Digital fabric Printing machines
Textile printing is the process of applying colour to fabric in definite patterns or designs. In properly printed fabrics the colour is bonded with the fibre, so as to resist washing and friction. Textile printing is related to dyeing but in dyeing properly the whole fabric is uniformly covered with one colour, whereas in printing one or more colours are applied to it in certain parts only, and in sharply defined patterns.
In printing, wooden blocks, stencils, engraved plates, rollers, or silkscreens can be used to place colours on the fabric. Colourants used in printing contain dyes thickened to prevent the colour from spreading by capillary attraction beyond the limits of the pattern or design.
Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia and probably originating in China in antiquity as a method of printing on textiles and later paper. As a method of printing on cloth, the earliest surviving examples from China date to before 220.
Textile printing was known in Europe, via the Islamic world, from about the 12th century, and widely used. However, the European dyes tended to liquify, which restricted the use of printed patterns. Fairly large and ambitious designs were printed for decorative purposes such as wall-hangings and lectern-cloths, where this was less of a problem as they did not need washing. When paper became common, the technology was rapidly used on that for woodcut prints. Superior cloth was also imported from Islamic countries, but this was much more expensive.
The Incas of Peru, Chile and the Aztecs of Mexico also practiced textile printing previous to the Spanish Invasion in 1519; but owing to the lack of records before that date, it is impossible to say whether they discovered the art for themselves, or, in some way, learned its principles from the Asiatics.
During the later half of the 17th century the French brought directly by sea, from their colonies on the east coast of India, samples of Indian blue and white resist prints, and along with them, particulars of the processes by which they had been produced, which produced washable fabrics.
As early as the 1630s, the East India Company was bringing in printed and plain cotton for the English market. By the 1660s British printers and dyers were making their own printed cotton to sell at home, printing single colors on plain backgrounds; less colourful than the imported prints, but more to the taste of the British. Designs were also sent to India for their craftspeople to copy for export back to England. There were many dyehouses in England in the latter half of the 17th century, Lancaster being one area and on the River Lea near London another. Plain cloth was put through a prolonged bleaching process which prepared the material to receive and hold applied color; this process vastly improved the color durability of English calicoes and required a great deal of water from nearby rivers. One dyehouse was started by John Meakins, a London Quaker who lived in Cripplegate. When he died, he passed his dyehouse to his son-in-law Benjamin Ollive, Citizen and Dyer, who moved the dye-works to Bromley Hall where it remained in the family until 1823, known as Benjamin Ollive and Company, Ollive & Talwin, Joseph Talwin & Company and later Talwin & Foster. Samples of their fabrics and designs can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Smithsonian Copper-Hewett in New York.
On the continent of Europe the commercial importance of calico printing seems to have been almost immediately recognized, and in consequence it spread and developed there much more rapidly than in England, where it was neglected for nearly ninety years after its introduction. During the last two decades of the 17th century and the earlier ones of the 18th new dye works were started in France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. It was only in 1738 that calico printing was first, practiced in Scotland, and not until twenty-six years later that Messrs Clayton of Bamber Bridge, near Preston, established in 1764 the first print-works in Lancashire, and thus laid the foundation of the industry.
From an artistic point of view most of the pioneer work in calico printing was done by the French. From the early days of the industry down to the latter half of the 20th century, the productions of the French printers in Jouy, Beauvais, Rouen, and in Alsace-Lorraine, were looked upon as representing all that was best in artistic calico printing.
Traditional textile printing techniques may be broadly categorised into four styles:
- Direct printing, in which colorants containing dyes, thickeners, and the mordants or substances necessary for fixing the colour on the cloth are printed in the desired pattern.
- The printing of a mordant in the desired pattern prior to dyeing cloth; the color adheres only where the mordant was printed.
- Turnbull, John G., ed. (1951) A History of the Calico Printing Industry of Great Britain. Altrincham: John Sherratt