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Lepo Lorun, the Alluring Heart of Ikat Weavings

Lepo Lorun, the Alluring Heart of Ikat Weavings

Lepo Lorun is one of the tourist destination on the island of Flores in East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia.

Lepo Lorun, or in Sikka language means “house of weaving”, is a Center of Ikat Weaving, in the Nita village, District of Nita, Sikka Regency in Flores island, East Nusa Tenggara. The center was established by Alfonsa Horeng in 2003 because he cares for the Ikat weaving dyeing process.

Coloring the fabrics using natural dyes has been done from generation to generation. But nowadays, the process has begun to be abandoned, even though it is environmentally friendly, because it doesn’t use any chemical dyes.

How to get to Lepo Lorun

lepo lorun
traditional ikat weaving

It is easy to reach Lepo Lorun since it’s only about 7 km away from Maumere, the capital city of Sikka Regency.

When we arrived in the beautiful area, there are some buildings made of coconut wood and bamboo thatched roof. In one of the wall-less building, some women were seen weaving. Different from the loom that we often see, their loom doesn’t look like a table. But they carry it on their waist. The weaver sit on the floor mat, with both legs straight forward.

On the other side of the building, another weaver bound the yard with a specific pattern. That is where ikat weaving got its name. As a process of resist-dyeing, before it was dyed, the yarns are arranged on a wooden frame and then bound with a strong rope or plastic that is impermeable to the dye.

After all the yarns are tied, they are then dyed with the desired color.

The Natural Dyes for Ikat Weaving Textile

Natural dyes can be obtained from various plants that grow in the surrounding environment. Red and blue are from noni and indigo plants. While mango tree bark and turmeric produce yellow. The skin of nuts will give a greenish color. Other plants such as Dadap (Erythrina), Hepang wood, and Mahogany bark will produce another different color.

The dyeing process is not done all at once. First, bound cotton threads are soaked in Ph neutral water for 24 hours and then air-dried. Next, the half-dried threads are soaked in a colorant solution (FeSO4) and then air-dried again. Then, the dried threads are dipped into the color vat as much as 5 times until reaching the desired concentrated color. Finally, the threads are dipped back into a color strengthening solution so that it doesn’t wear off.

This is just the dyeing process. If we add all of the process, it will take around 45 steps to transform the threads into a piece of fabric. And it will take weeks until months to finish it.

This is why a sheet of ikat fabric is not cheap. The more complex, detailed and colorful the motifs are, the more expensive the fabric will be.  

Tourist can buy the fabric in Lepo Lorun Weaving Center. The fabric can be made into a sarong, vest, jacket, or just in rolls of sheet.

On average, the sheet fabrics are about 70cm wide (as wide as the weavers arm length) and up to 4 meters long. The motifs usually repeat every 2 meter long.

The price for a sheet of fabric varies between 500 thousand Rupiahs to 3 million Rupiahs, depending on the complexity of the motifs or coloring techniques. If it has more than one color, the price will be more expensive.

For Alfonsa Horeng, she founded the center not just as a trade hub for the crafts but rather to conserve the ancestral cultural heritage.

That is why there is also a 3 room home-stay in Lepo Lorun courtyard so that the tourist can get the opportunity to attend weaving workshops, directly from the experts. [wid]

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