Learning Centre

Ajrakh

Ajrakh is a printing technique found in Sindh (Pakistan) and Kachchh (Gujarat, India). The complex motifs are motifs are inspired from nature and Islamic architecture, and the dyes and mordants used are of natural origin. Ajrakh prints are usually restricted to black, indigo, red, green and yellow. The white you sometimes see is a result of printing the fabric with a “resist” and then dyeing it in a certain colour. The areas printed with a resist (flour mixed with gum, for example) remain white after the fabric is dyed.

Some of the natural resources used in Ajrakh printing are alizarine, indigo, pomegranate seeds, gum, wood, and flour. The printing process includes many washes in mordants, dyes and water, and as a result the final printed fabric has beautiful softness to it. Chemical dyes are a major source of pollution in the textile industry today. Ajrakh uses natural dyes and the process allows the craftsmen to live in harmony with nature, respecting their natural resources while they benefit from them.

Bandhani

Bandhani is a skilled tie-dyeing textile practice found predominantly in Gujarat and Rajasthan. The word ‘Bandhani’ arises from the Sanskrit word ‘Banda’ which means ‘to tie’ and it is also referred to as Bandhej or Bandana depending on the region.

In this craft, the fabric is pinched at intervals and thread is used to tie the tiniest of dots around the small pinch of fabric. For larger bandhani dots, a small lentil is placed on the fabric and the thread is wound around it. After the fabric is dyed, the threads are removed to reveal the non-dyed portion of the fabric. The tightly wound threads in this case act as a resist to the dye. Very fine bandhani is often characterized by an uneven surface – where the pinched parts of the fabric continue to look pinched long after the threads have been removed.

The process of using bandhani to create patterns on fabric was started by the Muslim Khatri Community of Kutch (Gujarat), and various patterns continue to be made for turbans, dupattas, and shawls.

Block Prints

Block printing is a technique used to print images or patterns with a block or mould (usually in wood) onto fabric. The process is labour intensive as the blocks, carved out of wood, need to be printed side by side until the entire fabric is printed. While block-printing just refers to the technique of printing with carved blocks by hand, several variations exist with resist and discharge dyes.

The first step in block printing is the creation of the pattern on the block of wood. This can be done using a knife or chisel, and the parts that are left blank are carved out and removed, so that the parts that are dipped in the dye form a pattern on the fabric. It produces a mirror image of the pattern; therefore the carvers have to be careful while carving the wood. The woodblock is then placed a container with the dye and then stamped on the fabric, leaving behind the pattern of the block. At one point, only vegetable dyes were used to create the colour, but now chemical dyes have replaced the use of vegetable pigments in most parts of India. Brass Tacks uses a combination of natural and chemical dyes. Block printing provides a sustainable livelihood for many in Indian villages as it involves an entire community in block-making, designing, printing, dyeing, and washing.

Discharge Print

Discharge Printing is a process in which a discharge ink is used to deactivate/replace a dyed fabric. It is also called Extract Printing as the dye of the fabric is removed, and a lighter colour is achieved. For example, we could dye a fabric black, and use a discharge print in white to print a white motif on the black fabric (a reactive or pigment printing technique would not show a lighter colour on top of a dark one). The discharge chemical comes in a few colours, so you could print red on black (the red “discharges” the black and replaces it with red). Other colours include pink, blue, yellow, grey, and olive green.

The discharge ink used is a clear liquid deactivator that contains zinc formaldehyde sulfoxylate which is what bleaches or reduces the shade of the original dye.

Wash care for discharge prints on cotton: wash in cold water with a mild detergent, and rinse shortly after (don’t soak). For discharge prints on silk, you can wash with a very dilute soap in cold water and then line dry or send it for dry cleaning if the fabric is prone to colour bleeding.

Double Ikat

Ikat a technique of tie-dyeing and weaving where the yarn is tie-dyed (at pre-determined intervals) such that the final pattern emerges once the fabric is woven. Every woven fabric has a warp (the length) and a weft (the width). Yarn is set on the loom in the warp, and a weaver passes a shuttle with yarn through the width of the fabric to weave the weft into the warp. This is the case for any handwoven fabric, but in ikat the yarn itself contains the pattern because it has been tie-dyed in a particular design before the weaving begins.

