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CRAFTS OF INDIA / IKAT / DESIGNS
IKAT
Ikat – the widespread popularity of the designs

- Oshima Ikat is a unique style of Japanese Ikat. In Oshima, the warp and weft threads are both used as warp to weave stiff fabric, upon which the thread for the Ikat weaving is spot-dyed. Then the mats are unravelled and the dyed thread is woven into oshima cloth.

- Think about a typical patterned textile, say a floral upholstery fabric. When you think about how that pattern is created, you probably picture some sort of printing scenario, where designs are basically stamped onto a piece of blank fabric using dyes or paints, right? That is how block-printed cotton fabrics and toiles and many other kinds of surface-patterned textiles are made. With Ikat, though, the threads are dyed before they are woven into textiles.

- Western cultures have embraced Ikats for centuries. The technique and textiles first came to Europe via Dutch traders in Southeast Asia, Spanish explorers in South America, and from travelers along the Silk Road, where the Uzbek Ikat centers of Samarkand and Bukhara were important stops. In 18th-century France, silk producers seeking an exotic look manufactured an Ikat known as chiné à la branche taffeta. Ikat continues to inspire Western designers of both interiors and fashion, maybe because it is at once indigenous and international, an apt symbol for our global age.

- Woven of silk on narrow looms, strips of Ikat fabric were used to make magnificent robes coveted by tribal leaders; they adorned prized horses and were hung in palaces. Records show that there was no greater gift; in fact, an Ikat robe was worth more than the life of the finest slave. Trade and European travelers brought them west, where they have had a unique influence on the design world ever since.

- In 19th century Bukhara, there were hundreds of workshops dedicated solely to making Ikat threads. The threads were wrapped, dyed, sorted, rewrapped and dyed again; the tie-dye technique produced slightly innacurate color distribution which resulted in the enchanting blurred edges of the finished designs. The more elaborate the pattern, the longer the process before weaving could begin. Ikat designers then hung the threads on simple looms, marking them with patterns passed down through generations of artisans. Weavers charged according to the intricacy of the design. Hundreds of thousands of Ikats were woven in central Asia in the nineteenth century, and exported to countries all along the Silk Road.

- Antique Ikat robes and Ikat fragments are coveted by textile collectors and designers, and add a touch of the exotic to interiors both traditional and modern. The bright, vegetable-dyed colors and graphic patterns are bold and romantic. An Ikat robe becomes a beautiful work of art when hung on a wall. Adding an Ikat pattern to a room, even if it’s just a pillow, demonstrates one’s interest in far-flung travel and exotic cultures, as well as one’s appreciation for the difficult craft of weaving such a complicated piece.

- Today’s designers are reinventing the Ikat, using the ancient techniques and creating fresh designs. Reproduction Ikat designs allow us to use these exciting patterns in ways that we could never use antique fabrics – upholstery, drapery, area rugs and fashion.

Ikat In Fashion Today

Fashion trends may come and go, but Ikat fabrics have always stood the test of time. Many designers and high street brands replicate the look of Ikat with printing or a jacquard woven fabric. An original Ikat can be easily recognised from the faux printed ones, by either looking up close, or simply turning the fabric over! Since Ikats are woven on looms, you can be certain that it is a genuine Ikat if the same design is on the inside of the fabric as well. 

A famous designer has used the Ikat style many times in his designs in his personal collection.

Ikat continues to be a designer favourite as it finds its way into dresses, shirts, fashion accessories and upholstery. Concept clothing is centred around traditional Ikat motifs which is used to create trendy summer outfits and interior products.