What is "ikat"?

Ikat India

Ikat is is a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles that uses resist dyeing on the yarns prior to dyeing and weaving the fabric.  It is one of the oldest forms of textile decoration, dating back millennia, and can be found in many cultures all over the world.  Ikat is most commonly found in Indonesia, India, Japan, Guatemala, Thailand and Uzbekistan but also exists in North and South America, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and Africa. As opposed to other resist dyeing techniques, such as batik, ikat is done prior to weaving the fabric, where as batik is done after the fabric is already woven.  

Ikat resist tying before dyeing

Ikat dyeing

Ikat designs can be on the warp, weft, or both warp and weft, known as double ikat. The end design pattern of the ikat is drawn on the threads prior to dyeing and the threads are then bundled and tightly wrapped following this pattern.  They are then dipped in the dye as many times as it takes to create the pattern.  Once the threads are dyed, they are lined up on the loom but have to be placed exactly as before dyeing in order to create the desired patterns.  It's a very complicated process that takes a lot of skill and craftsmanship.  Double ikat is, by far, the hardest to dye and weave, as the design has to be placed on both the warp and weft fabrics and must be constantly readjusted when weaving by hand to maintain the clarity of the pattern.  Because of the hand-dyed and woven nature of these fabrics, they may have some blurry edges on the pattern or subtle adjustments in the weave.

Double ikat weaving - photo credit Heritage Weaves

We stock many single warp ikats and double ikats from India on Sandalwood Fabrics online shop.  We value the artistry and craftsmanship that these fabrics require and believe it's important to continue supporting generations of weavers as they uphold this craft.  

Dboule ikat