The Magical Skill of Ikat

A look into the creation of the Telia Rumal, double ikat fabric from Telangana, India

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Telia Rumal: Ikat weaving (2017) by Weaver SuryamDastkari Haat Samiti

Ikat weaving

The Telia Rumal is a double Ikat weave that originated in Chirala district of Andhra Pradesh. The word 'Ikat' is derived from the Malay-Indonesian word 'mang-ikat', which means to bind or knot, as the yarn that goes into the weave is tied and dyed before being woven. At its simplest, the craft of weaving the Ikat involves great mathematical skill.

Telia Rumal: Double ikat sari (Contemporary) by Weaver Gadu SrinuDastkari Haat Samiti

The video give a short glimpse of how the artisans create Ikat fabrics.

Telia Rumal: Ikat weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Double ikat weaving takes this mathematical skill to a different level altogether, above and beyond the basic set of calculations.

India, Indonesia and Japan are the only three places in the world where double ikat is still manufactured.

Telia Rumal: Ikat textile (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The designs

The design for Ikat weaving is visualised in the weaver’s mind and then plotted on a graph. It is translated through a multi-stage process of precision resist tie and dyeing of the yarn itself before the  weaving of the product starts. 

Telia Rumal: Double ikat sari (Contemporary) by MallikarjunaDastkari Haat Samiti

Detail of a Ikat fabric with plant and animal motifs.

Telia Rumal: Ikat textile (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A design as visualised in the weaver’s mind, then plotted on a graph, and finally translated through a multi-stage process of precision resist tie and dyeing of the yarn itself before the weaving of the product starts.

Telia Rumal: detail of a double ikat sari (Contemporary) by Weaver Gadu SrinuDastkari Haat Samiti

The design begins to manifest its form only upon the interaction of the warp and weft yarns on the loom.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Tying the threads

Weavers, almost intuitively, calculate the number of threads required to make an inch of a woven fabric of a particular density using a specific thickness of yarn. This is how they arrive at the weight of yarn they will need to weave a warp of a particular length, given the specific set of variables of yarn, construction and desired end product. The resulting yarn will eventually look like this.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The story starts with the yarn stretched out and marked according to the grouping of threads required by the design.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

It is then tied at set points, determined by the pattern and colour sequence of the design.

Rubber binds are wound tightly to reserve areas that are to be kept from absorbing the colour that the yarn is to be dyed in.

Telia Rumal: Ikat weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Once dyed, the resulting yarn will eventually look like this.

Telia Rumal: Colour reduction process (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dyeing the warp

Once the warp threads are tied at set points, determined by the pattern and colour sequence of the design, rubber binds are wound tightly to reserve areas that are to be kept from absorbing the colour that the yarn is to be dyed in. To attain the complete dyed colour layout, the yarn undergoes a number of stages of dyeing and resist tying, and dyeing again.

Telia Rumal: Yarn dyeing (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

To attain the desired colour layout, a number of stages of dyeing and resist tying, and dyeing again will be involved.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Resist dyed yarn being prepared for the warp.

Telia Rumal: Dying thread before weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Once the yarn is dyed, the threads are dried before the process of weaving.

Telia Rumal: Weft preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Weft preparation

The mastery of the craft is in visualising a design and translating it through abstraction to its constituent warp and weft elements. Once the warp is dyed and ready to be put on the loom, the weaver ties the weft threads according to the design and then dyes them.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Complex and precise calculation is then required, corresponding to which the yarn must be skilfully tied to resist the dyes it is processed with, in a painstaking and iterative process.

Traditional master weavers did most of the processing in their minds. A drawing or graphical rendition by hand could be an aid in the process.

Telia Rumal: Weft preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Nowadays, some younger weavers make new designs with the help of software, and are able to follow buyers’ design briefs and instructions as generated on a computer.

Telia Rumal: Ikat weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Weaving

Once the warp and weft are dyed, the weaver sets the loom and starts weaving. An ikat weaver can skilfully create 'single ikat', 'warp ikat', or 'double ikat' fabrics. Ikat weaving requires skill and precision. The more complex the design and the greater number of colours involved, the more demanding is the textile at each stage of its creation.

Telia Rumal: Weaving a warp ikat fabric (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The simpler form of ikat is 'single ikat', with the pattern defined by resist dyed yarn in either warp or weft.

In the warp ikat, once the warp is set, the weaver sitting at the loom uses weft of a single colour. The weaving itself is a relatively simple process.

Telia Rumal: Ikat weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

In weft ikat, where the warp is plain and the weft yarn is resist dyed, greater skill is required in weaving.

The weft yarn must be carefully laid in order to obtain the clarity in design.

Telia Rumal: Weaving a Telia Rumal (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

'Double ikat' fabrics have resist dyed yarn in warp and weft, and the pattern emerges from an interaction of these on the loom. Thus, this school of weaving requires skill and precision.

Telia Rumal: Double ikat sari (Contemporary) by MallikarjunaDastkari Haat Samiti

The more complex the design and the greater number of colours involved, the more demanding is the textile at each stage of its creation.

Telia Rumal (Contemporary)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about the art of Telia Rumal here:

- Telia Rumal
- Weaving Telia Rumal
- The Weaving Community

Credits: Story

Text: Aloka Hiremath, Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Artisan: Gajam Govardhan and associated weavers
Ground Facilitator: Shalini Shashi
Documentary Video: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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