Cover Ikat weaver

Ikat: The Ancient Art of a Technique from Indonesia

If you’ve ever been attracted by the incredibly vividly ornamented traditional Indonesian clothes then you must have heard about the ikat technique, which is the main reason why all of the stunning native Indonesian outfits look as gorgeous as they do.

Being an integral part of the Indonesian culture, the art of this old technique that requires lots of energy and manual hard work is still really popular and appreciated. Even some modern and urban fashion trends in this country are inspired by the ikat technique.

Ikat – The Ancient Dyeing Process

Ikat is a pretty interesting dyeing procedure originating from the area of Southeast Asia. Even nowadays you’ll still be able to find a lot of people involved in this ancient procedure and what makes it special is the fact that it represents the way of dyeing the yarn partially, using the different colors and their concentrations.

The yarn can be connected by strips or threads and with the invention of the press, it became possible to print different designs on the foundation before the process of weaving. That way, the yarn is colored in different areas and the fabric which is a product of weaving forms the design that gives you the impression of fading lines and spaces and colorful fusions that resemble different shapes.

Even though the ikat technique is mostly used in Indonesia, this applied art is also available in India, Japan and some places in South and Central America.

Ikat weaver at work

Ikat weaver at work

How Does the Process Look Like?

The ikat dyeing technique can be divided into four basic phases although they may be overlaping.

1.    Providing the Yarn

Ikat patterns for sale

Ikat patterns for sale

The basis for the ikat is the yarn which can be provided in various ways. Some producers use special machines for this purpose and the others prefer handspun cotton. The yarn made of the handspun cotton is more appreciated in Indonesia not only because of the traditional value of the manual work but also because of the special thickness of the cotton that makes the coloration much deeper. Therefore, the colors look even more enriched and vivid.

There are two basic types of ikat based on the method used. The first one is referred to as warp ikat, which consists of wounding the threads vertically around the special frame, and the second one, weft ikat, is based on the horizontal wrapping of the frame by the yarn. However, weft ikat is rarely performed ikat technique. In some cases, producers may combine the warp and the weft, but this is not as common as the warp ikat production.

2.    Tying the Strings

This phase of the ikat production is the slowest and probably the most important segment because the design of the ikat cloth depends on the way of tying the dye resists around the threads that were positioned on the frame during the first phase. It requires a lot of effort, attention, concentration, and therefore, a lot of patience! When all of the threads are positioned on the frame, the resists which are waterproof have to be tied around the threads and that is how the original patterns and visual schemes are being produced.

However, if you thought you just have to tie the yarns and that’s it, you’re wrong. Before starting to tie the yarns, they should be carefully grouped into beams – this provides faster dyeing process since a larger number of the yarns can be dyed at the same time. Only when this is done, the workers can start tying the resists and creating a design of the ikat cloth.