Block Printing: An Outdated Practice or Textile Treasure?

written by Rebecca Shell, Intern & N.C. State student

As a textile student at North Carolina State University, the subjects of design, pattern, and color excite me!  I am constantly learning about the technologies and processes of the industry and what fabrics they create.  While these technologies are capable of producing beautiful materials, sometimes the most amazing creations are not those constructed by machines or gadgets but those made by hand.

What is it and where did it come from?

It’s 220 AD in China.  You have important information to share with others, but there are no computers, copy machines, or phones.  What do you do?

Block printing is a technique utilized to copy text, image, or patterns and was used widely first on textiles and later paper. The process works by first creating the image you want to duplicate and then carving away the surrounding negative space so only the desired image prints.  Historically, the most popular method was carving into wooden blocks; later linoleum and foam.  Think of it has a big stamp!

How is it displayed at Greenhouse Fabrics?

We have many fabrics that pay tribute to this style. Here at Greenhouse, we acknowledge and appreciate the hand-crafted style of this repetition-type design and are excited to share our love of textiles with you.

Fading or here to stay?

While block printing is not widely used in the textile industry due mainly to its time-consuming nature, it can still be found where the practice has strong ties to native culture and family values.  Block printing kits can also be purchased in arts and crafts stores for the beginner or ordered offline. As societies continue to grow, adapt, and change, mechanization continues to do the same.  In a world overtaken by technology, it is comforting to know that an ancient practice such as this persists, beauty unwavering.