Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ikat is It!

Three ikats from my own collection:
Upper left - Japanese (I think) cotton scarf -  ikat warp
Upper right - cotton rebozo (shawl) from Oxaca - ikat warp
Bottom - wool scarf that I made - ikat warp + weft
(warp = the long yarns strung on the loom, weft gets woven across)
Traditional ikat is an old technique of tie dying yarns prior to weaving, often in intricate patterns.
My digital textile students have been working out ways to render ikat and I wanted to explore the history of it more.
(I'll post the students' modern digital ikats later if they send me their files).

I found a very informative article by Kerry Ann Dame on the Posh Living site. Here is an excerpt:
"The word Ikat comes from a word in Malay that means  “to bind or wind around”.  Thousands of individual threads are tie-dyed in intricate patterns, then untied and woven into fabric; 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."
Uzbek Bukhara silk ikat Chapan, late 19th century
Antique Aymara ikat Poncho, Charasani Valley, Bolivia,  ca. 1900
Antique Ikat Bidang, Malaysia
Here is a modern ikat-inspired rug by Luke Irwin that looks ancient
I love this tattered-looking concept!
source, Luke Irwin
Ikat is a very labor-intensive process. Often, the yarn is tied and dyed before being wound onto a loom. Here is a dyed section of threads with ties removed and slightly separated. I think it's from either Guatemala or Peru (got it from Jone Pasha back in the 80s). I swear I have a tied-up sample as well, but have no idea WHERE that might be...

sorry this is out of focus... will replace with better image soon
 Here is an Indonesian weaver working on her ikat:
Source (scroll almost to bottom of post)
Joanna of Law Moda found an amazing YouTube of Whitney Matalone creating a modern ikat, from start to finish.
It gives a good sense of all the work that creating an ikat from scratch requires.
You'll also get a speedy lesson in the craft of weaving!

Ikat-inspired items on my Lyst* in case you now have to urge to wear it: