The origins of blue print

The indigo print or blue print arrived in Europe from the Far East. Printed textiles have been known in China, Japan and India for thousands of years. The representatives of India brought these textiles as presents to the French court where they immediately became fashionable among ladies and the nobles in the 17th century.

A number of countries tried to ban it. It could even bring the death penalty, since such fabrics became serious competitors to the domestic textile industry. It was also banned by the Church as the Devil's work, because experiments with acid resulted in a number of accidents. However, these goods conquered Europe via Dutch harbours.

In Thuringia and France, the plant Isortistunctoria L was found that could replace Indigo. Thus, skipping the dangerous process, blue-print could reach Hungary via Thuringia, Czechie, Slovakia and Austria. Besides its typical blue- white colour combination, yellow, green and red colours were also used. It gained ground mostly in rural areas among farmers and provided a basis for folk dresses in particular areas.

The Hungarian guilds

Guilds were established in the 18th century all around Hungary with the leadership of mostly regions where the German language was spoken. As blue print guilds belonged to the most well off tax payers, in each town intended to establish this new industry in its territory. More than a hundred workshops operated at the turn of the century with a printing technology and patterns that were top secret within the particular guild. This beautiful profession and the workshops were gradually wasted by the international economic crisis, mass production from Austria and the World Wars. Most of the workshops were closed during the Soviet occupation and the patterns were lost.

Blue print today

This beautiful old-new handicraft is under revival nowadays. Eight workshops operate today and they use traditional patterns but also experiment with modern ones. The only blueprint museum in Central Eastern Europe can be found in Papa, Hungary. An old and famous workshop was rebuilt for this purpose and hundreds of patterns are exhibited besides a number of tools and machines.


Indigo dyer at market: Hungary, 1976