Ikat Fabrics- the Intricate and Authentic Father of Tie-Dye

Ikat fabrics originated in various regions around the world. The South American Andes, the Middle East, and Asia all have some form of this fabric woven into their culture. The fabric is especially prevalent in Indonesia. Here it got its name from the Malay word mengikat, which means ‘to tie.’ 


Similar to batik and tie-dye, ikat is produced using a resist-dyeing technique. Resist dyeing is where part of the fabric or yarn is bound or covered before being dyed. This technique then leaves an intricate pattern on the fabric. What makes ikat fabrics unique is that the yarns are bound together and dyed before they are woven into a fabric. On the other hand, the patterns found in batik and tie-dye fabrics are created on woven cloth. 

In ikat fabric, the individual yarns are bundled together and tied with string before they are dyed. Each bundle might be bound and dyed multiple times with different colors to produce elaborate patterns in the final product. Once the bundles are dyed, they are laid flat with each individual yarn placed in the correct position to create a specific pattern. 


Both the warp and the weft yarns in ikat fabrics need to be dyed to precision to create the intended pattern. The warp yarns are the yarns that create the length of the fabric. These yarns are usually pulled straight on a loom. The weft yarns are the ones that are woven horizontally through the warp yarns and span the width of the fabric. The cloth gets woven as a weft yarn passes over one warp yarn and under the next. Over one and under the next…

Authentic ikat fabric has a distinctive blurriness to the patterns. This is a result of lining up individual yarns to create a pattern.  There are three different types of ikat fabric: warp, weft, and double. In warp ikat fabrics, the warp yarns are resistance dyed. Solid-colored weft threads are then woven through the patterned warp threads. Weft ikat fabric is where the weft yarn is resistance dyed and woven through solid-colored warp yarns. 

Double ikat fabrics require even more specialized skills. In these fabrics, both the warp and weft yarns are resistance dyed before weaving. The two sets of yarns are then woven together to produce a pattern. Double ikat is challenging to produce and takes a significant amount of time to create. That makes these fabrics both expensive and desirable.  Ikat fabrics are found in different cultures around the world. It takes both time and skill to create these beautiful and authentic pieces of cloth known for their unique if somewhat blurry patterns