Ikat is a type of textile characterized by the unique dye-resist process used to make it. Threads are tie-dyed before weaving to prevent dye from adhering to the threads, creating the design.
Once the threads are dyed, the resists are removed to reveal an intrincate pattern. This process is repeated as many times as needed depending on how many colors or tones the artisan wants. The precision of the wrapping determines the clarity of the design. Finally the threads are woven on a loom to produce a cloth.
The word ikat comes from the malay word mengikat, meaning to tie. The word was introduced to the western world in the 20th century to refer to the dye technique and the resulting textile.
Depending on the yarns dyed, the final cloth will be a warp or a weft ikat. On a warp ikat it is possible to see the final pattern in the yarns before weaving, while on the weft ikat the pattern will appear as the yarns are weaved. The weaving of the weft ikat is more intricate, as each thread has to be carefully adjusted to maintain the alignment of the pattern.
The pattern of an ikat cloth usually seems to be blurred. This is because, as it is made by hand, it is impossible to prevent every thread from moving during the weaving or dying process. The blurring thus represents every little slip made during the production process.
Batik is a dye-resist technique which has its origins in India about 2000 years ago. It was in Indonesia, however, where it found its ultimate artistic expression, especially in the island of Java where it arrived in the 6th or 7th century.
The technique consists of permeating an area of fabric with hot wax to prevent the penetration of dye. It is an arduous technique which tended to practiced only by noble women who could spend several weeks or months working on a new piece of batik. The resulting textiles were extremely valuable and limited to the high aristocracy of Java. Batik started to spread among the wider population when the batik houses began to create special designs for the Chinese and Dutch communities.
The traditional batik technique uses a tool called a canting or tjanting to apply a coating of wax to the cloth. This method is called batik tulis (written batik). In the 19th century a new technique was developed, called batik cap or tjap. This new technique uses a copper stamp to apply the wax onto the cloth, so it is much faster than the traditional batik tulis.
Textiles made with natural fibers like cotton or wool are more appropriate because they absorb the dye better. The colors resist the passage of time, washing and sunlight better than ones that are painted or printed, as the fabrics are completely submerged in the dye and can absorb the colors.
In October 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.