An Etsy Addict’s Guide to Collecting (or Making Your Own) Indian Block Print Textiles
India arrives at my home in Los Angeles regularly, in the form of block-printed tablecloths, quilts, and fabrics by the yard.
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I have a textile habit, largely enabled by Etsy, which involves battered packages arriving on my doorstep after lengthy journeys across the globe from Bagru or Jaipur. I’ve never been to India (It’s at the top of my bucket list) but India arrives at my home in Los Angeles regularly, in the form of block-printed tablecloths, quilts, and fabrics by the yard that I have sewn into pillow covers or curtains. I have been known to keep a stack of yardage folded neatly in a closet in case of some unidentified textile emergency.
It seems like I am a part of a 300 year tradition of importing beautiful cotton from Jaipur. The practice of hand-printing cotton fabric in India dates back to the Mughal Empire, and 18th century Europeans were also obsessed with the inexpensive and colorful fabric. (Sort of related: Has anyone seen Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire? It’s a 2019 French film set in 1770s Brittany. I watched it in fear, worried that the main character’s monastery cloak made of hand-blocked indigo-dyed cotton would go up in flames with her.)
The region prospered for a time because of fabric export and trade. Industrialized production of material took its toll, but the craft survived. In the past few years, block prints have come back with a vengeance—for upholstery, curtains, table linens and boho fashion. Artisans are busy producing hand printed and sun-dried fabric in traditional workshops and small factories, using techniques passed down through generations. And the style is regularly recreated (and occasionally appropriated) by many high end designer fabric houses that can charge $200 a yard for block-printed linen and cotton.
Which brings me back to Etsy. It’s a great resource for anyone patient and faithful enough to trust that parcels will eventually arrive (most of them do). Fabric can cost as little as $10 per yard, table cloths about $40 or $50.
If you’re intrigued enough to try your hand at block-printing your own fabric, there are plenty of kits and workshops to give it a go. Scroll down for some of my favorite block printing resources, close to home and further afield.
The Block Prints
With nearly 200 patterns to choose from, over 9,000 sales and a five-star review, The Block Print shop on Etsy is one of the more reliable sources for hand-printed fabric from Jaipur. Fabric is $10-$15 per yard, with $5 shipping.
The Blocks Studio
Not to be confused with The Block Prints, The Blocks Studio, also on Etsy, sells 60” x 90” cotton tablecloths from Jaipur for around $50, a fraction of what they would sell for at retail in home decor stores in the U.S.
Block Shop Textiles
The Los Angeles-based Stockman sisters and founders of Block Shop Textiles are known for their unique, contemporary take on traditional Indian printing techniques, and they work with many small, ethical, family-owned workshops in India to produce their textiles for home, apparel, and handmade paper prints.
Folkways Culture Kit Block Printed Napkin Set
Jennifer Haynes-Clark is a college professor and expert crafter based in Talent, OR who sells kits for block-printing a set of linen napkins, in gold or black ink. With every purchase, she makes a donation to NEST, a non-profit that supports global hand workers.
Indian Beautiful Art
If you’re inspired to DIY, this shop sells carved wooden blocks ($8-$10 each) direct from India to create your own fabric, wrapping paper, wallpaper—or roll on your favorite house paint and stamp your walls. Permanent fabric ink, paint, and dye are readily available at art supply stores (and, yes, that’s on Etsy, too.).
Jenny Lemons Beginning Block Printing Workshop
Artist and crafter Jenny Lemons opened her colorful clothing studio and DIY art school in 2019 and quickly pivoted to online instruction early in the pandemic. She’s best known for her embroidery workshops, but she also hosts guest artists like Orlie Kapultnik, who is teaching a beginning block printing class. Hurry…it’s next week.