Ikat: a fabric imbued with magical powers

Ikat is a near universal weaving style common to many world cultures. Likely, it is one of the oldest forms of textile decoration. The origin of the Ikat style fabric is unknown, but probably was woven independently by many cultures the world over at the same period of history, such is the alchemy of creation.

Ikat orginated as an Indonesian language word, which depending on context, can be the nouns: cord, thread, knot and the finished ikat fabric as well as the verbs “to tie” or “to bind”

The defining characteristic of ikat is the dyeing of patterns, by means of bindings, into the threads before cloth construction, the weaving of the fabric, takes place.

In Central and South America, what is labeled as ikat is still common in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico.

In the 19th century, the Silk Road desert oases of Bukhara, Samarkand, Hotan and Kashgar (in what is now Uzbekistan and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous in Central Asia) were famous for their fine silk Uzbek/Uyghur ikat. Ikat floral patterns are traditionally used in Europe on Mallorca, Spain.

India, Japan and many South-East Asian nations such as Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines and Thailand have weaving cultures with long histories of Ikat production.

Double ikat is still endemic to Guatemala, India, Japan and Indonesia: specifically: Bali, Java, Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sumatra.

Ikat weaving styles vary widely. Many design motifs may have ethnic, ritual or symbolic meaning or have been developed for export trade. Traditionally, ikat are symbols of status, wealth, power and prestige. Because of the time and skill involved in weaving ikat, some cultures believe the cloth is imbued with magical powers.

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A stack of Indigo Asian Ikat at a vintage fabric dealers stall in the Brimfield Antique Market.

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Irving and Fine Ikat Tunics from India

One thought on “Ikat: a fabric imbued with magical powers

  1. Pingback: To Dye for Ombre | Daily Brilliant

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