Making of Ikat
A HAZY BEAUTY
Ikat is an age-old technique of patterning cloth. The word itself derives
from the Malay-Indonesian ‘mengikat’, meaning to tie or bind.
The making of the pattern consists in the precise tying and dying
of the threads before weaving. It’s a process demanding skill,
patience, organisation and precision yet its beauty, antithetically,
lies in the impossibility of perfect execution and the consequent
hazy, slightly blurred edges of the motifs.
It is this haziness that defines ikat textiles, from the richly coloured
silks of Uzbekistan and detailed saris of Gujarat to the exquisite,
painstakingly fine indigo-dyed kasuri fabrics of Japan.
Whilst all ikat techniques are complex, involving the tying,
dyeing, untying, re-tying and dyeing again of threads, in precise
colours and positions, they vary in level and fall into three distinct
types: warp ikat, weft ikat and double ikat.
Warp ikat is the simplest of the three techniques, involving the
dying of the warp threads, while the weft threads remain a single,
solid colour. Weft ikat is a more sophisticated process, involving
the dying of the weft threads, which must then be carefully woven
in the correct order through the single coloured warp. Double ikat
is the most prestigious and expensive of them all. For this both the
warp and weft threads are tied and dyed and then skilfully lined
up on the loom, a painstakingly slow process requiring immense
patience. Double ikat is only woven in India, Bali and Japan.
The characteristic haziness of the textile is an inevitable result of
the intricate dying process for, however skilled the weaver – and
weavers of ikat cloth are some of the most highly skilled of all –
the fabric ties binding the skeins of thread will always imperfectly
resist the dye. Thus the delineation between those areas that have
taken the dye, and those that have not, can never be perfectly
defined – there will always be a slight area of overlap between
And yet it is because of this imperfect, hazy beauty that we love
this textile. There is fluidity, a soft sense of movement and almost
painterliness to ikat patterns – as though pigments have bled
through and into one another. And there is a liveliness and spirit
to the cloth, its small imperfections and variations recalling the
hand of its maker.
Our ikats have been woven by master weavers in India using
traditional techniques passed down through generations. For the
summer we have woven double and single ikats: small motifs in
soft, blue-ish greys and bright, multi-coloured ikat checks.