naturalhabitatNothing says spring like a new tablecloth! I love when the weather warms, the days become longer and I change my kitchen tablecloth from her winter wear of crimson floral, into something lighter…I have a bright, teal paisley or an intricate, indigo mandala pattern to choose from. Which one would you choose?

A simple changing of my tablecloth transforms my home and welcomes spring. My tablecloths are from Natural Habitat. Hand block printed (in Bajur, India), the intricate details are perfectly imperfect, reminding me of the human hands that made them. You can see and feel the layers of natural dye and individuality in each cloth. Do imperfections bother you?

Sitting at my table, looking down at the fabric, I can’t help but wonder…  Could I have made this? How difficult can block printing be? I just so happen to have some beautiful blocks, fabric paint, paintbrushes and canvas ….so here I go!







After organizing my supplies and visualizing my masterpiece, I’m ready to start!

Step 1






Step 1:
I apply a thin layer of paint evenly to the block.

* Something cool I learned about the wood blocks is that in India, families of the block printing tradition save the blocks carved by master carvers from generations past for future use.  Some blocks used to print cloth today are thousands of years old. 

step 2






Step 2:
  I place my block on the canvas and apply pressure, actually all my weight, and a slight rocking motion.

step 5






Step 3: 
I release my weight , lift carefully, and see what it looks like!

* You can tell if something is hand printed with blocks if the layers of color are imperfect, this imperfection is clearly demonstrated by me. 

Step 4:  Repeat, repeat, repeat. 

Step 5







Step 5:  I add a new block with a different color.








Step 6:  Finished.  Wow! I love it!!  I did not anticipate the circles but no  surprise it does not look like the ones from Natural Habitat.  This process is easy in theory, but challenging in application. Let me know if you have any block printing secrets….

For me, block print textiles bring the warmth of a long standing tradition and an artistic feel into the modern interior of my home. Each piece is a work of art. Natural Habitat uses traditional block printing techniques and ecologically responsible production. The artisans combine delicate design with bright, bold color stories.  The geometric patterns take on both masculine and feminine personalities and the cotton feels soft and has such a nice weight. Come into our Global Exchange stores and feel for yourself ! I have such an appreciation of  the time and artistic foresight the Natural Habitat artisans put into their table wear and bedding.  I am happy to know that this tradition is still alive.

Today was my first attempt at block printing, I found the art form meditative and rewarding. For me this was a small introduction to block printing, next time I want to make something more substantial. I like the elephant block and maybe I will print on pillow cases or curtains? What do you think? Come by the store and we can make something together!

Celebrate the fall harvest with Fair Trade tablecloths and napkins at all Global Exchange store locations in San Francisco, Berkeley, Portland, Washington D.C., and Virginia! If you buy a tablecloth and four napkins, we’ll throw in four FREE napkins!

A selection of Global Exchange 100% cotton table linens originate from Southeast Rajasthan, India, where an income-generating program has enabled women to make four times the average wage of the area. The program began in response to the Ranthambhore National Park,  which was created to enable tigers to live and move freely in their habitat. However, the establishment of the park displaced villagers, who were resettled in areas without access to wood, water, and traditional farming lands.

The Dastkar Ranthambhore Income Generating program was created in 1989 so that displaced villagers did not lose their livelihoods. Today, 360 women from four villages are part of the Dastkar Project, which is completely self-sustaining through the sales of their craftwork. The women even have developed a unique own microloan system, in which they act as their own bank, providing loans to each other.

You can support this incredible project with every tablecloth-napkin purchase at your local Global Exchange store. The tablecloths, which are block-printed with natural dyes, are available in two sizes – 60″ x 60″ and 60″ x 90.” Purchase a tablecloth and four napkins, and we’ll throw in four more napkins, for free. Offer lasts through November 25, 2010.

Want more ideas to help Fair Trade your Harvest Table?

Sustainable teakwood cutting boards from Guatemala for preparing and serving your Fair Trade foods.

Hand-painted dishware from Tunisia.

Vetiver placemats from Bali.

Did you know that the average American consumes more than 700 pounds of paper a year? In fact, the paper industry is the fourth largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
If someone uses three paper napkins each day, 1,095 paper napkins are wasted every year. Multiply that by the American population, and you may see why 25% of landfills consist of paper waste.

One way to reduce your carbon footprint is as simple as switching from paper to cloth napkins. Choosing cloth napkins reduces waste, saves trees, and adds color and beauty to your dinner table!

Come visit your local Global Exchange store this fall and check out our 100% cotton block print tablecloths and napkins. When you buy one set (one tablecloth and four napkins), we’ll throw in four additional napkins for FREE!

Handmade in India, our Fair Trade table linens are created with the ancient technique of “block printing.” The time-consuming process begins with a piece of teak wood, which is intricately carved by a block maker into elaborate designs. The block is dipped into natural dyes of indigo, pomegranate, palm sugar, and other minerals, and pressed firmly onto stretched fabric. Many designs and colors are layered onto the fabric, until the final piece is complete.
Go green this season by switching to cloth napkins!