Prelude

The ancient art of Mud Resist hand block printing technique from Rajasthan, Dhabu, is easily one of our favorites. Beautiful, vibrant and sophisticated, Dhabu printing is often grouped together with other block prints like Sanganeri and Bagru, but Dhabu is, in fact, extremely different in terms of look, feel and its method of making. Originally a village handicraft, Dhabu printing is now practiced extensively for its individuality. It is also a family business, and the recipe of the Dhabu, one which is passed down from generation to generation, is a closely guarded secret!

You might have come across our Dhabu prints if you’ve visited our Cotton Cottage stores; these stunning prints are hard to miss! So what goes into making these gorgeous fabrics?

 

 

CHARACTERISTICS : Traditional Motifs inspired by Natural Elements which are uniquely HandBlock Printed using a special Mud Paste as a resist to outline the design.

 

GOOD TO KNOW : Dhabu gets it’s name from the Hindi word ‘Dabaana’, meaning to ‘Press’.

 


Chapter 01 – What is Dhabu?

The Dhabu printing process can be defined as‘ printing with mud ’ instead of traditional dyes or colors. Formally, it is known as Mud Resist Printing. The process starts with the preparation of a Mud resist which is made from black clay, spoiled wheat flour, calcium and limestone. The process of making a Dhabu print is quite complex, often involving many workers and multiple stages of drying, washing and printing, a process which takes days to complete.

Above : A typical Recipe measurement box for preparing the Mud Resist. Below : A typical Dhabu workshop in action.
Chapter 02 – Stage One : The Process

Stage One of this process involves the selection of appropriate fabrics, suitable for Dhabu printing. Plain fabric is received from the looms – which is then washed carefully in order to get rid of any impurities and then treated with Myrobalan(seeds) which acts as a natural fixative.

The HandBlock printing Blocks used in Dhabu are different than the ones used for other Block printing processes. These Blocks have distinctly deeper grooves for mud, and wider lines. Take a look at our PhotoStory ‘Thak Thak Gully’ to know more about how these Wooden Blocks are made.

Distinctly Deeper Grooves & Wider lines in Dhabu Printing Blocks to be used with Mud Paste.

 

 

Now comes the interesting part which makes this printing process so unique: the Mud resist. All the ingredients are mixed together and then filtered through a net in order to strain out rocks and minerals – leaving a thick, smooth mud paste.

 

 

The process of Filtering all the ingredient mixed with mud which leaves a thick smooth Paste, ready for the block printing process.

 

 

Then, the carved Wooden Blocks are dipped in this Mud paste and stamped onto the fabric. Now comes the interesting part, the paste is then dried by sprinkling saw dust over it. This covering protects these parts of the fabric from catching color, when the fabrics are later dyed. Interesting Isn’t it?

 

 

The Wooden Blocks are dipped in Mud resist Paste and then printed onto the Fabrics.
Sawdust is then sprinkled onto the wet Mud paste to make it dry faster and also, to create a protective resist layer before it goes for dyeing.

 

Chapter 02 – Stage Two: The Reveal

Once the above process is over, the fabric is spread out in the sun, and left to dry. Once it is completely dry, the fabric is dipped into a vat of dye. It is then dried again. Once dried, the artisans give it a thorough wash to remove the mud resist paste, as well as any excess dye.

The parts of the printed fabric which were not covered by the mud resist catch on color, while the Dhabu covered parts remain plain/white. This process may be repeated for an exceptional and even more unusual effect, and to give each design a distinctive hue. What is left behind is a piece of fabric which is stunning, amazingly individualistic as well as highly detailed. And then made into clothing, for you.

 

 

So come on over to your nearest Cotton Cottage store and experience the Dhabu print up close, and fall in love with its intricacies and details.

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