Poetry of the loom : Ikat

Poetry of the loom : Ikat
Do not index
Do not index
All about the glorious Ikat patterns and Ikat fabrics


Ikat is a centuries-old fascinating dyeing technique with a distinctive style. What makes ikat unique is the technique and process with which it is produced. Mostly the textile fabrics are first woven and then dyed, but ikat employs resist dyeing on the yarns before dyeing and weaving the fabric. The individual yarns or bundles of yarns are bound with a tight wrapping to achieve the desired ikat pattern and then dyed. Ikat is known by different names in different parts of India with special variations.

Process of ikat

Resist-dyeing sections of the yarns create the intriguing Ikat pattern prior to weaving the fabric. In ikat the resist is formed by binding individual yarns or bundles of yarns with a tight wrapping applied according to the desired pattern. The yarns can then be dyed again with a different colour once the bindings have been changed to produce a new pattern.
Every inch of a textile is calculated in the weaving and dyeing processes, to obtain symmetry in the finished ikat fabric. The marking, tying, and dying the design into the yarn is a very challenging, laborious, and skill-intensive process. To create intricate, multi-coloured designs, this procedure of tying and dyeing may be done several times. The bindings are removed after the dyeing process is complete, and the strands are woven into cloth. The finished fabric's rich and detailed ikat patterns are then exposed during the weaving process. Ikat fabrics are incredibly diverse in their designs, ranging from strong geometric compositions to figurative patterns.
Another unique feature of this artful craft is that the ikat fabric can be used reversibly as both sides of the fabric are patterned. The enormous difficulty the weaver has lining up the coloured strands so that the pattern comes out correctly in the finished cloth is the cause of the ikat textiles' distinctive blurriness in the design. You can explore the wide range of ikat fabrics at Lal10 website.
notion image

Ikats from different parts of india

Ikats from Gujarat

Gujarat is well-known for its highly intricate double ikat patola from Patan, With its figured body and subtle blending of different colours, it is a vibrant and extravagant weave. Patolas are woven in Patan and Rajkot of Gujarat, where Rajkot patola is single ikkat (vertically resisted dye) and Patan patola is double ikkat (dyed vertically and horizontally) on silk.
Patola or the double ikat saree are usually renowned for their geometrical, figurative designs, grid outlines and motifs of flora-fauna, jewels, dancing figures, etc.  The ikat patterns are formed using tie-dyed yarns both vertically (warp) and horizontally (weft) to create the design. The yarns are dyed according to a predetermined ikat pattern, and the dye marks align when woven, forming the ikat pattern on the cloth. Depending on the number of colours used, as many as 25 steps can be involved in making it; the more colours, the more difficult, time-consuming and laborious it becomes.
notion image

Ikats from Orissa

The ikat craft is known as bandha in Orissa and is primarily practised in the Sambalpur district and a few villages in Bargarh and Sonepur districts. While the Orissa ikat is curvilinear with hazy outlines, Gujarati patolas are distinguished by their firm outlines and geometrical grid-like overall design. Except for the Saktapur design, which is done in double ikat, the single ikat is more common in Orissa. The Saktapur pattern, which consists of red and white squares with black accents, is inspired by the board game Chaupad.
In honour of their largest producer, Sambalpur, these ikat sarees are also known as Sambalpur sarees. Ikat patterns such as ducks, fish, lotuses, conch shells, creepers, temples, elephants, and deer can symbolise fertility and prosperity.

Ikats from Telangana

Originating from the small town of Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana), Bhoodan Pochampalli, is a distinctive form of ikat as the yarns of this ikat are not only  tie-dyed but also given special oil treatment to give the fabric a distinctive sheen.  This double Ikat weave is recognised for its elaborate and symmetrical designs made with natural dyes and premium quality silk. The captivating geometric design that covers the entire fabric is one of the most obvious telltale indicators of the weave. Also, the silk sarees are also incredibly lightweight and breathable. The intricate ikat patterns are transferred onto the ikat fabric with utmost perfection. Fabrics like cotton, silk and sico which is a blend of cotton and silk are alternatively used in the making of this beautiful weave. You can explore the wide range of Ikat fabrics here.

Types of ikat

Warp ikat

In warp ikat only the warp yarns are dyed with the ikat technique. The Weft yarns are dyed with a single colour. It is easier to make warp ikat than weft ikat and double ikat as the predetermined ikat pattern can be seen in the warp yarns wound on the loom even before the weft is woven in.
Sometimes it gets difficult to distinguish between a fabric with a printed or painted warp and one that is ikat fabric but one way to identify an ikat fabric is by the observation of the pattern as in warp ikat, only the warp threads are wrapped to resist the dye and create the pattern. Small bundles of around two to twelve yarns are tied together and patterned exactly the same so the woven fabric would show these small groups of identical patterns. Another identifier is the length of the fabric. In warp ikat fabric the design runs parallel to the selvedge edge and the vertical lines are a little blurred due to the shifting of the warp yarns.
notion image

Weft ikat

In weft ikat, only the weft yarns are resist-dyed to create a horizontal ikat pattern. The weaving of weft ikat is a more tedious task than weaving the warp ikat, it requires highly skilled artisans to weave precise weft ikat fabric. During weaving, it becomes important to position the weft yarns precisely in relation to the preceding yarns and to all others that will follow. The weft yarns must be adjusted after each passing of the shuttle to preserve the clarity of the patterns as any wrong shift can alter the whole ikat pattern and lead to the formation of irregular and erratic ikat patterns. Weaving of the weft ikat is more complex and the patterns are more difficult to achieve and requires utmost attention.

Double ikat

Double ikat is a technique in which both the warp and the weft yarns are resist-dyed prior to weaving. It is a highly complex and time-consuming procedure as both the warp and the weft yarns are dyed according to a predetermined ikat pattern and it becomes crucial that the design coincides. It produces an ikat pattern which is fuzzy from both the edges of the intersection along with the top and bottom. This form of weaving requires utmost precision and skills to weave the ikat pattern accurately. The labour and skill required also make it the most expensive ikat. Undyed warp and weft yarns are precisely counted, folded and wrapped to create the design.
Some ikats like patola from Gujarat,  require unwrapping and rewrapping between dye baths to incorporate different colours into the ikat pattern. Double ikat weaving requires skillful weavers for patterns to be woven precisely and is considered the premiere form of ikat. You can explore the wide range of Ikat fabrics from the Lal10 Website.

Ikat in modern times

Ikat fabrics are being updated and refined in recent years by designers all around the world. The fabric has progressed from the modest six yard tale to bringing oomph and subdued splendour to the home décors and fashion apparels, yet designs continue to be faithful to the region. Fashion icons have chosen the craft and brought it back into the high end fashion market, which has changed it drastically. Ikat fabrics and ikat patterns can be seen on contemporary rugs, ikat chair covers in in modern-looking home never fails to look impressive, upholstery, ikat patterns can be reproduced to feature on wallpapers, bedsheets, quilts, cushions, tablecloth as well, to add a sense of warmth along with an exotic appeal to a room is to use ikat fabrics as window coverings in form of blinds or curtains.  The market has opened and given a way to the Ikat craft and it has helped the craft to be able to sustain in the local and global markets.