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Genue Inc.
June 22, 2015

What is an Ikat Pattern Design?

“I spy with my little eye……” Do you remember this childhood game where you looked for something of interest for the other player to guess and then gave clues to describe it? Well, take a walk in the city on a summer day and you’ll spy the patterns of “ikat”.

Ikat, pronounced “ee-Kaht” comes from the Malaysian word that means to tie and bind. It also refers to the weaving and making of Ikat.

To spot an “Ikat” look for the clues of rich color and blurred edges around the design’s colored areas. The hazy colored lines within the fabric and the distinctive feathered edges result from hand crafted weaving and from the artistic process of making ikat.

To make ikat, first let’s understand some words related to weaving.

Woven textiles are made up of threads going in two directions- vertical and horizontal. The vertical threads that are wound onto the loom frame are called the warp threads; the horizontal ones that are woven in are called weft threads. To create an ikat pattern, threads are dyed and then woven.

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Ikat threads are tied and dyed using colored vegetable pigments. To make the tying easier threads are set up on a frame in preparation for dyeing.

A weaver then bundles several warp (vertical threads) and ties them with knots made from grasses or wax-treated cotton ties.

These wax treated ties or “resists” are tied and knotted around the bundled threads to prevent the threads from absorbing the current dye color.

Again, steps of re-tying, un-tying knots, replacing old knots and placing new knots to the thread bundles are repeated so that a new dye color may be added.

This manual process continues until the artist’s planned motif and color combinations for the design are achieved. After the dyeing is completed, all resist ties are opened. The emerging pattern shows when the colored and uncolored parts of the warp threads are woven through with the horizontal threads (the weft).

Sometimes both the warp and weft are incorporated into the process, and a double ikat pattern is produced. This takes more precision and planning so that the colors of the design match up when weaving.

It is during the pattern building phase that dye color bleeding occurs which leaves the blurry or feathered edges that distinguish and identify an ikat pattern.

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Ikat fabric by Madeleine Weinrib Atelier

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Ikat fabric by Madeleine Weinrib Atelier

Ikat fabric by Madeleine Weinrib Atelier

The ikat process of weaving started around 500 CE and is still used today to produce ikat’s.

This incredible technique of marking patterns has been passed down through generations of artisans. Curiously, it developed independently among many different cultures and across the continents of South America and Asia around the same time.

Ikat fabrics were first discovered by western culture around the nineteenth century. Merchants who traveled from Europe to Asia along the historical trade route, named the Silk Route, began to value this Asian finery for its beauty and complex woven designs.

The desirable ikats became and were used as a form of currency by the merchants, leading to the exchanges between continents and the cultures, and to the influences of ikat design in both places.

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Today’s designers are reinventing the Ikat, using the ancient techniques and creating fresh designs for both interiors and fashion.

We played around with recreating the blurred edges and the exotic colors of these hand woven designs with the Genue apps. What do you think?

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Create Your Own Patterns With Genue
Genue iPad
Genue iPhone

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