I am addicted to fabrics. From Thai silks to Indian stamped fabrics, the world of fabrics has been my paradise. Needless to say, when ikat fabrics came into a trend I was very curious about them. In the past 10 years I have seen ikat fabrics online being used by high fashion designers (Oscar de la Renta) to tantalize the world and interior designers for adding a glimpse of chic ikat effect to their interiors. Mesmerized with bold ikat patterns and colors I set myself on an adventure to explore ikats. |
Ikat is a fabric made using a technique of tying and dying fabrics in a certain way to create a desired pattern. The process is entirely manual, extremely time consuming and requires a lot of precision. You can tell how many times the fabric was tied and dyed by the number of colors in a pattern. Basically, ikat fabric tying and dying steps are as follows:
1. Tie a yarn to close the areas you don’t want to be effected by a dye 2. Submerge the yarn in dye – only untied areas will be dyed 3. Repeat 1 and 2 for each pattern color
This manual or rather natural process of ikat fabric making is clearly one of the reasons why the world is so obsessed with ikat fabrics in our mass production days – each weave of the ikat fabric has a human touch. In fact, some ikat fabrics are made without any use of machinery but that’s a topic for a whole new article.
As a “buyer beware” note I should add here – not all ikats are trueikats! In efforts to reduce time and costs, the world started replicating ikat patterns using printing technique. So, yes, you will get an ikat pattern but that fabric does not qualify as “true ikat” which was made using a real ikat making technique.
It is unclear when the ikatsoriginated and it is most likely that the ikat technique developed independently in different parts of the world. The boldest ikat patterns I have seen have been Uzbekistan ikats – their patterns are larger yet very intricate and the colors are much bolder and brighter - think of hot pinks and tropical greens! Indonesian ikat patterns, on the other hand, are more detailed, delicate and are usually in deeper tones – think of rich reds, yellows and browns.
Youcan not appreciate the beauty of ikat fabrics unless you feel them. If you have not done that, go to a fabric store and or a home décor store, which may carry unique fabrics from exotic lands and worship the workmanship. The content of fibers used in Uzbekistanikat fabrics is usually a mix of silk and cotton, which yields this luxurious organic fabric. There are also pure silk ikats which are usually more expensive and are used for making hand woven silk scarves or gowns. There are also pure cotton or other fiber blend fabrics depending on an ikat producing culture. One thing they all have in common – they use natural fibers and it makes sense – ikat making tradition goes to the days when synthetic fibers did not exist.
So if you ask me what makes ikat fabrics so cool, I would say – warmth of human hands felt in every yarn of simple, natural yet so incredibly luxurious fabrics.
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