Exploring the Cultural Roots of Ikat Fabric in Ethnic Fashion

Estimated read time 5 min read


Human development has gone through many phases in history. Earlier, there was a time when people realized the need for a fabric that can fulfill their luxurious outfits for their festivals and family events. Ikat is a royal fabric that is available in different colors, designs, and patterns. The word ‘Ikat’ comes from the Malaysian word ‘Mengikat’ or to tie because the loose threads are tied into bundles using wax-treated cotton or grasses to specify where the dye can sink and color the thread. Western cultures have embraced the Ikat fabric for centuries.

ikat fabric history

Ikat Fabric Today

Ikat fabric is much easier to make with industrial machines. It is necessary to bunch fibers by hand to make this fabric, the same effect is easily achievable using technology at a lower cost. It is a probability that if you have worn dyed garments, one of the three is Ikat. There are many different ways to dye the fabric which is why so many cultures have accepted the Ikat fashion as one of their loved fashion garments. 


What exactly is Ikat?

Ikat is a method for coloring fabrics in a different pattern by resisting dyeing. The pattern is not applied on the surface of the finished fabric nor it is woven into the fibers structurally. The dye colors the fabric in every place except under the binding. After dyeing, the bindings are removed and the patterns look undyed on a colored ground. When the dyeing work is completed, the yarns are woven into the fabric. Often with simple structures and density that highlight the warp. This makes it so interesting when compared to another resistant dyeing. The pattern is made before the yarns are constructed into the fabrics


Different Types Of Ikat

Warp Ikat: This is the most common form where only warp threads are bound.


Weft Ikat: Where only the weft threads are bound

Compound Ikat: Weft threads and warp are bound but both can be seen independently in the fabric made.

Double Ikat: Where both the warp and weft are bound but designs work to gain the overall pattern. This technique is rare and difficult to attempt.


How Is Ikat Fabric Made?



Fabric yarns are bunched into thick ropes and dyed into a particular pattern.


Prepare for weaving

The binding is removed once the weaving part is done.


Weaving takes place

The pattern remains the same when we wove the fabric dyed into the various bunched yarns. 


Treated or dyed again

Ikat may be treated, dyed, or subjected to a different number of processes.


Final Touch

Finally, it is cut, sewn, packed, and shipped.


Ikat fabric can be made with any kind of fabric that is well to dye. Common traditional Ikat materials are wool and silk but it can also take materials like rayon, polyester, and lots more synthetic fabrics. Once the fabric yarns are obtained, it is bunched into thick ropes and dyed in a particular pattern. Once the fabric is woven, the pattern made of dyed yarns is visible.


How is Ikat fabric used?


Use in apparel

From scratch pants to blouses, Ikat is used everywhere in the ethnic fashion industry.


Accessory use

Shawls, scarves, and headscarves are all common applications of Ikat, and of course, it is also used in shoes, belts, purses, and other items that may also have the same pattern but these designs can be obtained by printing rather than authentically dyed. 

Uses in decor

Sheets, pillowcases, and other bedding products are made from Ikat dyeing and traditionally, it was used for wall hangings, and still, Ikat patterns can be seen on walls around the world.


Interesting facts about Ikat

  • The Pendem Narasimhan is the one who developed this craft and Telia Rumaal is the one who introduced the double ikat the legacy was continued by Gajam Goverdhan with double ikat extinction.
  • The hanks and yarns needed to keep in the Seasame oil for 21 days post without draining out are put for resistant dyeing on patterns on the graph and then it is weaved on the loom.
  • The reason why the yarns are put in the oil is that it is warmer on cold days and cold on warmer days. This is the reason why this fabric was used in a barter system for getting other materials from Middle Eastern countries and Arab Countries. Telia Rumaal used the fabric as the turban for all the men in the Middle East and one can see the ikat checks on the fabric used and worn by travelers going in the desert area to beat the heat for months. 
  • The oil-treated fabric was also used as a repellent fabric by the Fishermans and for women working near the seashores. It was also used as a skin protector from sea salt water. This was the first water-repellent fabric invented ever. 
  • The origins of Telia Rumaal has only three colors which are maroon, black, and white. Legends say that the red color works as an attraction to catch fish. Where in contrast, it was used to protect men and women working in the field from wild animals.
  • Japan has championed the art of indigo ikat which no one could ever copy in the world so far.


Decision time

Ikat is used for creating different kinds of garments It was originally made centuries ago and still following its legacy there are a lot of technological development took place after its introduction to the world and now it is made from machines as well but the true colors can be seen only with hand woven ikat fabric. You can make sarees, salwar suits,s and other upholstery with ikat fabric and can enjoy this luxurious fabric in your much-awaited events.

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