Indian Textile summer, 1989

In june and July 1989, before creating the brand Oduna in partnership, and long before le monde d’alba and, i underwent a training in dyeing and printing textiles at Hyderabad, Andhra – Pradesh, India. It took place at the Weavers service Center, which welcomed me in the very lively shopping center of Hyderabad, one of the twin cities, Capital of Andhra-Pradesh. These Textile Centers were created by Gandhi, in order to promote handlooms, traditional textile skills of each part of India, cooperate with local textile companies, and redesign ancestral motives and their natural shades.

Andhra – Pradesh is known for its KalamKari work, its ikats , its block printed fabrics, its rich golden embroideries. Many years of partnership with local craftsmen and design studios followed this 2 months training. Most of my collections were created thank to them.


Photo Simon Donelly, all rights reserved, 1991


Here are a few extracts of the dyeing and printing secrets given by craftsmen during the summer 89. I started the training with a designer and pattern – maker diploma, and it wasn’t necessary to have any knowledge in chemistry before starting it.
The craftsmen were very good pedagogues, and the delightful fabrics of cotton and silk displayed at the Center’s show- room, initiated the training with passion.


Photo Simon Donnelly, 1993. All rights reserved.


Block printing :

The cloth has to be boiled in water in order to remove the starch, and then dried. It should then be boiled again for 20 min in 6 liters of water, along with myrobolan (10 to 15% of the cloth). The cloth must then dried for 2 or 3 days.
Then it should be fixed along with pins on a long table, without being previously ironed. The table should be protected with a few layers of cloth. The color is first prepared, recipes are described below, and the printing starts with the print background color.
A Wooden tub will be used for the color; oil cloth is first put in it, then a jute cloth and a piece of light and airy cotton on top. The color is then poured into the tub, and has to fill up the tub regularly, thanks to a wooden tool.
Apply the bloc print 2 or 3 times onto the color, thoroughly, and then put it on a piece of newspaper, and finally on the cloth. Heat 2 or 3 times the bloc, so that it prints properly the cotton. It is advisable to draw a straight line directly onto the cotton, to have straight design printing. For each color there is a different block, and as many block printing process repeated as the n°of colors.



The colors used for printing:

Red color :

For 30g of arabic gum, 30g of alum, 1/2 litter of water. Stir it for 15 min. A thick substance is obtained. As per the % of alum, the final color is more or less bright or light red.

Indigo blue :

1 litter of water for 70g of starch powder
25g of indigo blue
12,5 g of caustic soda
25 g Hydros


Add the 70g of starch powder to the liter of water, and stir well. Then add caustic soda and stir well. Mix Indigo blue in a separate bowl with water. After mixing it well, then add into the paste. Add Hydros. It should have a greenish tone, and if it has a bluish tone,
then add more hydros to the paste. Instead of hydros, we may use Ranjoline C20Y, the results are better compare with hydros.

The cloth is then dried on the sun, then washed, then dried again for 2 or 3 hours.
To block print with indigo blue, the wooden tool has to passed very often into the wooden tub, to avoid the indigo changes in the contact of the oxygen. Add often indigo blue color the the wooden tub.
Turn the jute cloth in the tub, distribute the color with the tool and wash often the block with a brush.

Block printed skirt


Black color :

20 g of arabic gum and 15 g of alum for 1/2 liter of water. Stir it for 10 or 15 min.
1 kg of iron scrap
1/2 Kg of palm jiggly (unrefined brown sugar).
5 liters of water

The mixture is allowed to ferment for 21 days in an earthen jar, not in a plastic jar. After 21 days remove the iron scrap, add 200 g arabic gum and stir for 10 or 15 min. If the iron scrap is new, it should be previously burnt, and keep it soaked in water for 1/2 an hour.
Then splash it with water until the iron rusts.


Marron color :

10% of alum, 15 g of arabic gum, 8% of cloth weight black color, 1/2 liter of water.

