Double Ikat Handloom Weaving – The Craft

Sat 27 Feb 2016

Ikat is the oldest known patterned textile in the world, with a rich history spanning multiple cultures. Ikat a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles that employs a resist dyeing process, on the warp or weft or both weave directions known as ‘Double Ikat,’ prior to dyeing and weaving. Warp and weft refer to the vertical and horizontal threads in a woven textile. Ikat is known to have existed in India since at least the sixth century. Traditionally, Ikat has been a symbol of status, wealth, power and prestige because of the time and skill involved in weaving. The pattern in an Ikat textile comes from the weave; it isn’t a print. Therefore, the textile is reversible and looks same from both sides.

The preciousness of Double Ikat is best described by the Australian Museum:

unlike other textiles, both warp and weft threads are dyed in complex patterns before weaving – the final design is achieved by combining these threads’ patterns into carefully preconceived ornamental form. This is an extremely complex and time consuming process… if looked after, double Ikat can last for hundreds of years.” [1]

The weave of the textile creates the pattern. Artisans dye and weave each piece by hand to create intricate designs. These beautiful textiles are inspirational, and their story is fascinating.

A single article of hand loom passes through many talented and hardworking hands to reach its final wearer:

To make these rich Ikat textiles, all the members of the family work together in their home. The woman of the house helps with the pre-loom process such as warping, winding, denting, drafting, tying etc.., the men do the dying, marking, setting up the loom and weaving. The older children help with the tying and removing of the rubber ties. The yarns are arranged properly and parallel before the process of tie dye starts.

The most complicated task is tie and dye. This requires an immense knowledge about the art. The final design depends on accurate marking of yarns, according to which the yarns will be tied and dyed.

Yarns are tied using rubber tubes which are cut in to smaller strips, even threads can be used as smaller ties. It is an incredibly time consuming process. Typically, the entire family works together during the tying process. Once the yarn is tied and dyed it can be wound.

The winding of weft yarn is done on the charkha, which is usually done by the ladies of the house. The bobbins are numbered in sequence so the textiles patterns correctly while weaving.

The ASU machine is triangle frame with multiple pegs on one side and a single peg on the opposite side. The weaver winds the weft yarns on the ASU machine. The length of the machine becomes the width of the textile.

The weaving is done on a pit-loom. It is a type of loom in which the weaver sits with his or her legs in the pit dug in the ground. There are two pedals, which open the warp threads, allowing the wet shuffle to pass through freely. The loom used for IKAT weaving has two pedals and weaves a plain weave.  In Ikat, designs are made before the yarns are put on the loom. Therefore, you can see the pattern already formed on the warp yarns.

Weft Ikat and double Ikat requires experience hand-eye coordination. Each yarn has to match the design. The weaver pulls the weft yarns to match the design properly. Every hand loomed piece is completely unique with natural variations in colour and design composition.

Ikat weaving supports many families in the Pochampally region and the Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh. Slowly, support for this art form is dwindling; we at Brigid McLaughlin are committed to help, in our small way, in supporting the art of Pochampally Ikat. Due to the demands of fast fashion, mass manufacture of textiles on industrial power looms has threatened this incredible art.  Through showcasing the Ikat textiles in international markets, we hope to assist in the revival and appreciation of this craft, and to inspire others to do the same.

Beginning with one style each season, I hope to expand our range and designs of these double Ikat weaves until they are a signature of the Porcelain Collection. It is our goal to consistently source Ikat weaves from these highly skilled artisans so that we can support them for many years to come. In addition to preserving this craft so that people all over the world can appreciate its beauty, this story endeavours to describe, to each of you, just how special each Porcelain garment is.

The Porcelain collection has always been inspired by the Indian culture and artisan craft. I’m enamoured by the richness of the textiles, hand embellishments, and the people I have come to know during my many visits. In many ways, the Porcelain collection could not exist without the overwhelming hospitality of the Indians I have met travelling, and I would never produce it anywhere else.

It is the aim of the Porcelain collection to work with ethical Indian factories, and I have personally visited almost all of them. Within the discussion of sustainable supply chains, outsourcing has been a difficult subject because the design company loses some control of the ethical production of garments simply by not being able to walk into a factory on a daily basis. I do not believe the solution only exists in complete domestic production, but rather in the transparent and open channels of communication happening between my design team and my Indian manufacturers.

We are delighted to present the Handloomed Cotton Ikat Sheath; the first Ikat artisanal collectors piece from our Porcelain collection. Available in stores and online now.


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