Story of Ikat
Do you love the slightly haphazard look of real ikat fabrics?
Ikat is actually one of the most complicated forms of weaving, and far from random in its process! It is a dyeing and weaving technique that uses a resist process before dyeing the threads. Ikat weaving has a long history on every continent since ancient times and has been practiced in South -East Asia, Japan, India, Indonesia and Central and South America.
Each country and region has its own distinct patterns that imbibe some of the area’s history into the cloth. Traditionally stories and life events are told through textile patterns, motifs and colours. The photos in this story are from our recent travels to Indonesia, where we met with ikat designers, dyers and weavers.
The pattern is created by dyeing either the warp threads or the weft threads or sometimes both – the most difficult form of ikat. The cotton or silk threads are prepared for the loom but then fixed to a frame where they are marked out with the desired pattern.
Groups of threads are bound tightly and masked with tape to prevent colour penetration when dyeing. Threads are then dyed in a dye bath of natural or chemical dye before drying in the sun.
Threads may need to be dyed several times to achieve the colour combination required for each pattern. Small areas can also be dyed using dye and a brush.
After dyeing the magic begins, as the threads are strung onto the loom and the weaver has to place the dyed threads exactly in the right place to form the design when woven, constantly checking and readjusting the weft threads to keep the pattern correct.
In warp ikat only the warp (vertical) threads are dyed before threading on the loom, and the weft threads are woven in a plain colour.
Weft ikat uses plain dyed warp (horizontal) threads and patterned weft threads.
Double ikat is the most complicated form of ikat as both the warp and the weft threads are pre dyed into the pattern before weaving, usually woven on a simple backstrap loom. It is very time consuming and requires a lot of patience!
Today ikat cloth is regaining popularity and its use is highlighted in scarves, dresses, cushions, pillows, bedding, and curtains. It mixes easily to co-ordinate or contrast with other hand made or plain fabrics to create a unique style of décor or fashion.
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