The excitement of Ikat (Fabric, for those of you saying “what?”)

Ah…Ikat. Why are you so misunderstood by my amazing clients out here in the burbs of Philadelphia? As interior designer to the sophisticates in the county of Bucks, the “in-crowd” of Princeton & Hopewell NJ, not to mention “the see and be seen personalities of Upper Makefield…why, oh why, I ask…do design clients run from the room screaming if I sneak an Ikat into a presentation?

OK. So I exaggerate…slightly. My clients are beautiful, see and be seen people to ME…but  they are by all happy accounts normal people just like the rest of us. And truth be told, Ikats don’t make clients scream exactly…Ikats are more likely to make them cringe a little. Designer exaggeration aside (!), Ikat may be the single most voted down and misunderstood of fabrics for this Philadelphia-region interior designer.

For those of you asking what the devil I’m talking about, let me introduce you to wonderful fabric. Ikat, (pronounced “Eee-cat”) is used to describe a pattern or style or method of producing a cloth all to a particular shared visual effect.  Without boring you with too many gory details, here are two of the most fun facts about lovely Ikat.

  • Traditionally, Ikat designs carry strong symbolism, the pattern often representing (are you ready?)…wealth, power, status and social standing (want any yet?)
  • Traditionally, Ikat has been used in religious ceremonies in various parts of the world and was believed to have magical powers (how ’bout a pillow?)

Many parts of the world claim the invention of the Ikat, which can be found in India, Japan, Central and South America, and throughout southeast Asia.  Laying claim aside, Ikats that we know today from great design houses like Kravet or Fabricut have taken the ancient and laborious tradition of weaving these rich designs and instead turned to simple screen printing to mass produce them.

Centuries old, this ethnic pattern was originally made by dying either just the horizontal (or just the vertical) thread. It was dyed PRIOR to weaving…thus you can imagine the challenge to weave in that pattern! Or, sometimes,  something called resist dying was used to produce the wonderful Ikat. Here, wax or paste was applied to the blank cloth to prevent the dye from reaching all the fibers. The dye would seep under the resist, and this is what gives Ikat its characteristically blurred edges. The related flame cloth is Ikat’s cousin, born in Bali.

Grinsing or “flame cloth”

With today’s home owners looking for fresh, warm, stand out interiors, even a splash of Ikat in a few throw pillows lends a modernity and freshness that can’t be beat. For the bold and the daring, I say hike Ikat up the walls in simple but full drapery panels and follow suit with an equally bold wall color.

So the next time somebody says “Ikat,” don’t say gazundtheit…instead say…wow Donna, you are one snappy, fabulous interior designer to the stars…I’ll take some of that. Pass me the Ikat (God bless you!).