The traditional dyeing technique called “ikat” comes from Asia and Japan (where it is called “kasuri”), and is also found in Africa and Central America, and perhaps elsewhere as well. It is a labour intensive process that involves resist dyeing. The most sophisticated process is “double ikat” in which the warp is resist dyed and then the weft is also resist dyed to create elaborate patterns. I bow to the skill of weavers who produce textiles in these techniques. The results are so beautiful!
Maybe some day I will attempt double ikat, but for now, warp ikat is enough for me. The warp is carefully planned and strung out on the warping board in separate bundles. The warp is then stretched with tension and tied off according to a plan – in this case in my painting studio on the floor with a hand made clamping system. A long warp like this one, is stretched and clamped at both ends, then another section of the warp is moved along and stretched similarly until the entire 9 yards of warp is tied off. The warp sections are separated so they go into the correct dye bath. After dyeing, they are rinsed and a fixing agent is applied. Rinse again, then set out to dry on racks. The ties are removed – always a magical moment for me! When completely dry, the warp is threaded onto the loom according to the pattern of the original plan. When attaching the warp to the beam, I shifted the threads to get an arrow-like pattern and to adjust where the different patterns appear in relationship to each other. Then the whole warp is rolled onto the beam and weaving can begin!
My good friend, Linda, is a potter and I know the excitement of opening up a new kiln. I think the final stages of ikat weaving are akin to opening the kiln – we do our best to control what is being produced, but then there is part we don’t control and that’s where the magic happens and I don’t take credit for that! I feel as amazed at the result as anyone else!
I am preparing another ikat warp with different colours – the layering of colours in the dyeing process is another tricky part of this technique. We’ll see how that one goes. Always excited to start another warp.