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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bunta Block Printing

 Today while most people are probably getting ready for Super Bowl parties, I was stamping on fabric.
When I lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh, this bunta block printing was a major art.  I remember how my cousin's wife hired a local woman to use this stamps cut out of mango wood to create a detailed border.  It was painstaking work because she had to hand paint the sections that didn't paint.  All this on a ladder!

Then, I recall, we had a party for people from the embassy at our house when the artist showed everyone how to stamp.  The blocks were for sale and of course I bought a ton.  It was only later that we realized that we had pretty much overpaid!  Later, I bought more (and cheaper) stamps on the local marker. All of the stamps are hand-carved.  I stamped on paper a couple of times but was less than thrilled with the effects. Today, I decided to try to use these stamps as they were intended: on fabric. 

I bought fabric paint a Michaels. I bought an off-white cotton at Joanne's.  I think it was four yards. I cut it up to make several scarves and pillows.
Some of the stamps are for layers. I think you would have to stamp one layer, let it dry.  Then, stamp over it in a contrasting color.

Some of the stamps have a handle but most do not.

I tried to blot the first print on a dishtowel.

 The fabric paint I used.  The 5 oz. container was $7.99.  I then bought a kit that was $9.99 of neutral colors.  It went quickly.  I now have a small tube of black and silver.  About half of the 5 oz. black is left.


Some stamps work better than others.  I think this is a bird.  I do have another layer for this one but I don't really care for the design.


I layered some scrap cloth and cardboard on my iron.  You need to put the cloth over the cardboard because some paint will seep through. Also, it prints better.

This has some text in Bengali.  I don't know what it means.

Here I am just practicing.

I always keep plastic containers for painting or anything else.  I would suggest using one for paint and another to blot the stamps.

It was nice to use the ironing board to stamp so the fabric could drape down.

This pie shaped stamp is meant to be formed into a circle.


Again, more Bengali writing in the middle of a flower.

I used a combination of brown, black, and gold paint for variation.

This paisley stamp is my favorite.  I have a beautiful embroidered shawl from Calcutta, India, that is all paisley.  I wonder if I could either hand embroider or use fabric markers to "color" in these designs?

First efforts are rarely the best!  I did get some "stray" ink marks on the fabric. I tried to remove these but they had already set. 

I'm not 100% thrilled with the final product  I feel like these fabrics need some color.  You are supposed to wash after four hours.  I didn't wait that long because I was sort of hoping these would wash clean. They didn't.  I think my next step is that I'm going to dye the fabric with a brown or red dye.  The natural dye they use in Bangladesh is beautiful.  For my purposes, I will probably use Ritt from the grocery store.  After dyeing, I plan to make a few scarves and pillows.  I also want to experiment with sewing beads onto fabric. 

The dried on paint is acrylic from a few years ago.  The mango wood is really absorbent.

This is a messy project.  I did rinse the stamps though in the future I would probably just blot clean.  Keep a magic eraser handy to clean the sink.
Here are some links of where you can learn more about India block printing: