Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fabric stamps & what they make in Asia

Happy New Year!  It's Chinese New Year, actually:


I don't know about you, but I'm having trouble getting into the swing of blogging 2012-style.  I think about it, but haven't felt inspired, nor have I had 10 seconds to sew.  This is my 3 day weekend coming up (I have every other Monday off), so let's see how that darned corduroy dress zipper goes...

Anyway, thought you might like to know about fabric stamps.  Carved from pear wood usually, these intricate stamps are used to make repeating patterns on fabric.  Here's an Indian expert carving a stamp in Jaipur.  And here's a stamp & stamper hard at work, also in India.  But of course he makes it look easy--I know my rows would be skewiff! I'm showing you 2 views of Indian workers because the first few photos are of stamps we got in India.  I felt compelled to buy the paisley stamp because paisley just says "India!" doesn't it?
I asked the Roommate to take a photo of the back & side, too, because I thought you'd like to see that it's all carved from the same piece of wood.  And I wanted to show that row of holes, drilled all the way through, I'm guessing to make it lighter for the user.  This probably isn't that important if you're doing one piece of fabric, but I imagine that after a long day of stamping, the lighter the tool the better.

Next up are 2 sets of stamps from Iran.  Persian style fabric stamping is a bit different.  Rather than one color on fabric, the Iranians do 3 and 4 color printing with their stamps.  Which means they carve different stamps, all the same shape & size, but with a different design--which fits with the other stamps to create a multi-colored design.  The skill involved--getting the carved pieces to interlock and then printing them without smudging or overlapping--yikes.  The Roommate & I are collectors, but believe me, we're admirers, too, of the skill & artistry involved in these treasures.
This is a tablecloth we got at the Iranian Souq in Abu Dhabi and you can see it has the four-color printing I mentioned.  Red, black, yellow and blue.  (For most of my photos, clicking on it will take you to the larger, original-sized photo if you want more detail.)  Details of this tablecloth below.

And a little side-track here...the two sets of sailors, recently rescued in the Persian/Arabian Gulf by the US Navy?  I'm sure they were either on their way to or from the Arabian side of the Gulf...headed to a souq (market), much like the one we walked to in Abu Dhabi.  It takes about 6 days on one of these small (20-30') wooden dhows to get from Iran to Abu Dhabi.  The treasures they would bring over!  Lapis jewelry, enameled plates, tiles, kilims, along with printed fabrics & blocks for creating that fabric.

I don't have any stamps from Pakistan, but I'm sure they do fabric stamping there, too, because of these cushion covers we received as a gift from a Pakistani friend.  You can see they've been stamped, too, possibly with only 2-3 colors.  I think it's funny that it's one color in India, a few more in Pakistan, and as you continue to move north & west...more colors, more intricate.  Probably more of an aesthetic issue, rather than a skill issue, is my guess.
We have more stamps (I just found a few that we need to take pictures of), including one used to print Buddhist scriptures in Tibet, and some huge ones (that weigh a ton!) for printing wallpaper in the Czech Republic.  I'll have to get to those in later posts.

We haven't tried them out--I have washed plain muslin and even owned some suitable fabric paint for a long while, but never got it together to do any real stamping.  Mostly because I'm a bit worried about ruining the stamps; how easy will they be to clean?  Next post will be more about fabric stamps in Africa...Ghana to be exact.


  1. Hi Karen! What an interesting post. I do love middle eastern and Indian decorative style. These stamps are a treasure. I'd be like you, kind of scared to use them!

  2. Hi SBT! We can actually see that they have been used (probably in Iran). The set of 4 has blue, black and red on it rather distinctively. i think green might have been the 4th color.

    I had a friend who tried to use hers and it got all gummed up--I'm sure she used the wrong paint. Another friend had the idea of using gold leaf & rubbing it on with her fingertip--that brings out the design, and it looks really classy. But of course you can't use them after that. So I haven't done anything...yet!

    Oh, and another excuse; just having a place to work w/ access to water and a nice table. I have that downstairs now, but it's cold in the basement; maybe this summer!

    I have some others that I'll have to get photos of & post. They are smaller.

    The Roommate & I always collect wooden things; we cannot resist them. As long as they're carry-able.

    Thanks for the comment.


You don't have to say you love me...