue chambray, so once I had the striping down, I printed a solid navy variation. It’s so much fun how the same blocks, printed in all one color, can create a fabric with such a different feel than the bright, varied stripes. I’m hoping to make a top or a shirtdress out of this fabric eventually. I didn’t finish printing the full yardage, but lovely Jaime let me take the rest of her blue ink home with me so I can carry on!

Of course, then I couldn’t stop. I printed a border on the pants I was wearing – I had made them for the trip out of the same blue chambray. And then I stamped my arm for a temporary tattoo. Yes, I felt like a rebel.

I posted this photo to Instagram and we all joked that my mom and/or my fiancé would panic and think I had gotten a tattoo. But alas, they were both entirely unfazed.

After those 2.5 days I was thoroughly convinced that I need to spend more time with ink, fabric, and of course my beloved carving tools. I love making things, and block printing has all the best parts. It’s pretty, it’s colorful, it’s nearly limitless, it’s really hard to fail, it has lots of zen/”flow” steps, and after the initial effort to carve the block, the printing is nearly mindless (in a great way). Needless to say, I’m hooked.

Leave a Reply