Ikat, or Ikkat, is a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles that employs a resist dyeing process similar to tie-dye on either the warp or weft fibres prior to dyeing. The word ikat derives from the Malay word mengikat 'to tie'.
Bindings, which resist dye penetration, are applied to the threads in the desired patterns and the threads are dyed. Alteration of the bindings and the dyeing of more than one color produce elaborate, multicolored patterns. When all of the dyeing is finished the bindings are removed and the threads are ready to be woven into cloth.
The defining characteristic of ikat is the dyeing of patterns, by means of bindings, into the threads before cloth construction, the weaving of the fabric, takes place. Herein lies the difference between ikat and tie-dye. In tie-dye the fabric is woven first and the resist bindings are then applied to the fabric which is dyed.
In warp ikat the patterns are clearly visible in the warp threads on the loom even before the plain colored weft is introduced to produce the fabric. In weft ikat it is the weaving or weft thread that carries the dyed patterns which only appear as the weaving proceeds. In weft ikat the weaving proceeds much slower than in warp ikat as the passes of the weft must be carefully adjusted to maintain the clarity of the patterns.
Double Ikat is a technique in which both warp and the weft are resist-dyed prior to stringing on the loom. Double ikat is only produced in three countries, India, Japan and Indonesia. The double ikat of Japan is a type of kasuri. It is woven in the Okinawa islands where it is called tate-yoko gasuri. In Indonesia it is only made in one small Bali Aga village, Tenganan in east Bali. The double ikat of India is predominantly woven in Gujarat and is called patola.