This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Block-Printing. There are two modes of printing calico, block-print ing and machine-printing. The former has been practiced from time immemorial. The latter is a modern invention. In the case of block-printing, the design of the pattern intended to be printed upon the cloth is cut out upon a block of sycamore, the parts which are to make the impression being left prominent and the rest of the block cut away, just as practised for wood engravings. When the figure is too complicated and the lines too fine to admit of being cut in wood, it is made by means of small pieces of copper, which are driven into the block, and the minute spaces filled up with felt. Several colors may be at once applied on the cloth by means of one block. The block, being pressed against the cloth, takes the color as supplied by rubber tubes and thus produces the pattern. It is an exceedingly slow and tedious process. The printing-block is seldom over one foot square, several hours being required for each color to dry. In machine-printing, as the piece is printed, it passes rapidly over a steam-heated roller and dried in one or two minutes. [See Calico]