Ikat is one of the styles of weaving that uses a resist dyeing process as similar to tie-dye. It uses either the warp or weft to weave a pattern or design. When both warp and weft are tie-dyed then it is called double Ikat.

In the 19th century, Bukhara and Smarkand were famous for their fine silk Ikat, while India, Japan and several South-East Asian countries have cultures with long histories of Ikat production. One cannot find double Ikat simply but still it can be found in India, Guatemala, Japan and the Indonesian islands of Bali and Kalimantan. Ikat varies wildly from country to country and region to region. Generally Ikats are symbols of status, wealth, power and prestige.

There is link between Ikat production in India and South-East Asia. Gujarati merchants brought Patola to Indonesian rulers and there this activity of making Ikat was taken over by the Dutch. The patterns in the Patola Ikat are prominently similar to the double Ikat produced in Bali, Indonesia. In Europe in Mallorca and in Spain Ikat floral patterns are used.

Making Process of Ikat

Ikat fabrics are woven by hand on narrow looms in a labor-intensive process. Thai Ikats are generally 34" to 39" wide. Plain weave Ikat fabrics have unique resist patterns so it looks the same on both sides of fabrics. There is no right or wrong side to the cloth. The Thai Ikats typically have 2" to 3" solid borders along each selvage.

The easiest way to create Ikat is to dye the warp. Before attaching the warp strings to the loom they are arranged into bundles, every bundle is tied and dyed individually, so that a pattern is visible when the loom is set up. To keep dyes from penetrating the tightly bound bundles are covered with wax. After the threads are dyed the loom is set up. The pattern is visible to the weaver when the dyed threads are used as warp. Threads can be adjusted so that they line up correctly with each other.

Generally dying the weft Ikats are used when the precision of the pattern is not the main concern, and weaving of weft Ikat is much more difficult than warp Ikat. While double Ikats are the most difficult to produce because in these warp and weft are precisely tied and dyed so that the pattern can interlock and reinforce each other when the fabric is woven. The example of most precise Ikat is the Japanese Oshima-thrice woven cloth. The warp and weft threads are used as warp to weave stiff fabric, upon which the thread for the Ikat weaving is spot-dyed, after that the mats are winded and the dyed thread is woven into Oshima cloth.

In India there are many kinds of Ikats weaving, this differs from region to region. Few examples are Patans Patola, Pochampali, Narayanpur, and Koyalagudem. Mudmee and Mudmi woven clothes are Ikat from Thailand. Mudmi cloth was woven for daily use among the nobility.

Few typical items of Ikat weaving are Sarees, Blankets, Mats and Carpets.