The word IKAT is derived from the Indonesian word Mengikat, meaning to tie. It is a technique that employs resist dyeing similar to tie and dye on warp and/or weft threads prior to weaving. Alteration to the bindings and dyeing in more than one colour and removal of all bindings produce multicoloured patterns on weaving.
Ikat weaving is usually of three types: Weft, Warp and Double Ikat.
In the more complex and labour intensive weft ikat, the warp is in plain colours and not tied prior to weaving. The weft threads are tied and dyed and inserted by hand one at a time into the warp to create the fine pattern.
In warp ikat, on the other hand, the warp threads are tied and dyed and laid out on the loom. The pattern is visible on the loom once the bindings are opened. Plain coloured threads are then introduced by a shuttle. This is a much simpler, less time consuming process.
Double Ikat is a technique in which both warp and weft are resist-dyed prior to stringing on the loom. This is mainly produced in India, Japan and Indonesia. The double ikat in Japan is woven in the Okinawa islands where it is called tate-yoko gasuri. In Indonesia it is made in a small village Bali Aga, Tenganan in East Bali. The double ikat of India is predominantly woven in Gujarat and is called patola.
Some famous variants of the ikat technique are practiced in South Asia, India and Latin America.
The Cambodian ikat is a weft ikat woven of silk on a multi-shaft loom with an uneven twill weave which results in the weft threads showing more prominently on the front of the fabric rather than the back. By the 19th century, Cambodian ikat began to be considered among the finest textiles of the world. The most intricately patterned Cambodian fabrics are the sampot hol-skirts worn by local women and the pedans, wall hangings used to decorate the pagoda or the home for special ceremonies. Following the massive disruption and destruction during mid-20th century Indochina wars and especially during the Khmer Rouge regime, most weavers were killed and art of Cambodian ikat was faced imminent danger of disappearing. However, it has since been revived and Khmer Rouge survivors who knew the art have taught it to a new generation of weavers.
In Thailand, the local ikat woven cloth is known as Matmi or ‘Mudmee’ or ‘Mudmi’), which was traditionally woven for daily use among noblemen. It was also used for ceremonial costumes. The Karen and Lawa tribes in Northern Thailand also produce the warp ikat in cotton.
South American ikat textiles (or Jaspe, as referred to by Mayan weavers) are commonly woven on a back-strap loom and pre-dyed warp threads are a common item in traditional markets. A South American innovation also involves employing a round stick around which groups of warp threads are wrapped allowing precise control of the design. This can be seen in the corte, a typical wrap skirt worn by Guatemalan women.
The Odisha Ikat from India is believed to date back to the 12th Century when artisans from the Patan region of modern day Gujarat migrated to the east and settled in Odisha, carrying the craft with them. Odisha Ikat is usually carried out on silk or cotton and usually involves the single or double ikat. Traditionally colors from plants, flowers and barks of trees were used for the process but these have been replaced by chemical dyes now.
With the distinct language of ikat weaving having been adopted across the world, it remains at once both an indigenous product and a symbol of international expression, a fitting representative of global ties and unique ethnic roots.
– By Manika Dhama
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