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Kalamkari - Natural Dye Hand Block Printing
Kalamkari is an ages-old tradition of hand block printing from the state of Andhra Pradesh on India's southeast coast that uses only natural dyes. Hundreds of years ago the Kalamkari artisans' success in developing beautiful long-lasting natural dyes made Kalamkari textiles popular trade items in Persia, Europe and Indonesia. One of their secrets was the use of mordants, solutions which bind the dye to the fiber of the fabric.
The traditional Kalamkari dyeing process is a very exacting and time-consuming technique with many steps, including mordant dyeing, color dyeing, and repeated washing, rinsing, bleaching and soaking. The ancient recipes for preparing dyes from a variety of roots, seeds, barks, crushed flowers and fruits are also complex.
The dye is printed using a hand-carved wooden block with a design on one side and a handle on the other. Each color requires its own block, which is dipped into dye and pressed onto the fabric, as in other hand-block techniques. One difference is that in Kalamkari even the background is produced by block printing instead of immersion dyeing. Typically, one block prints a motif shape; a second block outlines this design; and a third block is stamped in between motifs to provide a background color. Precise placement of all the blocks is crucial to present a seamless impression. But we think it is worth all the trouble, for when you wear a piece of Kalamkari, you are wearing a piece of history.
Hema Lata Kalmkari Fabrics makes all the Kalamkari fabric we use.