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 dying. The word ikat derives from the Indonesian 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 where both warp and the weft are resist-dyed prior to stringing on the loom. Traditionally, and still commonly, a back-strap loom is used, though any variant or modern loom may be used. Double ikat is only produced in three countries, India, Japan and Indonesia. In Indonesia it is only made in one small Bali Aga village, Tenganan in east Bali.