Ajrakh Block Printing

June 27, 2017 2 Comments

Ajrakh Block Printing

Ajrakh is a very ancient and exclusive type of block printing, practiced in parts of Western India and Pakistan. The name Ajrakh comes from the arabic word for blue, azrak. It suggests deep historic roots of this cherished cloth once used in barter by traditional Arab traders.

The details of an ajrakh block printed scarf from Happee brand

The details of one of our block printed Ajrakh scarves

Bold abstract patterns, natural dyes and connection with nature makes them appealing to contemporary taste. With the rise of slow and sustainable fashion brands and processes, this declining art can once again gain momentum, as this type of print uses only natural colors extracted from plants as dyes. 

What is Ajrakh block printing?

Born out of the Khatri community of these regions, this art is a complex form of hand block printing involving arabic style geometric designs. Mizan (meaning balance and order in Arabic) is the foundation of Islamic art.

Adhering to Islamic design principles, geometric designs and details are repeated masterfully in Ajrakh printing making them complex and rare. Animal and human forms are avoided in this type of printing. It’s a form of traditional hand block printing, resist dying using indigo, madder and printed mordants.

 

The steps of Ajrakh block printing

  1. Saaj - Or the process of cleaning the cloth. Pre-treatment of cloth involves minimum of 3 soaking in a Neerani solution, comprising of castor oil, soda ash and camel dung. The cloth is kneaded in this mixture and wrung out, bundled up and wrapped in hessian cloth, secured by a heavy stone or rock and left to steep overnight. Next morning cloth is dried in sun. This whole process could be repeated for 7-8 times.
  2. Washing - After final cycle of saaj process, clean water along with paddle from a babul tree is used to remove the excessive oil from the fabric. This is a rigorous cycle of soaking and beating until the oil along with impurities comes out of the fabric.
  3. Kasano - The soft cleaned cloth is soaked in harde, a yellow astringent paste made from the dried powdered fruits of the myroballan tree. Rich in tannic acid this powder acts as pre-mordant which aids the adhesion of subsequent printed mordants on to cloth.

 Ajrakh block printing - kasano step

  1. Khariyanu - Outlines of the design where white is required, are printed with a carved wooden block and a resist paste containing lime and tree gum. This paste need is to be smooth and lump- free and thick for best results. When double sided Ajrakh is printed it is essential that the same outline design is printed on both sides.

 Ajrakh block printing - khariyanu step

 

  1. Kut - Areas where black is required are printed with Kut paste. Kut is smooth fine paste made from jiggery or molasses in which scrap iron such as horseshoes have been fermented for 10-15 days. Resulted liquid is mixed with smooth gum paste.

 Ajrakh block printing - Kut

  1. Pa Mordant – The mordant for producing red is now applied to the cloth. Alum is suspended in a sticky paste of boiled powder from roasted and ground tamarind seeds. This smooth paste called pa, is printed with blocks which have been carved so that the printing portion of the raised face is patterned only with the areas of the design called mavi, where red is required.

 Ajrakh block printing - pa mordant

  1. Gach Resist - For the next 2 stages of the process a smooth fine paste is mixed from tree gum, clay, and water and millet flour. Alum is added to half of this paste, and printed where larger areas of red are required in the design. Clay and millet flour paste acts as a resist preventing indigo from staining the cloth beneath.
  2. Dhori Gach resist - The second half of the tree gum, clay and millet flour paste is used as a simple resist. This paste is called dhori gach and does not contain alum. This paste is applied over all previously printed white, black or pa printed red areas where indigo is not required. Saw dust or dry cow dung powder is sprinkled over immediately after printing these two gach pastes, to prevent the wet clay from smudging.
  1. Indigo Dip - To obtain blue in the design cloth is immersed in indigo. Natural indigo comes in form of cake/blocks which is soaked before fermenting underground with strong alkaline lime powder, dates, and carbonate of soda, plus special ingredients unique to particular dyer. The cloth is dipped into this mixture and then removed, initially given greenish color to the fabric. The cloth becomes blue as soon as oxygen meets the dye particles on the fibers.

 Ajrakh block printing - indigo dip

 

  1. Washing - thorough washing and beating at washing tanks removes the resist paste, the loose indigo dye and tamarind seed paste from the cloth. It starts with gentle washing to loosen the clay of the resist pastes without smudging and then becomes a vigorous soaking and beating to ensure the cloth is free from gums and starches from the printing areas and ready for the red dye.
  2. Red dying - Alizarin crystals or the crushed and steeped roots of the Majeeta or Indian Madder are gently heated in a large copper pot. The fire beneath is kept low and the lengths of cloth continuously stirred using two sticks.

 Ajrakh block printing - red dying

 

  1. Tapano - The color compounds contained within natural madder roots are much more complex than those of synthetic alizarin. The dyed cloth is soaked in a solution of camel dung, then spread on the sandy banks of a river in the sun and regularly sprinkled with water throughout the day, repeated for 3-4 days.
  2. Final Washing - The final washing and beating to remove any loose color is vital. It clears the excess dyes and makes the whiteness of the ajrakh stars shine bright. For all the processes, the quality and mineral content in water affects the quality and fastness or colors and clarity in design.

 

There can be additional processes to the above mentioned one depending on the colors and sophistication in design. Ajrakh printing is a very laborious form of hand printing involving a lot of time and effort and precision which makes this art form unique and special.

girl on her back wearing a blue and red ajrakh block printed scarf

One of our Ajrakh block printed scarves

In today’s time with machine printing or using of chemical dyes in block printing poses a huge threat to this preserved artform.  Join in our efforts of preserving this artform, by buying these beautiful pieces of scarves from our website and helping showcasing this artform globally.

*The ajrakh steps are a copyright text from Anokhi



2 Responses

Alpa patel
Alpa patel

July 20, 2017

I like your stole

Alpa patel
Alpa patel

July 20, 2017

I like your stole

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Size Chart

In case you have any doubt regarding which size you should purchase, kindly follow these steps to measure your foot, then check on the table below, the size which corresponds to the length of your foot in centimeters.

1. Standing up, place a sheet of paper under your foot. Draw the outline with a pencil.

2. With a measuring tape or ruler, measure the length of the foot, from the heel to the tip of the biggest toe.

 

   BALLERINA SHOES
COUNTRY SIZE

UK/INDIA

5

5.5

6

6.5

7

7.5

 

EUROPE

38

38/39

39

39/40

40

41

 

BRAZIL*

36

36.5

37

37.5

38

39

 

US

7

7.5

8

8.5

9

9.5

 

CENTIMETERS (FOOT) 23.8 24.1 24.6 25.1 25.4 25.9

 

   MOJARI SHOES
COUNTRY SIZE

UK/INDIA

3

4

5

6

7

8

 

EUROPE

35

36

37

38

39

40

 

BRAZIL*

33

34

35

36

37

38

 

US

4

5

6

7

8

9

 

CENTIMETERS 21,3 22,2 23 23,8 24,6 25,4

 

*The Brazilian sizes are already converted in the Portuguese version of the website.

*Our ballerinas fit the foot comfortably. Mojaris, however, are a type of shoe which are naturally a little tighter, as they adjust to the foot upon wearing.

*This chart may vary a little from other charts, as there is no international standard for shoe sizes.

*In case you still have any doubts regarding your size, send us an email at info@iamhappee.com, we will revert back ASAP. :)

 

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