Stir for 15 min the water and the arabic gum, then add the alum. Then the black color, stir for 10 min.
As per the result wished, the black color and the alum are more or less added.


Brown :

20% of alum, 10% of cloth weight black color, 1/2 liter of water, 15 g of arabic gum.


Myrobolan : yellow color, floral origin :

Myrobolan flowers are put in a stone mortar, then crushed into powder. They are then put in 2 liters of boiling water. 1/2 liter of water evaporates, then the alum is added along with the arabic gum, stir it each 5 min.

150 g of myrobolan powder + 1/2 liter of water.
10 g of alum, 15 g arabic gum . Mix it all for 15 min in a tumbler.

Put the cloth into boiling water, to remove the starch, and then dry it. The soak the cloth along with the myrobolann powder, for 20 min in boiling water. Dry the cloth on the sun and grass, for 2 or 3 days.
For the dyeing of a light fabric, put 10% of the cloth weight of myrobolan powder, for a heavier fabric, put 15% of the cloth weight of myrobolan powder.
The yellow color can only be added after the development, since it would overflow the motive. It is the same for indigo. If a green shade is needed, it should be decided earlier. All the other colors can be mixed.


Color’s development :

The development is a process done after printing, to make the colors appear, since after the printing the colors

are dull.

Wash the cloth, then make water boil in an inox basin, along with jag leaves (lime tree leaves), 200 mg per liter of water and 1 g of alizarin red.
Stir the cloth in the basin for 1/2 an hour. The colors appear little by little. The cloth is then rinsed abundantly, and stroked on the ground a few times.

The cloth can also undergo different process, in order to get different final shades:
For instance, a 3 meters cloth is dried for 2 days and then cut into 3 pieces:

The 1st piece is soaked into a basin with 3 litters of water and crushed twigs. The result is a red-pinkish background.
The 2nd is soaked into a basin with 5 litters of water and pomegranate powder. One liter of water is boiled with the cloth and pomegranate, the remaining 4 liters of water are added afterwards. The result is a maroon-pinkish background.
The third piece is soaked into a basin with 1 liter of water and and bark. The result is a yellowish background with pale colors.
Each piece is soaked in water for 1/2 an hour.


Photo Simon Donnelly, all rights reserved-1991


Cotton and silk dyeing :

Cloth preparation for dyeing :

Weight the cloth.
In this case, 10 meters= 1400 g

2% of caustic soda
2% of soap
2% soda ash

Heat the water, add into it the soap, the caustic soda and the soda ash. Heat for 4 hours. This mixture is necessary for all the fabrics dyed with chemical colors. Then abundantly rinse the cloth. Leave it for 3 or 4 hours.The cloth is then bleached, with 15% of the cloth weight of bleaching powder. The process lasts for 45 min. The cloth is then washed and treated with Hydrochloric acid.


Background dyeing, cotton fabric :

In this case, the background color is yellow.
24 g of castor oil is mixed to 4 g of yellow die and 4 g of orange die, in a tumbler. Stir it with a glass baguette.
Then add 3 g of caustic soda per liter of water, therefore for this example 36 g for 12 liters of water. Hydros: 3 g per liter of water, therefore 36 g for 12 liters of water. The dyeing T° is 50°. The cooking time is of 30 to 45 min.
In the basin which contains the water and the caustic soda and hydros, add the color mixture, and the cloth, mixing it well, so that the color is properly displayed on the cloth. Then leave the cloth in the basin, maintaining it at its bottom for the remaining time.
Pour only half of the color at the beginning, then the balance once the color well mixed to the cloth. After 45 min, put on the heat again if the T° has gone down in between the process.
Then dry the cloth for 5 min. The cloth can have dyeing irregularities, due to the movements of the cloth in the bath. Then abundantly rinse it. Then go on with the last operation: the cloth is soaked in a bath for 15 min: mix it with 12 liters of water, 2 g of soda ash, 2 g of castor oil, and heat it to 90°. Rinse the cloth again, and dry it. The fabric is ready.

