Unparalleled in beauty, Ikkat silks employ some of oldest fabric designing techniques. A traditional Ikkat saree is easily one of the most precious possessions of a woman’s wardrobe. In this blog, we attempt to demystify the grandeur and distinct style of these enchanting weaves.
The word ‘Ikkat’, also spelled as ‘Ikat’, has direct etymological relation to the Malaysian word ‘mengikat’, meaning ‘to tie’ and represents the complex tying and dyeing techniques used to create designs and patterns on fabrics. In India, Ikkat silk sarees are mainly produced in three states- Odisha, Gujarat and Telangana.
Fabricating the Fabric:
The most astonishing fact about the weaving process of Ikkat is that the threads are dyed before the cloth is woven. Firstly, skillful textile artists draw elaborate patterns on the yarns by hand. Then, bundles of silk yarn are tightly bound together using grass strands or wax treated cotton before sinking them into vibrant dyes. The positioning of these knots and ties has to be perfect in order to produce the desired patterns. The colors seep into the threads as per the sketch and the yarns are left to dry. Next, the knots are untied and these threads are strung on the loom. The textile is then woven and the intricate and vibrant patterns emerge on the silk.
It takes at least five days to complete one Ikkat silk saree. This complex and time-consuming process is probably what lends these sarees their finesse and exquisiteness. They are veritable pieces of art.
Ikkat Weaving Varieties:
Warp Ikkat: In this type of weaving, the warp yarns are dyed using Ikkat techniques while the weft yarns are dyed using a single basic color. The warp yarns are first wound onto the loom and after that the weft yarns are twisted.
Weft Ikkat: This process of weaving is much slower than the previous one as ensuring clarity of design in this technique is quite time consuming. Here, weft yarns portray dyed patterns that come to life as the weaving progresses.
Double Ikkat: This is the most difficult among the three processes. Here both the weft and the warp yarns are tied and dyed to produce unique patterns. This style is exclusive to only three countries in the world- India, Japan and Indonesia. Understandably, silk sarees produced using this method is pretty expensive. Within India, double Ikkat silk sarees are woven in Gujarat and Telangana, mainly by traditional communities who have perfected the art through centuries of practice.
This variant of Ikkat silk saree employs the double Ikkat weaving process. A distinctive feature of these sarees is their dazzling geometric patterns. Pochampally Ikkat silks originate in a small town in Telangana, which is popularly known as ‘’Silk city of India’’.
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