See our slideshow on the ikat making process: http://on.fb.me/LPZKLZ Within the craft of ikat, you have warp ikat (where only the warp yarns are tie-dyed), weft ikat (only the weft yarns are tie-dyed), and double ikat (where both the warp and weft yarns are tie-dyed). Double ikat requires a lot of skill and precision because the yarn has to be dyed in such a way that the weft and warp patterns intersect while weaving to create a stronger colour and a bolder design. In India ikat is found in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Andhra ikat motifs are generally more geometric, while Orissa ikat motifs often depict the flora and fauna of Orissa.

Clamp Shibori Discharge Dyes

Shibori is the Japanese term for dyeing fabric with a pattern by stitching, folding, clamping or binding it. One can also use the term “tie-dye” to describe many of the shibori fabrics, and tie-dyeing techniques that are traditional to India include bandhani and leheria.

At Brass Tacks we use the term shibori to denote methods of stitch-resist and clamp-resist that are not traditional to India. These crafts are now practiced by textile designers and textile cooperatives in India to provide a wider variety of textile designs.

In stitch-shibori, the fabric is stitched in a particular design (the fabric may be folded or pleated before stitching to add another dimension to the design). The tightly stitched fabric is then dyed and dried. After the fabric is untied, a pattern is revealed where the fabric was stitched (where the dye could not penetrate the fabric).

In clamp shibori, the fabric is folded in a particular pattern and then clamped down with patterned wooden blocks before dyeing. The result is a pattern (in the shape of the wooden block) repeated all over the fabric, which shows up because the rest of the fabric retains the colour of the dye.

Jamdani

Jamdani refers to the extra-weft weaving technique in India that is indigenous to Bengal. The intricate and elaborate designs are often in thin muslin cottons.

Most sources say the term ‘Jamdani’ originates from the word ‘Jam’ which means flower, and the word ‘Dani’ which means vase or container. Many of the traditional motifs are flowers and hence the name. It is a craft that is widely practiced in Bangladesh and to a lesser extent in West Bengal (India).

The process usually involves weaving a fabric by hand and manually inserting an “extra weft” wherever the motif needs be to woven in. Two weavers usually sit side-by-side at the loom and add the discontinuous weft motif separately in order to cover the motifs that appear across the weft of the fabric.

This craft is highly labour and time-intensive, making it one of the most luxurious and expensive textile crafts in India. Once patronized by royalty, this fabric is a celebration of the high level of skill achievable in handloom weaving.

Ikat

Ikat a technique of tie-dyeing and weaving where the yarn is tie-dyed (at pre-determined intervals) such that the final pattern emerges once the fabric is woven. Every woven fabric has a warp (the length) and a weft (the width). Yarn is set on the loom in the warp, and a weaver passes a shuttle with yarn through the width of the fabric to weave the weft into the warp. This is the case for any handwoven fabric, but in ikat the yarn itself contains the pattern because it has been tie-dyed in a particular design before the weaving begins.

See our slideshow on the ikat making process: http://on.fb.me/LPZKLZ

Within the craft of ikat, you have warp ikat (where only the warp yarns are tie-dyed), weft ikat (only the weft yarns are tie-dyed), and double ikat (where both the warp and weft yarns are tie-dyed). Double ikat requires a lot of skill and precision because the yarn has to be dyed in such a way that the weft and warp patterns intersect while weaving to create a stronger colour and a bolder design.

In India ikat is found in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Andhra ikat motifs are generally more geometric, while Orissa ikat motifs often depict the flora and fauna of Orissa.

Tie Dye

Tie dye is a term used to describe the tie-resist technique of making patterns on fabric. Tie-dye includes various methods (for example Bandhani is a type of tie-dyeing), but the basic principle is that the fabric is tied in some manner and then dyed. The areas where the fabric has been tied (tightly) doesn’t allow the dye to percolate through so you finally end up with a fabric that has patterns where the fabric was not dyed.

Tie-dyeing techniques include leheria from Rajasthan (parallel lines tied after rolling the fabric diagonally), bandhani from Gujarat (tying the fabric in tiny circles before dyeing), and also methods where the fabric is crushed or twisted before tying it at random intervals. Fabrics can also be dyed before tie-dyeing if you want two colours on the fabric.