Caustic soda opens the cloth’s fibers, and hydro fix it.


Photo Aude Lavenant, 1989, all rights reserved.


Another recipe:
24 g of castor oil is mixed to 4 g of yellow die and 4 g of orange die, in a tumbler. Stir it with a glass baguette.
Put water in a basin, proportion : 1 part of fabric for 20 of water.
Add the color into the basin, and the cloth. Dye it for 30 min on the heat. Remove the cloth from the bath, press it, and soak it into cold water. Wait for the oxidation, and dry it for 10 min. Put it again in hot water with soap, during 5 min, then rinse it again in cold water.


To make the castor oil:

5 kg of castor oil
10 liters of water
250 ml sulphuric acid
500g soda ash
300 g caustic soda

Pour all these ingredients in a metal or wood jar, and leave it for 5 days. Mix it once per day.


Silk dyeing :

Background color :

Pour the color in a tumbler, mix it with cool water. Then add boiling water.
In a boiling water’s basin, put the cloth and the color, and mix it all. For a brighter color, add caustic soda. The bath should last for 10 to 15 min. Then rinse it and drie it.


Pattern :

2 liters of water for 1 kg of arabic gum. In this case, 1/4 Kg arabic gum for 1/2 liter of water. 4 tea spoon of acetic acid and 8 g of cooking salt. Mix it for 10 min.
24 g of dye, 12 g of ether of glycol, water heated at 60°: 40 cl, 8 g of sulfate of ammonium.
The solution obtained should be 400 g; however the weight of these ingredients is 96 g. 304 g of arabic gum should be added.

Put the color in a tumbler, mix it with the ether of glycol, then add the water 60°. Mix it and boil it all. To get the 304 g of arabic gum, put the tumbler containing the color in a balance, then add the arabic gum, until getting the wished weight.
Take the 8 g of sulfate ammonium, mix it to a little of water, then add it to the tumbler.

To fix the color on the silk, once dyed and printed, it is given to it a steaming bath:
Roll up the silk in a newspaper, the cloth should be completely covered. Tie it with a thread. Then boil water in a basin, put in a wooden stand, then put a piece of plastic on the stand. Then put the roll of silk on the stand, cover the basin, keeping small pieces of wood
between the basin and its lid, to allow the air to pass. The steaming process lasts for 30 to 45 min.


Indigo dyeing :

8 pounds of indigo
6 pounds of ashes
3 or 4 ounces of madder

Boil the ashes and the madder for 15 min in a copper basin. Soak for 3 days 8 pounds of indigo, with hot water. Change the water in between. The water gets maroon color. Then add the first solution into this bath. Ground the indigo with this in the basin, and leave it for sometimes.
Filter the mixture which has become clear, pour it in a basin, and repeat the operation until the indigo is completely grounded. Then mix well again the new mixture in the basin.
With the help of a baguette, mix it and keep it on fire. The heat must be bearable on the hand. Keep mixing, the color must become green (soak a little piece of white silk. Then you can see a fine cream brown or copper shade on the surface). Leave it for 3 or 4 hours.
Then put water in a different cauldron, boil it with to 2 pounds of ashes and 4 ounces of madder. Pour this new bath into the previous cauldron. The dye is then ready.

Prior to silk indigo dyeing, it should be cleaned with 30 to 40% of its weight with soap, then rinse thoroughly. Don’t put any alum.
Put the silk on a wooden stick, and soak it into the color cauldron. Turn the stick, so that the color can penetrate all the parts of the silk, and get the blue shade wanted. Then squeeze it on the cauldron, very strongly; Put it in the air, and wash many times in water. Squeeze it again, twelve times. Then the cloth must be dried as quick as possible.


