Written by Maria
Feeling blue today? If you know what Ikat is, you may agree that it is not necessarily a bad thing. Coming from the Malay-Indonesian word mengikat (to tie), Ikat is an ancient textile art particularly diffused in Southeast Asia, particularly in China, Indonesia and Thailand.
The technique is complex and time-consuming, mainly consisting in dyeing the cotton yarns before weaving.
Named after such technique, the Ikat fabric can come in a variety of colours and patterns, although one of the most popular variations is the blue-patterned one. Ikat weavers use pigments of indigo, the local plant which famously gives the characteristic colour to denim, to obtain the particularly dense, sky-like blue. This is probably why in Persia Ikat technique is known as abr brandi, which literally means tying the clouds.
Although its origins are highly debated, Ikat is probably one of the most ancient and unique textile techniques of Asia. The earliest historical record was found in China and dates back to the 6th Century, though there is track that the technique has been used in India at least since the 7th century and developed in other Asian Countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.
Surprisingly, Ikat has also widely flourished in Latin American countries such as Peru and Guatemala since ancient times, where it developed independently of the Eastern world.
Ikat was brought to Europe by Dutch and Spanish explorers from Asia and Latin America during Colonialism, started in the 7th Century.
The traditional patterns of Ikat used to be entrenched of spiritual meaning. In particular, Ikat used to be a symbol of wealth. Until recent times, in Southeast Asia only aristocrats were allowed to wear Ikat fabric. The rule, also sanctioned with death punishment, slowly disappeared because of the colonialist pressures to trade and diffuse the product abroad, which led to its largest diffusion in the 20th Century.
Just like batik and tie-dye, Ikat is obtained with a resist-dyeing method, mainly by controlling the colour spread so that it does not reach all the fabric. The purpose is to create the patterns out of the contrast between coloured and uncoloured areas.
The difference between Ikat and other famous resist-dyeing techniques like Batik or Tie-dye, is that dyeing is applied before and not after weaving. First, the design is marked onto the yarns. Then, the unmarked areas are then tied with rubber, wax or other materials, to avoid that the colour penetrates them.
The yarns are then dyed with the use of a straw. Finally, the yarns are untied and woven in the loom. Dyeing is fundamental to the creation of the patterns. A variation of Ikat is double Ikat, where both the warp and the weft are dyed.
If you want to know more about Ikat, watch the following video to see how ikat is made! https://youtu.be/3OAnnvPEOl8
If you have fallen in love with Ikat, please have a look on our new sleek line of blue scarves on InteractChina.com. Enjoy!
About Interact China
“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”
Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.
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