Traditional processes to which handlooms are subjected to, yield fascinating outcomes that both generate interest in the art, and also add considerable value to the fabric in question owing to the obvious effort and the intricacies that are involved. Perhaps, one of the most popular and widely sought after artistic crafts since traditional times, adorning Indian ethnic fabrics with its unique and classy outcomes, is the ikat process.
Ikat, or Ikkat, is a dyeing technique wherein dye resistant bindings or substances resisting dye penetration are applied over cloth yarn fibres in pre-determined patterns and then the threads are dyed. The resulting creation after the weaving of the threads would expectedly surface in a lyrical colour extravaganza of finesse and precision. The determining characteristic of ikat is the dyeing of patterns, through the use of resist bindings on the threads prior to the weaving of the fabric. More the precision in the application of the resist bindings, finer would be the pattern formed.
The basic steps in ikat processing are:
The Ikat technique allows the weaver to prepare precisely the exact pattern of colors on the finished fabric by wrapping sections of the yarn with rubber strips before dipping it in select dyes. The rubber strips used for tying are a modern innovation replacing the traditional method of tying with coarse cotton thread.
The use of resist or barrier to protect certain portions of the yarn or cloth from the dye is a way of enabling several colors to be used on the same textile. There are several resist techniques, such as tie and dye and wax resist batik. But in the Ikat technique, the resist is applied not to the woven fabric, but to the yarn before it is woven. This process involves careful sorting of threads before and after dyeing, and meticulous arrangement of warp and weft threads, so that the pre-dyed sections appear at the right place in the design.
Alteration of bindings and using more than one colour for dyeing produces multi-coloured thread effect. Removal of the bindings and the subsequent weaving of the threads would form the desired pattern woven in the fabric.
Ikat is a near universal weaving style common to many world cultures. Likely, it is one of the oldest forms of textile decoration. India, Japan and many South-East Asian nations have weaving cultures with long histories of Ikat production.