Indonesian Batik has been recognized by UNESCO with its inclusion in the Representative list as Cultural Objects of Heritage of Humanity (Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity) in
the year 2009. We can find various patterns and motifs from all over Indonesia. Thanks to Batik, Indonesia has become more famous abroad. However, batik is not the only cultural treasure in Indonesia. With more than a dozen province, each of them has its own unique commodities. One of them is Tenun Ikat, or a tied woven cloth.
Ikat woven fabric, true to its name, is a textile that in one of its steps needs the yarn to be tied down first before it is woven.
The process goes through many steps and involves a lot of people from the beginning until it becomes a piece of fabric. During the initial step, the yarns are arranged in a row on a feed. Then it is marked for the tying process later. After they are tied up with plastic rope, the yarns are bundled together by approximately 5 to 10 threads. Removed from the feed, and then dyed and sun dried.
Next, the bindings are removed and then altered to create a new pattern, which then the yarn are dyed again with a different colors. Herein lies the specialty of ikat weaving compared to the machine weaving
process. Finally, the threads are weaved with a loom and even in some areas, people carry the loom on their back.
Ikat weave textile are spread to almost all of Indonesian provinces. From Aceh, Java until Nusa Tenggara, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Maluku Islands. Each areas has its own uniqueness from the motifs and weaving techniques.
Vertical woven yarns are called ‘benang lungsi’ or warp yarn (fabric length). While horizontal woven yarns are called ‘benang pakan’ or weft yarn (fabric width). The yarn itself is made from wood fiber, cotton, and silk.
In some area, there are weaves that don’t use ikat weaving techniques. They called songket weaving, which is weaving using silver or golden yarns. While others are starting to use natural dyes as colorant instead of
chemicals in order to preserve the environment.
In some areas, woven textile has become a part of traditional rituals, because of the sacred value of the textiles and motifs. The motifs depend on each area and usually contain local elements. For example, in
Kalimantan, the motifs are floras, faunas, or mythological creatures. According to the motif, the woven textile can be distinguished into Weft Ikat, Warp Ikat, and Double Ikat weaving.
Weft Ikat Weaving
Weft Ikat textiles are usually available in South Sulawesi, South Sumatera, Java, Bali, and Lombok.
The characteristic of weft ikat weaving is the stem of the image or motifs doesn’t form a clear upright line. It is because the location of the weft thread is not always held in place but rather shifts. The images are formed into ladder-like motifs, because it is tied in bundles, consisting 5 to 10 strands of yarn, so geometric shapes are common.
The color of the motifs is a mixture of colors, which are a mix of warp and weft thread before they were dyed. The textile thickness depends on the thickness of the yarns used.
Balinese Endek Fabric is one of the Ikat textile that uses weft ikat technique. As one of the traditional Balinese fabric, it takes quite a long time to weave a motif of an Endek fabric. Endek weaving activities can be found in the regency of Karangasem, Klungkung, Gianyar, Buleleng, and Negara, and also in Denpasar municipality. Because of its color combination and ornate motifs, Endek textiles are much-loved and has become an attractive choice for ethnic fashion.
Warp Ikat Weaving
Bataknese Ulos and South Sumatran Songket are examples of a decorative warp ikat weavings. Its uniqueness consists of basic colors of the fabric and colorful motifs.
Warp ikat motifs are made through binding the yarns into bundles and then they are dipped into coloring dyes. Same thing with weft ikat weaving, the bound section will create a motif after the yarns
are woven, with the color of the weft yarn is the same as the unbound warp yarns.
Double Ikat Weaving
This type of ikat is found in the Tenganan Village, Pegiringsingan, Bali, and it is usually called Geringsing.
Because the yarn are being bound in both directions, vertically (warp/ lungsi) and horizontally (weft/ pakan), the crafting process is longer than the other. The weaver doesn’t use regular loom, because the warp threads are hooked into the house’s mast.
Double ikat textile are similar with warp ikat textile, albeit a little smaller, measuring 50x200cm.
Geringsing textile are dyed with natural dyes, such as tree roots and barks, or turmeric and candlenut oil.
Crafting an Ikat Textile is an extraordinary process. Since each sheet of fabric is made with patience and skill, and arguably no woven ikat textile is the same with another.
The uniqueness of the ornament, color, and type of Indonesian traditional textile, in this case, ikat weaving, has made them into highly sought after items. If you have the chance to visit the traditional fabric producing regions, you should travel to the origins of the ikat textiles.