The majority of the Hazelton House collection is printed using the ancient craft of Hand Block Printing. Prior to the introduction of machine printing, all textiles were printed by hand. Today, these skills are rare. The proficiency involved in printing each hand-blocked design is immense. Fabrics are printed on large tables of approximately 17m and the surface is coated with a layer of glue to ensure that base cloth is smooth before printing begins. The highly skilled craftsmen responsible for the printing process will decide the best way to first map out the design. They may print first with a fugitive outline printed using a vat dye without active ingredient and therefore will wash away during the finishing process. Alternatively, the designs are marked out using different coloured pins between each layer of colour. Both methods are crucial to enable accuracy when using the hand blocks.
The tools required to execute each design are exactly the same as those during the early days of Hand Block Printing and have been passed down through generations.The wooden blocks themselves could be considered pieces of art. Each block is hand carved with individual sections that make up one complete design. There are three materials used in the making of a block; wood, felt and copper. Often all three materials are combined to make one block. A Maul is a very heavy tool, individually made to fit the printer’s hand and is used to aid in applying pressure to the blocks during printing.
It is imperative to distribute the right amount of colour on the sieve so there isn’t too much or too little vat dye applied to the block. When printing with a block it’s also crucial that the correct amount of pressure on the block when printing, this takes a great amount of skill.