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As I am embarking upon my latest venture – an expanded retail location with a large section of bolt fabrics to accommodate a greater range of budgets – it has really streamlined my attention to fabrics, in general! Therefore, it really piqued my attention when I recently read an interesting article from Kravet’s Inspired.Talk on the topic of  “hand blocking” (All included photos were obtained from this article). Many of my clients have heard of this term but are not entirely sure what it means or how it increases the workmanship involved with creating hand-blocked fabrics.

It stands to reason that the more complex and labor-intensive a fabric (or anything!) is to create, the higher the cost will be. Such is the case with hand-blocked fabrics. In my opinion, the exceptional outcome of  hand-blocked fabrics is well-worth the extra expense, provided that it can be worked into your budget.

Hand-blocked fabrics use dozens, sometimes hundreds of individual blocks to create distinct patterns.

Hand-blocked fabrics are some of the most unique and intricately detailed textiles in today’s market. The origins of hand-blocking date back several centuries. Those traditions continue to flourish in the hands of modern-day artisans.

Although the process of hand-blocking is the slowest and simplest method of printing, the results are considered to be the most artistic, ultimately yielding a result that is unrivaled by other techniques.

Hand-blocking window display at D&D building in NYC.

For each of the distinct colors in a hand-blocked textile, the process involves drawing individual designs onto wooden blocks.  To prevent breakage of the delicate wooden blocks during printing, the blocks are typically built up in strips of metal, such as copper or brass.

Once carved, the printer then applies color to each of the blocks and presses them firmly onto the cloth. To ensure a clear impression of the design, the blocks are struck with a wooden mallet on the back side of the fabric. This process must be precisely repeated for each of the carved blocks in a design. If a pattern contains multiple colors, each color is usually printed and dried separately before moving onto the next. Once this whole process is complete, a new length of fabric is brought forward to be treated the same way.

A vignette designed by Thomas O’Brien features the reverse side of a fabric called Nympheus. The result is a softer and more muted pattern.

So, as you can see, hand-blocked fabrics are quite labor-intensive and certainly a distinct artform even by modern-day standards.

What is YOUR opinion of hand-blocked textiles? Have you – or would you – be willing to increase your design budget to include them in your home design? Why, or why not?

Now, go have an “It’s so Fabulous!” day!

If you would like help making YOUR home even more fabulous, contact me for an on-line or in-home consultation at

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