I kan’t Ikat…Kan U?

Peregrina's Journey
Peter and Margie Benziger
Sat 24 Sep 2011 13:46
Position Report - 08:17.700S  116:06.400E

I kan’t Ikat…Kan U?

As Peregrina traveled though the eastern part of Indonesia, we stopped at many small villages.  In most villages we saw women sitting on the ground weaving Ikat.

The art of making Ikat in Indonesia is estimated to be over 2000 years old.  The Indonesian word Ikat means to tie or to bind.  The Ikat technique refers to the intricately patterned cloth of threads that are tie-dyed before being woven together.  The actual weaving is incredibly complex with woman selecting individual threads using their long finger nails. This is highly skilled artwork and incredibly labor intensive.

The really neat part of Ikat is that styles and colors and patterns vary from village to village.  In some of the small islands, in the far east of Indonesia, all the colors were very earthy.  The dancers in the villages were dressed in these earth tones (shades of brown) and the dances were associated with planting and harvesting crops.  These earthy colors are quite complex colors to create and result in a rusty color known as Kombu which is produced from the bark of the Kombu tree.

Traveling westward, we began to see bright blues, purples and golds which were much more vibrant. Blue dyes come from the indigo plant.
Here you will see Peter with some young dancers dressed in the more vibrant colors including gold.

In certain very rural villages you will see a very distinctive pattern that clearly identifies the wear as coming from a particular clan.

Ikat is made from natural cotton. Once it is harvested the cotton is spun with a spindle. The thread is then strengthened by immersing it in baths of crushed cassava or rice or maize and then threaded onto a winder. 


Ikat styles and colors vary by village so the key is the coloring process. In each village you can see them preparing the natural colors used in their particular process.  

Some sections are first tied together with die resistant fiber so that they dye does not color that section. Thus the dyer has to work out in advance which parts of the thread will receive color in order to create the intricate patterns seen in the final weaving.  I would need a computer and a micrometer (electronic measuring device) to plan this ... but these woman do it all in their head!

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