All about Ikat/Double Ikat Fabric & Patterns
Any fabric lover would possess a prized collection of exquisite Ikat fabrics. What makes Ikat so special? Is it the complexity of the weaving process or is it the perfect blend of fuzziness and symmetry in each segment of the fabric? Perhaps everything put together! The purity of the fabric, the intricacy of the patterns speak for themselves.
So what is Ikat?
Derived from the Malay word, Ikat means “tying”. Do not confuse Ikat with the more common tie-dyed fabric. Ikat too involves similar tie dying but the same being done on the yarn than on the fabric. The precise origins of this technique are difficult to track.
A brief history:
In the beginning, Ikat fabrics were mainly made of silk yarn. This made it one of the costliest decorative fabrics available. This made Ikat a symbol of luxury. Then a mix of cotton and silk yarn Ikats were made and then came the lowest priced cotton yarn Ikat which more people could afford. The cotton Ikat is the one which is predominant these days. Organic cotton fabric itself possesses a pure natural feel and when woven by Ikat techniques, it makes the fabric even more special.
The Ikat techniques prevailed and still prevail mostly in South Asia and Central Asia, in particular, in Indonesia, India, and Japan. The weaving techniques have been handed down over generations.
The Ikat technique:
Ikat involves a form of resist-dyeing technique. Yarns are bundled up and tied at appropriate spots with a water resistant material, one that would not absorb the dye. The way it is tied depends on the pattern to be created. The yarn is then dipped in dyes of the chosen colors. The process is repeated till the required pattern is made on the yarn. The places which are tied are the ones that do not absorb the dye and thus the ones that form the pattern. The whole pattern is predetermined and the yarn is planned and dyed accordingly. This yarn is then woven into a fabric such that the pattern falls in place after weaving.
Types of Ikat:
If the process itself sounded too complicated, understand the types of Ikat to appreciate the value of Ikat some more:
- Warp Ikat:
This is the simplest of the 3 types commonly woven. The warp yarn is the vertically aligned threads that are fixed to the loom. If the warp yarn is dyed and the weft yarn is retained as one in a solid color, it is called warp Ikat. Popular warp Ikat patterns have vertical symmetry.
- Weft Ikat:
Weft yarn or the woof yarn is the one that is hand woven through the warp threads. This is the horizontally woven thread in the fabric. For the weft Ikat fabric, the warp yarn is in solid colors while the weft yarn is dyed with required pattern. Achieving a desired pattern in the weft yarn is more challenging. Once the thread completes one loop, it is adjusted to align the pattern in place before the next loop is woven.
- Double Ikat:
This is the most expensive and the most beautiful Ikat fabric. The finishing pattern is obtained by suitably dyeing both warp and weft yarns. Then when they are woven in place, the final pattern slowly forms. Evidently, this is the most complicated technique and involves a laborious process. The purest and the neatest double Ikat fabric can only be woven by the exceptionally skilled weavers.
Quick facts about Ikat fabrics:
- In the past, Ikat fabrics were considered so precious that people would trade slaves in exchange of Ikat fabrics.
- As Ikat was considered a symbol of class in the society, it was even used once as a currency in trading
- The sight of the final designs falling in place in the loom as the weaving process begins is purely magical
- The Patola sarees which are popular in India are made in traditional double Ikat techniques mainly in Gujarat.
- A single piece of Ikat fabric takes months to be completed. A Patola saree often takes 6 months or even a year to be fully woven. This is what makes them so unique.
- The craftsmanship of the Ikat fabric should be seen to be better understood.
Ikat is one fabric that has almost never gone out of trend. You can see Ikat fabric outfits rule the ramp even today. This is because of the sheer magnificence of the fabric. Ikat patterns have a signature blurriness in their pattern. Tighter patterns with no blurriness are the most expensive. These are the ones that are the most difficult to weave. Ikat patterns continue to remain as inspirations for several dyed fabric used by renowned designers. This continues to be one of the most popular and sought after decorative textiles ever. The prints and patterns of Ikat have been so impressive that there are bags, accessories and western outfit made with these patterns and prints.
Ikat sarees- Sambalpuri sarees:
Among the traditional Ikat sarees, one of the most popular and oldest ones is the Sambalpuri saree. Sambalpuri sarees are double Ikat sarees. Sambalpuri sarees were popularized by the Government in order to help retain this traditional handloom art. Sambalpuri sarees come in a lot of varieties like Pasapali, Sonepuri, Bapta and Barpali. The pure beauty of the Sambalpuri sarees is what makes them so popular. Most of them come with geometric patterns, flowers and other traditional motifs. Each Sambalpuri sari takes even months to be hand woven. These sarees come in a variety of lively colors and a mix of contemporary and traditional patterns. They are easy to care and very comfortable to wear. Both Silk & Cotton fabrics are available.
Ikat, with its simplistic grandeur sure, can be a great gift. But when you buy Ikat fabric, sarees or other clothing, beware of the fakes:
- Original Ikat patterns are obtained by dyeing the yarn. So the patterns appear on both sides of the fabric. Imitations might be made by dyeing the fabric and thus might have the prints vividly only on one side.
- Ikat with some amount of blurriness would be a little less expensive than those which are not blurry.
- Be careful about where you buy Ikat fabric and Patola sarees from. Only when you are able to purchase them from traditional weavers through reliable retailers can you be sure that it is genuine Ikat.
Caring for your Ikat:
If it is such a prized possession, you would definitely want to give it the care it deserves.
- Remember that like any other dyed fabric, Ikat too might bleed colors. So wash them separately in cold water.
- Do not use harsh detergents on the fabric
- They do not require dry cleaning. Normal gentle wash would suffice.
- Avoid drying them under direct harsh sunlight to prevent the chances of fading of the colors.
An Ikat fabric is a versatile decorative piece which is cheerful and sophisticated. Have a look at our collection of hand woven Ikat cushion covers if you are looking to transform your living room with some Ikat magic. We also have a large collection of graceful cotton Ikat sarees which make unique gifts for any occasion.
Few exclusive patterns in our collections:
Hope you like this blog on Ikat - Warp, Weft, Double - all about Tie-Die technique. If any comment, questions, please let us know.