How It's Made: Ikat

Created via a 70-step process that involves tying, dyeing, and weaving, our ikat pillows are some of the most labour-intensive products we carry. Ikat is a near-universal weaving style common to many cultures, though perhaps most closely associated with Indonesia. The word ikat (an Indonesian word) means to “tie” or  to “bind”. In Uzbekistan, where our ikat pillows come from, the term for ikat is “ abrband ,” which means “tying a cloud”.
 
To create ikat patterns, thread must first be spun into a yarn and grouped into bundles. The yarn is then stretched on a frame, where a pattern is outlined, and yarns are tied in the desired pattern. The dye must then be made. Traditional dyes are used, and made from natural materials such as pomegranate and saffron. The yarns must be dyed one colour at a time, which is a very time-consuming process. After this, the loom must be warped in the right configuration to weave the pattern -- again, a very time-consuming process. The fabric is then woven using the loom, powered by hand and foot.
  
     
Many designs and motifs in ikat contain ethnic, ritual, or symbolic meaning. The fabrics we carry, from the Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan, use traditional motifs and are inspired by centuries-old patterns and colours, but with an eye towards modern styles. Their maker, Rasuljon Mirzaahmedov is a fifth-generation ikat weaver whose exceptional skills were passed down from his father. Rasuljon is one of the few authentic ikat designers left in Central Asia. He works with 25 weavers – many of whom are women – as well as a similar number of dyers who are masters of the complex tying and colouring techniques that make ikat textiles unique.
 
Because of the amount of time and skill involved in weaving ikat, items using this fabric have historically been symbols of status, wealth, power and prestige. Some cultures even believed the cloth to contain magical powers!

 


Hedvig Christine Alexander
Hedvig Christine Alexander

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