Ikat is an ancient patterned weave that has been traced to many parts of the world, including India, Indonesia and China. To create the geometric yet soft-edged motifs, the threads are tied and dyed before the fabric is woven.
Getting the patterns right requires planning and precision. The weaver marks bundles of threads with an outline of the design, and then ties the areas that shouldn’t be dyed. The threads are then dyed section by section, and dried. The process may be repeated many times depending on the design and the number of colours. Once the dyeing is complete, the threads must then be sorted and re-aligned on the loom. The final design only emerges after the fabric is woven.
Ikat weaves are differentiated by the complexity of the weave. Most ikat weaves are single ikats. The warp threads (the threads tied along the length of the loom) are dyed, and the weft threads (the threads that are passed to and fro across the loom) are plain. Pochampally sarees from Andhra Pradesh use the single-ikat style.
With double ikats, both the warp threads and the weft threads are dyed. This allows more detailed patterning but also requires more skill because the threads must align and intersect precisely to form the design. Patola sarees from Patan in Gujarat are one of the best examples of the double-ikat style in India. The designs are so intricate that it takes a few weeks of work just to dye the yarn.
Ikat motifs also differ from region to region, varying from the abstract and the repetitive to the more symbolic.
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