It’s not often that you find a popular trend with a rich history, but with ikat, that’s exactly what you get. Ikat — pronounced “ee-KAHT” — is a huge trend in the interior design and textiles industries. In fact, it’s been around since at least the 15th century, and potentially even earlier than that. Textiles do not preserve well as a general rule, but scholars have found ikat fabrics from the pre-Columbian era.
Because of its trendiness, ikat now has two meanings. Originally, it was solely a method of dyeing and weaving threads to create a complexly patterned fabric. In a design context, it can also designate a pattern that has an ikat look to it. But what is an ikat look?
Part of what sets ikat apart from other patterns is that its colors tend to look like they’re running together. While most modern manufacturers will simply design their fabric prints to stamp on a pattern to look this way, a genuine ikat weave will run the colors together naturally through the process of making the piece of fabric.
This happens because a real ikat weave begins as blank threads that are tied strategically to prevent color from reaching certain sections — similar to modern tie-dye, but more refined. Once the dyed threads are dry, they are woven together by one of three methods: weft ikat, warp ikat, or double ikat. These qualifiers simply signify the threads in the fabric that have been dyed. Depending on the type of weave, the resulting pattern can be more or less precise, affecting how much the colors look like they’re running together.
No matter the specific design that results from the ikat weave, it’s this look of bleeding colors that designates it as ikat, in the modern sense. Both abstract and generally colorful, ikat has been able to hold a certain appeal for centuries that most trends can’t even hope to compete with.