Block Shop scarves are printed by hand with carved wooden blocks in Bagru, Rajasthan, a method known as hand block printing. In keeping with the textile traditions of Bagru, we use vegetable and mineral dyes whenever possible.
Our designs are carved by hand into wooden printing blocks from cross-sections of sisam wood by master carvers in Bagru. Above: Raju carving the triangle block for our best-selling Temple scarf.
Our distinctive color palette comes from traditional plant and mineral dystuffs: true indigo, Indigofera tinctoria, for our blues; begar for pinks, reds, and oranges; alum for greys; fermented syahi for black. Some dyes are boosted with a small amount of non-toxic chemical dyes for brighter hues.
Our signature feather-light fabric –25% Indian silk and 75% Indian cotton– is soaked in a bath of harda, a natural mordant extracted from the myrobalan nut, Terminalia chebula, which binds our natural dyes to the fibers of the fabric. The fabric takes on a buttermilk color (second swatch from left) as it dries in the intense desert sun in the communal drying field. Now the scarf is ready for printing.
Harda-treated scarves are pinned to the long padded printing tables in the print shop. There are three methods of printing: dye printing (like our Diamondback scarf), discharge printing of citric acid on grey alum dye (our Bengal scarf) and dabu mud-resist printing (our Tidepool scarves).
For regular hand block printing, a master printer dips the wooden printing block in a dye tray, then stamps the block on the fabric with a hard pound of the fist at the center of the block, ensuring even printing. He or she will repeat this from left to right, aligning the blocks perfectly by eye from years of experience.
Dabu is a mud resist made from local black clay, wheat flour, gavaar (guar) gum, and lime. After printing with dabu, a fine layer of sawdust is sprinkled over the pattern to prevent the scarf from sticking to itself once immersed in the dye vat. This process is often repeated several times with indigo to achieve tonal gradients from a pale robin’s egg blue to a deep lapis (like our signature Saddle Blanket scarf on Hopie, above).
Scarves are spread out in the communal drying field and hung from roofs and left to fix in the sun for up to three days. They are then boiled in a large copper pot in a bath of alum and dried flowers for softness and colorfastness. Each scarf is inspected and washed by a certified organic laundry in Los Angeles, California before we ship to you.