Here's How to Identify Authentic Kalamkari Fabric

Kalamkari is a traditional form of hand-painted fabric, originating from India’s southern regions. Its unique design and craftsmanship make it highly sought after by textile lovers around the world. Its intricate patterns, vibrant colours, and unique motifs have captivated many. But how can you tell if the fabric you’re looking at is an authentic piece of Kalamkari or not? In this blog, we are taking a glance at the characteristics and techniques used to identify genuine Kalamkari fabric.

There are two main types of kalamkari fabric: pen and block painted. Original kalamkari fabric is made using a block printing method, where a design is carved into a block of wood and then dipped in dye. The dye is then transferred to the fabric, creating a unique pattern. Pen kalamkari fabric is made using a stenciling method, where a design is drawn onto a piece of cloth and then dyed. To understand how to identify the original kalamkari we have to understand these two methods in detailedly.

Machilipatnam Kalamkari and Srikalahasti Kalamkari

Machilipatnam Kalamkari

Machilipatnam Kalamkari :

The fun fact about the Machilipatnam Kalamkari is that Srikalahasti Kalamkari originated for religious purposes, while Masulipatnam Kalamkari developed from the necessity to trade with other nations.  The Machilipatnam Kalamkari is recognized as adorned with motifs, hand-printed using blocks. These blocks are hand-carved with intricate designs in wood, and the carved woods were filled in with vegetable dyes. The Machilipatnam kalamkari fabrics are now world-renowned for their block-printed patterns, displaying their flawless prints and intricate patterns.

Srikalahasti Kalamkari :

Srikalahasti kalamkari sarees are one of Fabric by Singhania's specialties. We are in love with Srikalahasti kalamkari; the hand-painted sceneries and patterns with eye-catching details seize everyone's attention. 

A handpainted kalamkari saree carries stunningly intricate and breathtaking scenery on it. It is believed that Kalamkari was first used to depict scenes from holy books such as the Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Bhagavatam. With earthy colours of natural dyes, an artisan can display all his imagination in the woven canvas, which we all know as kalamkari fabric.

How to identify an authentic Pen Kalamkari Fabric. 

Pen Kalamkari fabric is usually made from natural fibres such as cotton or silk, and the colours are derived from vegetable dyes. The most distinguishing characteristic of Pen Kalamkari fabric is the intricate and detailed patterns that are created using a pen-like tool. This tool is dipped in colour and then used to draw on the fabric. The colours are usually very earthy, and the designs can be quite complex.

The main reason for authentic pen kalamkari to be in earth colours is hidden in its dyes. It's very difficult to get vibrant colours using natural dyes. The vibrant colour kalamkari fabrics you see in the market or online are primarily curated with chemical dyes. 

The most general screen and digitally printed kalamkari fabrics are the ones that look perfect and flawless; the painted colours have perfect strokes not sloping out of the borders, while the authentic hand-painted kalamkari fabrics have irregularities. The uneven stripes, smudged paint, and tiny stains are the indications to look out for in a piece of authentic kalamkari fabric. These imperfections are what add to the charm of the pen Kalamkari fabric.

The smell of fabric is also a significant way to identify the original Kalamkari fabric. The original kalamkari will smell like milk, in the process of making it dyed in many natural dyes that eventually give the fabric a unique aroma. So next time, when you will go to buy a pen kalamkari fabric track for these authentic signs.

How to identify an authentic Block Printed Kalamkari Fabric. 

Original kalamkari fabric is made using a block printing method, where a design is carved into a block of wood and then dipped in dye. The dye is then transferred to the fabric, creating a unique pattern. 

There are a few ways that you can use to identify an original block printed kalamkari. First, you'll want to look at the print itself. The design will have a specific pattern and there will be no difference in the pattern. It can be intricate or simple, but there will be a repetitiveness to it. If the print is sharp and clear, it's likely to be a digitally printed kalamkari. If the print is fuzzy or blurred, it's likely because of the natural dye and hand block technique. 

Finally, you can ask an expert! If you take your kalamkari to someone who knows a lot about it, they'll be able to tell you for sure if it's real or not. The easiest way to get an original block printed Kalamakr fabric is to buy through a well established brand or seller.

Fabric by Singhanias is the household name for authentic hand-painted kalamkari fabrics. With each day passing by, our artisans and we are working hard to keep the legacy of Kalamkari alive.