Blueprint: A craft with tradition

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A lukewarm breeze and sunshine - the conditions for "blue-and-white" things could not be more perfect, says Joseph Ko贸, and ties his work apron over. 25 meters of fabric are to be dyed and then brought to dry on a leash. The weather must be friendly - and not for lounging, for which the "Blaumachen" is colloquially. Incidentally, the phrase actually comes from the profession of blueprints, more precisely, because they used to have to take breaks in the dyeing process between the individual operations.

Indigo - an expressive color

This is still the case in Joseph Ko贸's workshop in Burgenland south of Vienna. For the Austrian is still working traditionally with indigo. The dye from India slowly unfolds in the air when it reacts with oxygen: The cotton towels, which are drawn after the first ten-minute dive from a stone vat with indigo solution, first look yellow and then green and finally blue. The fabric has to rest for ten minutes before returning to the so-called "vat". And this alternating bath is repeated six to ten times: "Depending on how dark the blue should be," says Joseph Ko贸, "and so that it does not fade when washing later".

Blueprint first dive

First dive: Rolled up on a star tire, the fabric is lowered

In any case, it is wonderfully clinging to his hands, as well as on the floorboards of the workshop. He grew up here - in part between museum-ready implements and fabric panels. He even remembers exactly how he perceived the smell of indigo as a child: "earthy and very own". His father taught him to dye - and his grandfather, who founded the workshop in 1921. "Blue was once the color of the poor people, and the farmers from Burgenland wore a plain blue apron in the field." The typical white patterns, which are also handmade, were only seen on festive days or in the church, because such decorated clothes were intended for special occasions.

A slow technique in fast paced times

In the 1950s, when Joseph Ko贸's father took over the workshop, the blueprint seemed threatened with extinction. Many factories had to close because they could no longer keep up when state-of-the-art machines were able to produce synthetic fiber textiles with all imaginable colors and decors within minutes. "With the traditional procedure, treatment with indigo alone takes four to five hours," says the blue printer, as he lowers the fabric-covered star wheel for the second time into the vat. And it is not even included in how the patterns actually come to the surface.

Blueprint final dive

After ten baths, the blue has the desired tone. Next, the cardboard is washed out. He dissolves in hot water

This happens before dyeing: If cotton or linen are still snow-white, those areas are printed that will not turn blue later in the indigo bath: with a sticky, color-repellent paste, the "cardboard". "It's mostly gum arabic and clay," says Joseph Ko贸, adding with a grin, "But the exact recipe is as secret as that of the original Sachertorte."

Blue print strewn flower motif

Blue print cornflower motive

Scattering flowers (left) and stripes are produced on the roller printing machine. The detailed cornflower bouquet (right) is a model motif

Artful models serve him as a stamp. And so under his skilled hands flower after flower joins the cotton ground, which is to become a tablecloth: Press model into the cardboard, put it on the fabric and tap it hard with both fists. Then immerse again, put on, tap - until the middle surface is filled. The approaches between the individual sample lots must not be visible. "That requires a lot of sensitivity," says the experienced master of his subject, "one learns this gradually like a musical instrument". For the border of the ceiling, he chooses another model from his collection, which includes a total of 150 old and new printing blocks. Dive in, put on, knock - nothing bothers his steady rhythm.

Picture gallery: The blueprinting by Joseph Ko贸

Blueprint old company sign

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Blueprint: A craft with tradition: craft

Blueprint: A craft with tradition: blue

Blueprint: A craft with tradition: blueprint


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Blue print (9)

Blueprint: A craft with tradition: Joseph

The dyer's shield used to be on the stall when the Ko贸 family offered their goods at the weekly market

Blueprint: A craft with tradition: blueprint

The vats are four meters deep with their mixture of indigo, water and lime. The day before the "Blaumachen" Joseph Ko贸 is about five liters for 25 meters of cotton added. The whole thing he stirs several times and leaves it overnight

Blueprint: A craft with tradition: blueprint

After every move, a dash on the blackboard indicates dyeing progress

Blueprint: A craft with tradition: fabric

After the dive in indigo solution, the fabric is pulled out of the stone vat. In the air, the fabric turns from yellow to green and finally blue

Blueprint: A craft with tradition: blueprint

The term "blue print" is actually misleading, because the print pattern made of cardboard looks green and keeps the white underneath in the indigo bath - it "reserves" so to speak, which is why the process is also called "reserve pressure". Before dyeing, the cardboard has to dry for three weeks - for this the fabrics come on a leash

Blueprint: A craft with tradition: tradition

With a model color-repellent "cardboard" is applied to fabric and washed out again after dyeing. Only then will the white pattern appear on a blue background

Blueprint: A craft with tradition: tradition

Brass pins on the wooden stick emit filigree printed ornaments. Some models are 200 years old

Blueprint: A craft with tradition: craft

The reels are treasured like precious treasures, because there is hardly anyone who makes new ones

Blueprint: A craft with tradition: tradition

Meterware is not printed with models, but with rollers on a machine that came in 1936 as a vintage car in the workshop. It is probably the last hand-operated model that is still in operation

Blueprint: A craft with tradition: fabric

Bags and dresses made of blue-printed fabric are again very popular today

Blueprint old company sign

Four meters deep are the vases for the blue print

Blue print dyeing steps

After the dive in indigo solution, the fabric is pulled out of the stone vat

The printed pattern made of cardboard looks green

With a model, color-repellent

Print ornament for blueprint

Blueprint rolling

By the meter is not printed with models, but with rollers on a machine

Printed with blue print bag


When the blueprint came in Europe in the 16th century, elaborately embroidered and woven fabrics were in vogue. The blue print, on the other hand, received the reputation of poor people art. Its spread in the 18th and 19th centuries, he owes to the fact that the journeymen then went to the Walz. To date, only a few workshops have survived - but in times when manual labor is valued again, blueprints turn into upmarket goods. You will find the Ko艂a Blauddruckerei in Neugasse 14, A-7453 Steinberg (Austria).

Indigo: Dye for the blue print

Before one could artificially create colors, one painted and colored ones with plants. Blue fabrics used to be produced with the help of the dyer's wool (Isatis tinctoria). The dye of the yellow-flowering, up to 120 centimeters high, two-year-old plants is contained in the leaves and is dissolved with alcohol and salt. Pickled fabrics first turn yellow-brown. Only when drying outdoors they are blue by sunlight and oxygen. A deeper blue produces indigo, a dye that can be obtained from the eponymous indigo plant (Indigofera tinctoria). The extraction of the plant dye from the indigo plant can be detected until ancient times. Indigo was still rare in Europe until the 12th century, with smaller quantities being imported from India. Today Indigo is cultivated in Brazil and El Salvador.

Video Board: Blueprint Tradition versus Modernity.

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