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Ikat, or Ikkat, is a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles that employs a resist dyeing process on the warp fibres, the weft fibres, or in the rare and costly 'double ikat' both warp and weft, prior to dyeing and weaving.
In ikat, the resist is formed by binding bundles of threads with a tight wrapping applied in the desired pattern. The threads are then dyed. The bindings may then be altered and the thread bundles dyed again with another color to produce elaborate, multicolored patterns. When the dyeing is finished the bindings are removed and the threads are woven into cloth. In other resist-dyeing techniques such as tie-dye and batik, the resist is applied to one face of the woven cloth, whereas in ikat the threads are dyed before weaving, and both faces are essentially identical in appearance.
Ikat is most characteristic of Indonesia, though ikats have also been woven in India and central Asia. Double ikats are produced in a few places including the Okinawa islands of Japan, the village of Tenganan in Bali, and the villages of Puttapaka and Bhoodan Pochampally in India.
In warp ikat the patterns are clearly visible in the warp threads on the loom even before the plain colored weft is introduced to produce the fabric. Warp ikat is, amongst others, produced in Indonesia; more specifically in Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Sumatra by respectively the Dayaks, Torajans and Bataks.
In weft ikat it is the weaving or weft thread that carries the dyed patterns which only appear as the weaving proceeds. In weft ikat the weaving proceeds much slower than in warp ikat as the passes of the weft must be carefully adjusted to maintain the clarity of the patterns.
Double Ikat is a technique in which both warp and the weft are resist-dyed prior to stringing on the loom. Double ikat is only produced in three countries: India, Japan and Indonesia. The double ikat of Japan is a type of kasuri. It is woven in the Okinawa islands where it is called tate-yoko gasuri. In Indonesia it is only made in one small Bali Aga village, Tenganan in east Bali. The double ikat of India is predominantly woven in Gujarat and is called patola and it is also woven in Puttapaka, Nalgonda District, India and is called Puttapaka Saree.
Ikat is 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". It has a direct etymological relation to Javanese language of the same word. Thus, the name of the finished ikat woven fabric originates from the tali (threads, ropes) being ikat (tied, bound, knotted) before they are being put in celupan (dyed by way of dipping), then berjalin (woven, intertwined) resulting in a berjalin ikat- reduced to ikat.
The introduction the term ikat into European language is attributed to Rouffaer. Ikat is now a generic English loan-word to describe either or both the process and the cloth itself- wherever and however the fabric may be woven or stylized through ethnic or the weaver's motives.
Linguistically, strictly speaking: the plural of ikat in Indonesian remains ikat. However, in English suffix plural ('s') is commonly affixed, as in ikats and similarly in other languages. All are correct, though for orthography, this article favours the original Indonesian.
Ikat is a weaving style common to many world cultures. Likely, it is one of the oldest forms of textile decoration.
Ikat floral patterns are traditionally used in Europe on Mallorca, Spain.
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.
As woven fabric rarely survives for more than a few centuries it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine where the technique of ikat originated. It probably developed in several different locations independently. Ikat was known to be produced in several pre-Columbian Central and South American cultures.
Uyghurs call it atlas (in IPA [ɛtlɛs]), and it is used only for woman's clothing. It is recorded that there were 27 types of etles during Qing occupation. Now there are only 4 types of Uyghur atlas remaining, namely Qara-atlas (Darayi, black color ones, used for older women clothing), Khoja'e-atlas (includes yellow, blue, purple colors; used for married women), Qizil-atlas (red color; used for girls) and Yarkant-atlas (Khan-atlas). Yarkant-atlas has more style; During Yarkant Khanate (16th century), it had ten different styles.
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Ikat created by dyeing the warp are simpler to make than either weft ikat or double ikat. First the material, be it cotton, silk, wool or other, is tied into bundles. The bundles may be covered with wax (as per batik, where however the resist is applied to whole cloth, not to separate threads), wrapped tightly with thread or some other dye-resistant material- to prevent unwanted dye permeation. The resist dye procedure is repeated depending on the colouration desired of the warp bundle. Multiple colouration is common requiring multiple tying and retying. The newly dyed and thoroughly washed bundles are tied as the warped (longitudinal strings) onto the loom. The patterns are usually decided by the weaver as the warp threads are tied. Warp threads are adjusted for the desired alignment for precise motifs.
Some styles of ikat favour a blurred appearance. South American and Indonesian ikat are known for such high degree of warp alignment that it may resemble printed, rather than woven cloth. Weavers must adjust the warp repeatedly to maintain pattern alignment. The skill lies in the weaver's acting essentially as a selective heddle who selectively manually picks up warp threads before passing the shuttle through the resultant "mini- shed".
