History of woodblock printing on textiles

500 B.C. Mesopotamia. After all, with these 2 sentences an article about the history of woodblock printing on textiles can start and end.

In such a way it became a technique of decorating clothes and household items with the help of special carved boards, forms, wooden clichés, machines, etc.


If we briefly go through the historical and geographical chronology, we will quickly get to Ukraine:

  • India is an old manufacturer of woodblock printed fabrics. Wooden blocks with ornaments were found there.
  • China – 400 B.C. fabrics were decorated with woodblock printing, using earth pigments.
  • The technique reached Japan in the 3rd-4th centuries. B.C.
  • Later fabrics decorated with woodblock printing were brought to Europe through travels and trade relations with Arab merchants.


Ukraine! – the woodblock printing technique appeared in the 11th century. A stone tile in the shape of a circle with a round handle on the upper side was found in the excavations of the gord in the village of Raiky in Zhytomyr region. On the lower side there is a carved ornament. This is a block printing tile for decorating fabrics with paints. And in Chernihiv region scraps of fabrics with elements of woodblock printing from the 11th century were discovered.


It is known that the hand woodblock printing technique was widespread among the Drevlians in the times of Kyivan Rus. Before the well-known “burning misunderstanding” arose between the Drevlians and Prince Igor, and later Princess Olha, the Drevlians had been known as good masters of “krashannia” (“dyeing”) – dyeing of home-woven cloth.


That is why such masters were called “krashennyky” (“dyers”), from the word combination “krashena tkanyna”, “krashenyna” (“dyed fabric”). After being dyed, cloth was decorated with ornaments.



In the 15th century the city of Krolevets, Sumy region, was considered the center of the art of woodblock printing on textiles. Because precisely here craftsmen and craftswomen improved techniques and invented new patterns. Thus stylized birds, trees, flowers, squares and rhombuses associated with the people’s spiritual rituals are mentioned – all this was depicted on fabrics.


Woodblock printing on textiles was used to decorate household items: pillows, duvets, window curtains; of course, to decorate clothes as well. Striped or checkered motifs were applied onto men’s pants. And flowers, leaves, geometric shapes, birds, etc. were applied onto women’s skirts, zapaskas (aprons), etc.

In the 19th century woodblock printing on textiles became popular in the west of Ukraine, in Yavoriv district, Lviv region.


Linen, hemp, occasionally cotton or silk fabrics were used here as cloth for patterns. And the patterns were applied with natural dyes:

  • black from the soot of coniferous trees
  • red from cochineal insects
  • blue from the mixture of indigo and white lead
  • brown from the mixture of ocher and tin.


To apply two or three-color ornaments, a separate board was made for each color.


On the skirts from Yavoriv district one could notice scenes: here are the whole compositions of plants, twigs, petals, fruits or mushrooms.


The Boykos (an ethnolinguistic sub-group of Ukrainians located in the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland) had another interesting thing. Here the craftsmen and craftswomen who were engaged in woodblock printing on textiles were called “dymkari” or “painters”. Because they sewed skirts for everyday use mainly from woodblock printed fabrics. Such a skirt was called a “dymka”.


Дякуємо за допомогу у підготовці  статті  Дутці Вікторії, кандидатці мистецтвознавства, доцентці кафедри декоративного мистецтва Косівського інституту прикладного та декоративного мистецтва