Ikat is all the rage these days. 

It seems that every furniture catalogue I pick up, boasts ikat fabric in one form or another – either on the upholstery, throw pillows, or other decorative accessories for the home.

What is this fascination with ikat?

Well, I’m not sure I know the answer.

However, as a museum docent, I can share with you that the Seattle Asian Art Museum is now hosting an exhibit titled “Colors of the Oasis” that features – you guessed it – a collection  of ikat robes from Central Asia.

The title is apt, because this commonly worn outerwear is colorful beyond belief.

The patterns are intricate, and the process of creating them even more so.

Ikat textiles are characterized by their distinct, abstract patterns – with a tell-tale flame-like, or blazing, edge.

The technique  – known as a warp-faced weave – is part tie-dye, part resist-dying and extremely complex.

It boggles the mind to even try and understand how these stunningly beautiful fabrics are made.

At least, that’s what it does to my mind.

Yet in Central Asia, where this particular style of dress has long been the norm, the tying, dying, and weaving of this fabric was also the norm during the 19th century and up until recent times.

The term ikat (pronounced e-kat) is derived from a Malay word that means “to tie” or “to bind”.

This refers to the method of binding yarns to resist the penetration of any dyes.

The outer robes featured in this particular exhibit, are just one of three articles of clothing typically worn. Underneath the robes, individuals wore a loose, T-shaped dress and an equally loose pair of trousers – the standard costume worn for generations.

Male or female, young or old, it made no difference.

This is what you wore.

Perhaps it’s the original “one size fits all”.

Not a bad concept, if you think about it.

The ikat textiles so prominently displayed in stores these days, are inspired by these silk ikats from Uzbekistan in Central Asia.

If you’re looking for something fun and different to change up your seasonal décor, a few ikat throw pillows might be just the thing.

I would treat this, however, the same as any trend, color, pattern or interior design-related decision – you still want to go with your heart.

That means, proceed with caution.

Listen to that gut reaction.

If something doesn’t really appeal to you, there’s no reason to buy simply because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing.