Ikat is a Malay-Indonesian term for cloth patterned by tie-dyeing technique, the word has come to describe both the process and the ikat textiles.
Ikat textiles have been woven in cultures all over the world, very highly developed in Indonesia, Central Asia and Japan, and like any craft or art form, ikat textiles vary widely from country to country and region to region.
Among the best known textiles produced in Central Asia are the oriental ikat textiles : silk made its way from China into Central Asia via the Silk Road and was embraced by the settled weavers. In Uzbekistan, these ikat silk weaves are known as « abr » (in Persian it means cloud) because like clouds the motifs of the ikat textiles appearing to float unbounded, their edges softly blending into the adjacent colors.
Weaving ikat textiles is a complex artistic technique used to create characterized soft-edged designs in different colors : binding and dying the patterns on to the threads before they are set on the loom, with the exception of white (natural color of the thread), a separate dye bath is required for each color that appears in the finished textile. The silk threads could be bound and dyed at least six to nine times.
Central Asian ikat textiles have two main types of ikat : full ikat or strip ikat.
Motifs of the oriental ikat textiles are from artistic tradition thousand years old (pomegranate flowers, tulips, tree of life) and motifs more abstract to break with tradition.
These dramatic woven oriental ikat textiles had and still have many uses : for clothing and decorative textiles for the house.
Oriental ikat textiles were often symbols of status, wealth, power and prestige … perhaps because of the difficulty and time required to make ikat weavings.