Patterns result from a combination of the warp dye and the weft thread colour. Commonly vertical-axis reflection or "mirror-image" symmetry is used to provide symmetry to the pattern- more simply: whatever pattern or design is woven on the right, is duplicated on the left in reverse order, or at regular intervals, about a central warp thread group. Patterns can be created in the vertical, horizontal or diagonal.
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As the weft is commonly a continuous strand aberrations or variation in colouration are cumulative. Weft ikat are commonly employed where pattern precision is of less aesthetic concern than the overall resultant fabric. Some patterns become transformed by the weaving process into irregular and erratic designs. Guatemalan ikat is well-noted for its beautiful "blurs" in colouration.
The precise images of Japanese kasuri ikat are fine examples of weft ikat.
This form of weaving requires the most skill for precise patterns to be woven and is considered the premiere form of ikat. The amount of labour and skill required also make it the most expensive, and many poor quality imitations flood the tourist markets. Indian and Indonesian examples typify highly precise double ikat. Especially prized are the double ikats woven in silk known in India and Indonesia as patola (singular: patolu). These were typically from Gujarat (Cambay) and used as prestigious trade cloths during the peak of the spice trade.
In Indonesia double ikat is only woven in the Bali Aga village of Tenganan. These cloths have high spiritual significance. In Tenganan they are still worn for specific ceremonies. Outside Tenganan, geringsing are treasured as they are purported to have magical powers.
The double ikat of Japan is woven in the Okinawa islands and is called tate-yoko gasuri.
The Puttapaka Saree is made in Puttapaka village, Samsthan Narayanpuram mandal in Nalgonda district, India. It is known for its unique style of silk saris. The symmetric design is over 200 years old. The Ikat is warp-based. The Double Ikat Puttapaka Saree includes both warp and weft. Noted handloom designer, Gajam Anjaiah is known for the Puttapaka designs and Double Ikat and he received Sant Kabir Award in 2009 for his excellence in weaving of Telia Rumal Based Double Ikat saree. Gajam Anjaiah received the Padma Shri award in 2013 for Art-Handloom Weaving category.
Before the weaving is done, a manual process of winding of yarn called Asu needs to be performed. This process takes up to 5 hours per sari and is usually done by the womenfolk, who suffer physical strain through constantly moving their hands back and forth over 9000 times for each sari. In 1999, a young weaver C Mallesham developed a machine which automated the Asu process, thus developing a technological solution for a decades-old unsolved problem.
Oshima ikat is a uniquely 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 unraveled and the dyed thread is woven into oshima cloth.
The Oshima process is duplicated in Java and Bali, and is reserved for ruling royalty, notably Klungkung and Ubud: most especially the dodot cloth semi-cummerbund of Javanese court attire.
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 than the back.
By the 19th century, Cambodian ikat was considered among the finest textiles of the world. When the King of Thailand came to the US in 1856, he brought as a gift for President Franklin Pierce fine Cambodian ikat cloth. The most intricately patterned of the Cambodian fabrics are the sampot hol—skirts worn by the women—and the pidans—wall hangings used to decorate the pagoda or the home for special ceremonies.
Unfortunately, Cambodian culture suffered massive disruption and destruction during the mid-20th century Indochina wars but most especially during the Khmer Rouge regime. Most weavers were killed and the whole art of Cambodian ikat was in danger of disappearing.
Kikuo Morimoto is a prominent pioneer in re-introducing ikat to Cambodia. In 1995, he moved from Japan and located one or two old lady weavers and Khmer Rouge survivors who knew the art and have taught it to a new generation.
In Thailand, the local ikat type of woven cloth is known as Matmi (also spelled 'Mudmee' or 'Mudmi'). Traditional Mudmi cloth was woven for daily use among the nobility. Other uses included ceremonial costumes. Warp ikat in cotton is also produced by the Karen and Lawa tribal peoples in northern Thailand.
South and Central America
Ikat patterns are common among the Andes peoples, and native people of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. The Mapuche shawl or poncho of the "Huaso" cowboys of Chile is perhaps the item best known in the West. Wool and cabuya fibre are the most commonly used. The Mexican rebozos are made from imported cotton, and are warp ikat dyed with indigo.
South American ikat (Jaspe, as it is known to Mayan weavers) textiles are commonly woven on a back-strap loom. Pre-dyed warp threads are a common item in traditional markets- saving the weaver much mess, expense, time and labour. A South American innovation which may also be employed elsewhere is to employ a round stick around which warp threads are wrapped in groups, thus allowing more precise control of the desired design. The "corte" is the typical wrap skirt used worn by Guatemalan women.
As of 2010, the government of the Republic of Indonesia announced it would pursue UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage accreditation for its ikat weaving, along with songket, and gamelan having successfully attained this UNESCO recognition for its wayang, batik and the kris.
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