The Inventory Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in the Netherlands contains ICH of which the communities, groups or individuals involved have written a safeguarding plan. Those plans are reviewed by an independent review committee. Every three years an evaluation of the safeguarding takes place.


Cotton printing is one of the oldest printing techniques and is done with hand-engraved wooden printing blocks. The printing blocks are used to stamp patterns on paper or textiles (usually cotton, linen or silk fabrics). Internationally, it is also called (wood)block printing. In Europe, printing was traditionally done with 'stick-on' (painter's) paints as a cheap replacement for embroidery, among other things. The intangible cultural heritage of cotton printing consists, besides printing, of the design and manufacture of the wood blocks used for printing and the knowledge of the paints.

Since there are no longer any wood engravers in the Netherlands, the Katoendrukkerij (Cotton Printers) therefore co-operate with, among others, workshops where printing blocks are milled and/or lasered. At the Katoendrukkerij, textile and paper are printed with environmentally friendly synthetic dyes and the largely disappeared practice of printing with natural dyes is being developed.

Cotton printing-block printing is an ideal technique for printing patterns on home textiles or clothing fabrics, and the prints from printing blocks can also be used as a basis for embroidery. For felters, it offers a basis for felting printed fabrics, weavers can print their woven fabrics and quilters print their quilt fabrics or quilt labels. Cotton printing is also a nice technique to use in mixed media (as, for instance rubbing or in combination with gelli-plate as layered print).


The Katoendrukkerij is a centre of expertise in the field of the cotton printing craft. It maintains contacts in the Netherlands with practitioners, specialists and knowledge institutes about the cotton printing craft. It also collects and shares knowledge about the cotton printing craft both in the Netherlands and abroad. In addition, the Katoendrukkerij is a practice area where the craft is practised and where lessons are given in cotton printing. The Katoendrukkerij also develops lessons for primary schools, secondary schools and vocational schools which link up with the learning objectives of the educational system.

In addition, there is a great diversity of (individual) practitioners of cotton printing, who use this printing technique in combination with textiles, paper, and ceramics.


Both in Europe and in Asia people have been printing with hardwood engraved printing blocks for centuries. In Europe, people mainly printed with 'stick-on' paints as a cheap replacement for embroidery. In the 17th century the VOC brought the so-called 'sits' from India to the Netherlands. These cotton fabrics, hand-painted or hand-printed with natural dyes, soon became popular among the well-to-do classes. Initially the fabrics were used as home textiles, but soon afterwards they became a status symbol in fashion. The widely imported cotton was new in the West, as were the colourfast and washable prints with natural dyes. Indigo from India soon replaced the weaker woad from Europe. Throughout Europe, attempts were made to practise the complicated process of cotton printing here as well. The first documented cotton printing factory in Europe was established in Amersfoort in 1678.

Since then, there have been various innovations in the course of time. These are partly in the technical field, partly in the application, partly in the target group and sales area and partly in the design. In the 18th century, this resulted in printing machines such as roller printers and, in the 20th century, for screen printers.

Around 1850, the first synthetic dyes were invented, which made printing easier and faster. While in the period of natural dyes the workshops kept their knowledge secret, there was a worldwide exchange of synthetic dyes later on.

In the last decade, the Katoendrukkerij has developed a flexible and mobile form of cotton printing by means of rollers, stipple sponges and printing mats that make cotton printing easier. By using other materials than hardwood, one is less dependent on the wood engraver and can easily gouge and cut his one’s own printing moulds from softer materials for printing. Due to the decreasing number of wood cutters, who manually make the printing blocks, and technological developments, there is now also a development whereby the printing blocks are made mechanically. Think of 3D printing, laser cutting and milling.


Safeguard actions


  • - Further developing the craft workshop into an expertise centre will contribute to the visibility of the heritage community in the Netherlands.
  • - The website will be kept up to date with knowledge and activities relating to cotton printing.
  • - Conferences, webinars, meetings, and exhibitions will be organised in the Volmolen, the Katoendrukkerij’s own location.
  • - Setting up teaching projects for cotton printing in primary and secondary and vocational schools
  • - Teachers of cotton printing are being trained.
  • - Internships will be offered to students at teachers' colleges for primary education, culture coordinators, art schools, vocational schools, and fashion colleges.
  • - By opening up collections and documentation, (scientific) research into cotton printing will be promoted.
  • - A positive image of the craft of cotton printing will be propagated via social media.
  • - A development will take place into inspiration and innovation place for the creative industry.
  • - The company is going to make content for its own YouTube channel aimed at young people by interviewing the target group on this issue.
  • - Contact will be sought with the Wood and Furnishings College to find possible trainees for woodcarving. And contact will be sought with the Fashion Academy in Amersfoort and Doorn.
  • - The Katoendrukkerij strives to make the (Dutch East India Company) heritage a subject of discussion at events and in cooperation projects.
  • - Work is being done on technical innovation through the application of environmentally friendly or natural dyes.


De Katoendrukkerij