Lately, I’ve been drooling over ikat, the beautiful and and intricately patterned textiles from Indonesia. I learned about the weaving process when I was 13 and traveling with my family in Bali, although I don’t think I understood quite how much work went into the pieces of cloth my mom was buying up.
While perhaps Indonesian ikat (ee-kaht) is the most well-known for its quality and beauty, the weaving technique can be found in different cultures throughout Asia and South Africa. What distinguishes ikat from one part of the world to another are different weaving styles and patterns, some of which have ethnic, tribal or ritual meanings.
What makes ikat unique is the method used to dye individual threads. The word ‘ikat’ comes from the Malaysian word meaning ‘to tie’ because the threads are tied into bundles using grasses or waxed cotton to repel dye in certain areas.
The threads are then painstakingly woven to together so the correct colors align and form an intricate pattern.
Within the cultures that produced them, ikats were typically status symbols because of the skill and time their production required.
Last week I bombarded my mom in her home to pour over her collection. I love the deep, dark tones borne from the natural dyes and the hazy patterns that form from the dye seeping into the resist areas. And I’m no the only one to be so smitten. Ikat and ikat-style patterns are trending (as much as something so ancient can be!) in fashion, furniture and accessories.
What sets the real deal apart, however, from the block -printed cotton made to replicate the ikat pattern, is that every piece of a true ikat is absolutely one-of-a-kind. Just like you.