THE MYSTERY OF IKAT

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”.

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