I’m always getting asked how to design patterns that sell well and today I’m going to fill you in about one type of surface design that is always popular with clients. The Ikat is particular popular in the home décor market, but I have also seen it used successfully within textiles for fashion.
So what is an Ikat?
The term ‘Ikat’ comes from the Malay work ‘mengikat’ which means to bind or tie. Over time the word has become more of a description of the actual textile design, rather than just the process. Ikat actually means a dyeing technique which involves resist dyeing yarns before the dyeing and weaving process begins in order to create the traditional pattern. I knew this must be a lengthy process but I didn’t appreciate just how labour intensive it is until I watched this time lapse video which you can view here.
How is an Ikat created?
1. The dyeing process is not simply dyeing yarns and then weaving them in to a pattern, it is far more complicated than that. The pattern has to be drawn out on the actual yarns over the warp & the weft.
2. The yarns are then bound very precisely according to the pattern, before being dyed in vibrant colours so that the yarn is coloured in the chosen colours in the correct places.
3. The bindings are removed from the yarns and they are then strung out on a loom, having to be positioned in exactly the right place to create an accurate version of the design.
4. The cloth is then woven & the beautiful Ikat design created.
The characteristic of an Ikat is of course that blurriness, and interestingly this is the result of the weaver having extreme difficulty lining up the dyed yarns to create the perfect pattern. The more skilled the craftsman & the finer the yarn, the less blurriness. So the Ikat effect that we all know and love within textile design is actually the result of mistakes, and the blurriness is seen as inferior where it is actually made!. If you wanted to tell the difference between an original Ikat & a replicated print on a woven base, you only need to look on the back of a fabric as obviously on a real Ikat the design is woven all the way through.
How to recreate an Ikat design as a surface pattern
Nowadays this popular design is being recreated in many ways, through embroidery, weaves (but not in the traditional method!) and of course print. Below I’m going to show you 3 examples of how you can recreate your very own Ikat pattern emulating the blurriness that we love so much.
This is a snippet of one of my watercolour versions. Next time I think I may try using a white over the top and working in to it to add some more texture rather just feathering the edges here, but I still like the effect of all the colour blending that you can achieve with watercolours. Here I used a medium size brush to create the design then feathered the edges using upwards & downwards strokes with a smaller brush.
I came across a very talented artist called Laura Dro who does some incredibly beautiful acrylic Ikats as well as other paintings, you can view her work here. Laura has worked with some amazing clients including Nordstorms, Land of Nod, Staples & Homegoods to name a few. She was born in Florida & you can definitely see how the beach has influenced her work which incudes icons such as pineapples, palms leaves, birds, and summer florals.
Here are two more by artist Kristy Gammill, these are original paintings that have been sold but you can view a selection of her work here.
I found a really handy little tutorial on creating Ikats in Illustrator here. It basically involves creating a simple geometric & applyinh the scribble effect. You could also create designs that are less of a structured geometric that incorporate some of the more traditional looking motifs. It looks pretty quick and easy to create the below effect, a far cry from the original technique!.