When I started exploring indigo dyeing last year, I couldn’t wait to attempt ikat, despite knowing that it is an incredibly laborious technique. For those unfamiliar with the technique, the first step is to wind a warp. The warp threads are then bound in a design so that when dyed, the dye will resist those bound areas and the design will be visible. The warp is then dyed, rinsed, and the tied areas are unbound. At this point, the warp is ready to be put on your loom, and weaving can finally begin.
Ikat is a technique used in cultures around the world, with each culture making it uniquely their own. For my explorations, I was looking an examples of simple designs, made with just one dye bath.
During my first attempt, I had used regular household plastic wrap to bind the yarns, which proved a terrible idea. The plastic wrap clings to itself, which is handy in the kitchen, but not so much when binding warp threads. For my second attempt, I used plastic tape that artist and friend Paula Becker passed along to me. It made all the difference as I was able to bind tightly, and work with it more easily. After wrapping with the tape, I reinforced the area with a strong thread to be sure that it was tight and no dye would penetrate.
In my first piece, I used weft that had also been dyed, along with yarn that had been bound for use in weft ikat effects. (Thanks again to Paula for giving me her weft ikat yarn!)
In my second piece, I used dyed yarn as a ground weft, with an inlay technique in areas to make the white areas more white.
I hadn’t used inlay much recently, but had used this technique extensively in college. It slows the weaving process down a lot, but the results it yields are worth the extra effort. (It doesn’t look quite so slow in time-lapse!)
Lastly, I had threaded my loom with a pointed draw so I could play with twill structures. While I do appreciate seeing the structure more on this piece, I found I prefer pieces woven with plain weave as the pattern already has so much interest.
When binding my ikat, I imagined the shapes would hold together more. Yes, ikat is known for its shifting edges, but my pieces seemed to be shifting more than I expected. I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong, it takes more practice, or if I should ask a friend to help me crank the warp on next time. Regardless, as I wove my warp, I loved the shifting more and more. The shapes became their own, and I was surprised to find that I felt liberated by that.
Each ikat attempt inspires me to do another and to research more about how this technique is done around the world.
This month I’m making a quick visit to Toronto and am excited to see that the Textile Museum of Canada currently has an ikat exhibit on display. Hopefully I’ll come back feeling inspired, with lots of ideas of new projects.