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What is Ikat?

Posted on February 05 2016

Ikat (pronounced “ee-cat”) in its true form is a woven textile that is literally tied-died and woven into an intricate pattern.  This is not your elementary school tie-dye t-shirt project.  That type of tie-dye is done after the fabric is woven or knit together.  For true Ikat, a “master weaver” takes the long threads (warp threads) of the fabric before they’re woven, and ties them in precise locations to produce a pattern.  The weaver uses a technique called resist dyeing, which resists or repels dye from getting on certain parts of the fabric, determined by the weaver.

First, the weaver ties the long threads of the fabric together with string in a precise pattern.

 

Next, the long threads are bound with a waxy material, or sometimes a chemical, that keeps the dye away from areas the designer does not want dyed.

 

 Then the threads are placed in dye and dried.

 

 The wax is moved to a different area and the threads are dyed again according to the pattern desired.

  

Finally, it is ready to be woven!

 

This design has become very popular, and for good reason.  The intricate work that goes into creating this textile is incredible!  True Ikat fabric is pretty expensive, and is typically sourced from India, Indonesia, parts of Japan, and China.  The most interesting fact, and what makes it so remarkable, is the signature “blurriness” of the pattern.  It looks that way because the dying is done with the fibers apart, then they are woven together in the pattern the weaver hoped to achieve.  It would be virtually impossible to line up the dyed fibers perfectly, hence the blurred look.  Now you know!

The popularity has necessarily created a need for mass production, so most consumer fabric stores will carry a printed version of the Ikat pattern.  How can you tell whether you have chosen true Ikat or printed (aside from the cost!)?  Woven Ikat has the pattern on both the front and the back, where the printed version only has the pattern on the front. 

 There you have it – a popular textile demystified.   Sign up on our website to receive more interesting facts about home décor in our next blog or newsletter!

Of course, check out our gorgeous Ikat pillow covers!

 

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