Photo Simon Donnelly, all rights reserved-1991


These recipes have been re- transcribed from notes taken along with the craftsmen, during summer 89, at the Weavers service center, located at this time on Abid road, Hyderabad. They aren’t given for trying them out at home, but the Textile Center should be accepting visits, and private studios like Creative Bee organizes visits explaining traditional local textile technics.


In 1991, i worked several months with a private workshop, whose manager and craftsmen used to make indigo dyeing, traditional block printing on silk and cotton, and a marvelous soft pink shade, whose dyeing secret is kept forever by its owner.


Tutu’s Taneja and family, made a baroque interpretation of women’s Indian apparel and stoles, which cotton are still block printed, with motives embroidered with silver threads. Their little show-room is a real Aladdin’s cave. The fabrics lay on the grass in front of the family’s houses, drying on the sun.


Creative bee designs and manufactures beautiful hand woven silk and cotton fabrics, yarn dyed with natural colored stoles or block printing cottons. Mrs Bina Rao manages brilliantly its company, and her husband, Mr Rao is an expert in textiles, dyeing, and printing.


Mrs Meera Mehra from Shafali fabrics, is a recognized business women for more than 30 years. Amazing structures shelter her stitching unit, in an antique Nizam’s house, which was dug in the stone and looks like a very large cave; her design studio and dyeing, printing workshops are surrounded by nature. Uncountable wooden blocks with hundreds of different designs are a waking dream. Her boutique in the twin city of Secunderabad allows the viewer to have a glance at all the collections together. Some of their print were designed by Indian Artist Laxma Goud, thanks to whom i could spend sometime with the students of the Fine-Arts’s School of at Hyderabad.



The « Printing on cotton at Ahmedabad India in 1678 » catalogue describes the printing methods observed by the French Georges Roques, at the 17° century:

The Roques Manuscript of 1678, « Of the painter and painting of Chitties ». This manuscript was discovered by John Irwin, in 1965, at the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, and describes the cotton-printing centers of Western India in the late seventeenth century. The author, Georges Roques, wrote it between 1678 and 1680; he was an agent of the ‘Compagnie des Indes’.

Georges Roques writes about the block printing:

« Another point is to keep watch during the application of the blocks, that they are well cleaned; and make them remove the dirt frequently; for if the pigment is sticky, when it begins to dry in the engraved lines of the block it fills some passages in the design, rendering these imperfect in the printing. »


And about « The method of preparing the cloth to receive the imprint of the colours » :
« Before the painter applies any colour to the cloth, he has it washed to remove the dressing which the weaver has given to it, until it is half bleached. Then he puts i to steep oil of gingely for five days if it is the hot season, and for double that time in the cold season…. After the cloth has thoroughly absorbed this oil, they daub it with camel-dung, which is best for this purpose. They leave it thus to dry, and wash it, then beat it to flatten the thread. Then they give the first application of dye, which is done with myrobolan, and impart a pale dead-leaf tint.
They then prepare a black color, which they make also with myrobolan, and with weaken flour soaked in water until it has become thoroughly sour; being thus prepared, they mix iron rust with it. All this boiled together makes a fast black, and in order that it shall hold fast, they put into this cauldron several sers of a gum which exudes from trees, so that it clings to the block and does not drip. »


Weavers Service Center
Chenatha Bhawan, Nampalli
Hyderabad 50001, AP India.


Shafali block printed fabrics
Home textile and women’s apparel
72 Sarojini Devi Road
Secunderabad – 500045


Tutu Taneja’s studio
Sitara Bungalow
Road No. 14, Banjara Hills
Hyderabad 500034, AP India


Creative Bee
H No 8-2-466/1/A
Road No. 4
Lane Opp to Post Office
Banjara Hills, Hyderabad 500034
Andhra Pradesh, India


Printing on cotton at Ahmedabad India in 1678
By Paul R. Schwartz et John Irwin
Calico Museum of Textiles Ahmedabad India
Museum Monograph n°1, 1969


By Valerie Ferrat, mySeelk

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