Block printing is a traditional technique still practiced in some parts of India where patterns, shapes and designs are hand carved by artisans into a wooden block. The natural pigments are then applied on the raised surfaces of the block and pressed onto the fabric to create a unique design.
Although there are many types of block printing depending on the area and heritage of the craftspeople, we’re rooting for the two following techniques:
- Direct dye printing achieved in four steps: block printing, dyeing, washing and drying to achieve our beautiful prints.
- Resist printing which involves applying mud on the cloth to ‘resist’ the dye in some areas – meaning the mud will keep the dye from penetrating the fabric – before the dyeing and washing is done.
Mineral dyeing is a natural dyeing process using minerals found in nature. It has a lower impact on the environment as it uses less water and energy. The mineral colours are lighter than plant dyes yet have a better resistance to washing, perspiration and light. The fabric may have slight dye variations and irregularities which give the pieces a unique, worn-out look.
Plant pigments are extracted from roots, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and bark to create vibrant, natural dyes. These change each season depending on the temperature, rain levels and evolving environment, resulting in a wide range of shades for each dye. Plant dyeing is best used on natural fibres such as cotton, wool, hemp, linen and silk and requires delicate care. There may be discrepancies on the surface of the fabric which is a natural part of the process.
Instead of dyeing the fabric directly, the garments are first sewn and then dipped in the same bath where they will collect colours differently and create a unique look. This may also result in slight colour variations, especially at the seams if the sewing thread and fabric are made of different yarns.
Ikat is a dyeing technique originating from Indonesia and using resist dyeing to keep some parts of the fabric from absorbing the pigments. The yarn is then weaved by hand to create the delicate patterns, most commonly in chevron and diamond designs.
Natural Indigo Dyed
Indigo has a long history that goes back more than 5,000 years ago in the Indus valley which is now part of Pakistan and Northwest India. The blue pigments are extracted from a legume known as Indigofera Tinctoria to give different shades of blue to the cloth. The plants are also used in Tamil Nadu as green manure to capture atmospheric nitrogen into the soil and improve its condition. In Ayurveda, indigo is considered a powerful medicine that helps with skin conditions, respiratory health and temperature regulation.
Indian madder is a plant in the same family as coffee whose roots are used since antiquity in Asia and the Middle East as a red dye for textiles thanks to a compound called alizarin. It can give many different shades, from violet and black to light pink and orange hues.
In India, madder is prescribed as a tea to help with digestion and stress because of its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that also heals bruises and chronic skin conditions.
Maadhulai Odu Dyed
Pomegranate peel is a powerful source of colour with its high levels of tannin giving a yellow colour to the fabric, from beige to gold if used with a fixator. It turns mossy green, grey and black with the addition of iron, or beautiful dark greens when overdyed with indigo.
The fruit’s peels also have incredible health benefits helping with various skin conditions due to its potent antioxidant properties.
Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family native to the Indian subcontinent, which gives beautiful shades of bright and warm yellow. It is used in the ancient practice of Ayurveda and has many anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties that makes it a miraculously healthy root. As a dye however, it doesn’t do well on its own, so we mix it with other natural dyes to fix the colour on the fabric.
Alizarin is the compound found in the roots of madder – a plant used for dyeing since ancient times. We extract it from the roots and use a small amount to give dark, vibrant reds to the fabric.
Sappan wood or Indian redwood is a flowering plant in the legume family native to tropical Asia. We use it to produce shades of pink, red and purple depending on the dye treatment. It is also a medicinal plant brimming with many health benefits and used since ancient times to cure diseases and fight against stress.
Myrobalan is a fruit-bearing plant found in all parts of India and the dry fruit is used in dyeing to give a light-yellow colour to the fabric. It can also be mixed with other dyes to prevent the colour from fading and is a good foundation for overdyeing where the coloured fabric goes through the dyeing process a second time. In India, locals consume the fruit to improve digestion and immunity and treat many other problems, making it a true medical wonder.
Alum is a unique mineral used in natural dyeing since ancient times to improve the colours’ resistance to fading when exposed to light. The crystal is also used in Indian medicine for treatments and preventive care thanks to its antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties, while being a popular ingredient in cosmetics.
Regenerative cotton is grown using farming practices that restore the quality and health of the soil, water, air, ecosystems, and biodiversity. Compared to organic agriculture that focuses mainly on avoiding unhealthy chemicals, regenerative agriculture has many more advantages, from carbon sequestration to crop and flood resilience. It goes back to older, self-sustained methods of farming including low tilling, multicropping and crop rotation. For example, we grow our cotton alongside seven other crops to help return nutrients to depleted soils.
Recycled cotton is made from production waste such as fabric scrapes which are sorted by colour, shredded and turned into a recycled yarn. As it loses quality through the recycling process, the yarn is mixed with virgin cotton to produce a new fabric. All our T-shirts are made from 75% recycled cotton and 25% regenerative cotton, which gives them a unique and distinct look.
We sew offcuts and deadstock fabrics into a larger garment design to prevent waste and add a unique character to our pieces. Patchwork can also be employed to hide holes or sign of wear and tear and give garments a longer life.
Appliqué is a type of patchwork where the piece of fabric is cut into a design and sewn on a garment by hand or machine embroidery. For example, our Kimono T-shirt is adorned with offcuts from the mandagora ikat fabric sewn by hand at the centre in a beautiful pattern with a zig zag stitch around the borders.
Hand embroidery is a beautiful craft used to decorate fabric using a needle and thread. It’s an art form that can be done at any skill level to customise a garment and make it one of a kind. We use this technique to apply our Lotus logo on our cool T-shirts.