During my 8-day stay at a Women’s Weaver Cooperation in Flores, Indonesia I learned the whole traditional process of making Ikat. It was an intensive course what makes it great to learn everything about the process and the women behind the cloths. Especially when your hut is in the middle of their working/living space.
What does ikat means?
Ikat means tying the threads with a motif (design), so when the threads are dipped in a dye bath the motif will appear. The tied parts stay uncolored.
The first step: cotton picking – making yarn
The first step in the process is cotton picking and make a ball of yarn out of it. After cotton picking they flatten the cotton one by one with some kind of pressing machine. Then roll the flatten cotton on a wooden stick so it’s ready for spinning. This is the most difficult part of the first step, you need good hand-eye coordination. When they finished spinning the yarn it’s time to make a ball of yarn so it’s ready for the next step.
The second step: Ikatting
The Ikatting is the second step of the process. Before the women start this step they already have to have a motif (design) and size of cloth in mind. Usually they use the traditional motifs learned from their mothers. The ball of yarn from the first step is used to put the threads one by one around the right type of frame that fits their design. After all the threads are on the frame the Ikat step begins. First the threads are divided in bundles to make the Ikat step a bit easier. Dry palm leaves are used to tie the motif. This is still rocket science for me especially when the motifs get smaller and more complex. You have to count exactly where you tie the bundles of threads. If you make a mistake the motif will be crooked and weeks of work will be for nothing.
The third step: dyeing of the threads
When the tying of the threads is finished the third step begins, the dyeing of the threads. There are 3 traditional colors; Indigo, Morinda and Yellow. With these colors they can create every color they want, like green, purple, orange or brown. The colors are made with the right amount of plants, barks, leaves and water. A lot of knowledge about nature is needed here. They dip the threads around 5 to 10 times in the dye bath. Meaning; make the dye bath out of the plants, barks, water mix, dip the threads in the dye bath, let it absorb the dye, let it dry and start the dye process all over again.
If they use more colors in their design – what they usually do – they have to Ikat again. So repeat all the steps from the second step again.
The fourth step: preparation for the weaving
The fourth step is removing all the palm leaves Ikat from the threads. After this step they separate the threads one by one on a frame. This is a preparation for the weaving process. (See picture above)
The fifth step: weaving
The weaving step is the last step in the Ikat process. This is a step where your whole body is needed. The women sit in a back strap loom to finalize the cloth. It can take weeks to weave a sarong sized cloth. Thread for thread you see the motif appear.
These amazing women produce cloths that are not only beautiful but also ensouled by their craftsmanship and dedication. I bought some of these beautiful Ikat cloths for our LARAS x my aunt Atiet collection. Shop our collection.