What is Ikat?

Ikat (pronounced ee-kaht) is a precise dyeing technique that can create a distinct pattern in a textile. The weaver resist dyes sections of the yarn by tightly knotting individual yarns in the desired patterns. After dyeing the yarn, the knots are taken out, and the yarn is ready to be used in the weaving. The results are a beautifully patterned textile with a lightly blurred effect.

Our ikat collection comes from female weavers in Guatemala who weave on traditional backstrap looms.

Examples of Ikat

 
Bedspread: Ikat dyed cotton warp with cotton weft from San Juan, La Laguna in Guatemala Handbag: Ikat dyed cotton warp with cotton weft from Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

 

 
Luggage Tags: Ikat dyed cotton warp with cotton weft from Lake Atitlan in Guatemala Handbag: Ikat dyed cotton warp with cotton weft from Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.


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Ikat Technique

The design is drawn out first, as the set up on the loom will impact the final patterned design. Because the yarn is dyed prior to weaving, it's important to measure the yarn carefully.

After knotting the yarn in the pattern, the yarn is dyed. The dyer can dip the yarn in different dye colors, and can alter the knots to create layered patterns. After the yarn is dyed, and the knots are removed, the weaver will set up the loom according to the type of ikat she will create:

Warp Ikat

The warp threads, or the yarn that goes up and down on the loom, are resist dyed using the knot method. Once they are dyed, the weaver carefully sets up the dyed yarn on the loom.

Weft Ikat

The weft threads, or the yarn that goes back and forth as the artisan weaves, are resist dyed prior to weaving. Since the weft does not stay in one place like the warp, this is a significantly more difficult method that takes much more precise planning and measurement. The results is a more blurred effect than warp ikat.

Double Ikat

This is the most difficult and rare method of ikat. Both the warp and weft are resist-dyed before weaving.

History of Ikat Around the World

The term ikat comes from Indonesia, which means "to tie" or "to attach." The technique, however, likely came from China to various parts of Asia, and the technique can be found across the globe, including in parts of the Americas.

Ikat in Indonesia

Ikat finds its roots in Indonesia, where the term itself has gained widespread recognition. In Indonesia, you can find warp ikat, weft ikat, and double ikat.

The Lesser Sunda Islands in Indonesia are known for their traditional ikat craftsmanship. Still you can find ikat designs throughout the Indonesian islands, including Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Java, and Bali. Traditionally used for garments such as sarongs, ceremonial textiles, and traditional clothing, Indonesian Ikat patterns reflects the stories and beliefs of various ethnic groups and can be tied to social rank.

Ikat in Guatemala 

While ikat is the term in Indonesia that has become widespread, in Guatemala it is known as jaspeado. In Guatemala, ikat is traditionally used in skirts, or cortes and tops for women, or huipiles.

In areas throughout Guatemala, women work on a backstrap loom, and each region has its own distinct traditional style of weaving.

Ikat in Japan

In Japan, the ikat technique is known as kasuri. In this process, both warp and weft threads are dyed before weaving, creating a blurred pattern on the textile.

Kasuri was practiced in modern day Okinawa in the 12th or 13th century in what was then the Ryukyu Kingdom. After the kingdom was invaded in 1609, the practice spread to other regions of Japan. 

The colors of the dye include:

  • Kon gasuri: blue kasuri with white resists on an indigo-blue ground.
  • Shiro gasuri: lit. 'white kasuri', an inverse of kon gasuri; blue on a white ground.
  • Chia gasuri: kasuri using brown instead of indigo.
  • Iro gasuri'un: kasuri using several colors.

Ikat in the Andes

Countries like Peru and Bolivia have a longstanding history of Ikat, where the craft is deeply embedded in the cultural and social practices of indigenous communities. Andean Ikat textiles often carry symbolic meanings, depicting elements of nature, mythology, and daily life.

Ikat in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan, situated along the historic Silk Road, boasts an Ikat tradition characterized by opulence and elegance. The Uzbek city of Bukhara is particularly renowned for its skilled artisans who have perfected the art of Ikat weaving. Uzbek Ikat textiles showcase Central Asian aesthetics, with bold colors and geometric patterns.

Caring for Our Ikat Products

Naturally Dyed Ikat Items

Please treat our naturally-dyed and hand-woven cotton garments with gentle care, preferably washing by hand and drying flat or on a line in the shade. The dyes have been locked-in with a mordant and the yarns carefully pre-washed before weaving, but it is still normal for some color to run during the first couple of washes. If this occurs, you can choose to "wash it out" separately, or oak the textile in a tub of cold water mixed with a bit of vinegar or lime juice for a few hours. Hand-wash, air dry in the shade, and ta-da! We recommend further washing to be done separately to avoid any bleeding of color into other garments. Please use gentle detergent.

For wool products, be especially mindful that warm/hot water and rigorous washing will felt your textile. Felting will also shrink your piece. Sometimes this is desirable, but if this is not what you are looking for, make sure to wash gently with cold water only.

Ikat Products with Leather

Handmade quality leather products can last many happy years. Shoes become more and more comfortable as you wear them, since the leather molds around your feet.Here’s a little guide to make sure your leather bags, shoes, and boots enjoy a long and happy life:

Polish the leather

We include a shoe polish kit with each pair of shoes and boots to make this easier for you! Just rub the polish onto the leather parts of your boots with the crote cloth. This will protect your boots, give them a nice shine, and make them softer.For bags, we recommend using a clear polish or oil and wiping it very well so it doesn't stain your clothes when wearing.

Clean the Ikat textile

Spot-clean by dabbing the textile with a bit of water and gentle detergent.Here in beautiful Antigua during the rainy season, everything gets damp and inevitably some things mold if they are not properly maintained. If you live in a similar climate, we recommend a healthy dose of sunshine, air, and tea tree oil.

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