Ikat fabric is named after an Indonesian word which means “to bind”. Ikat is a very old method of creating designs in fabrics through resist dyeing of the threads, before they are woven into fabric. In Thailand, the process is done by taking the weft, or the crosswise filling threads in a fabric, and tying small pieces of plastics into them. These tightly tied parts of the thread resist the dye when pulled into the color pot, and form into a pattern after the bits of plastics are taken off. Traditionally, Thai ikat are usually dyed in indigo and patterned with engaging and lively motifs that represent the beliefs and life of the village people. Modern ikat print fabric is brightly colored with natural dyes and imported chemicals, and is available in cotton and silk.
Difference over Other Fabrics
Ikat fabric is woven manually through a labor intensive process in narrow looms. Thai ikat fabrics are usually from 34 to 39 inches in width. The hand weaving process makes the ikat free from chemical additives and stresses produced by power looms. Thus, the fabric is very different in feel and appearance compared to fabrics made by machines.
Since hand woven fabrics have a tendency to unravel when washed, the seam allowances of the ikat should be binded or finished with zigzag or over lock stitch unlike fleece fabric.
Ikat fabric is made into accent pillows or ikat pillows, bed sheets, hats, shawls, blankets, curtains and vests. The fabric is also very popular as a furniture material, as ikat upholstery fabric is so lively and vibrant. Ikat fabric by the yard is being offered by both online and local retailers so it is very easy to find the color and pattern that suit your preference.
Kinds of Ikat Fabric That Are Available
- Warp ikat fabrics – In this type of ikat cloth, the pattern can be seen more clearly in the warp threads, even before the introduction of the plain colored wefts in the loom, to produce the cloth. Warp ikat is the most commonly used type of ikat.
- Weft ikat fabrics – in a weft ikat fabric, the dyed patterns are carried by the weft or weaving thread and they only appear as the weaving process progresses. Weft weaving is done more slowly than warp weaving. The reason is that passing the weft must be adjusted carefully in order to maintain the clearness of the pattern.
- Double ikat fabrics – in this type of cloth, both the weft and warp are resist-dyed before being stringed on the loom. The traditional back strap loom is still commonly used, although the modern loom or other variants may also be used.
The plain weave ikat fabric looks the same on both of its sides because of the unique resist pattern. Thus, there is no wrong side or right side to the fabric. Ikats that are made in Thailand usually have 2 to 3 inch borders made of solid colors along both selvages. This unique quality is utilized by many designers—both fashion and furniture—around the globe.