The Malay-Indonesian word Ikat derives from the verb mengikat, which means ‘to bind, tie or wind around’. Ikat is an ancient technique, a method of wrapping yarns to form areas of resist, and then dyeing these sections of yarn before the weaving of a cloth begins. This dyeing and binding process was extremely complex. In the more complex Ikats, this process would be repeated several times, passing repeatedly between the designers and binders and the various dyeing workshops. It was a process of great skill and cooperation. Only when we start to explore the complex methods used to produce Ikat fabrics we can then appreciate the craftmanship and artistry of this very rich textile tradition.
Ikat dyeing is well known in many parts of the world - Central Asia, South Asia, Japan, Yemen, and in South and Central America. All have strong traditions of ikat production. Through wide usage, the word ikat has become the generic term for these textiles in the West, regardless of their geographic origin. The word ikat refers to the process as well as to its final product.
This dyeing technique was practiced in Central Asia in very simple form for centuries. Then, during a hundred-year-long cultural and economic revival in the oasis kingdoms, the art of ikat dyeing became the most vital, sophisticated, and widely distributed textile art in Central Asia.
In Uzbekistan Ikat technique is called Abrband deriving from the Persian “abr” – a cloud, “band” – to tie. Fabrics produced with this method are called “Abra” fabrics. The name of the technology fully reflects its essence. The resulting textile pattern, in its simplest form, looks like colourful clouds that have been weaved onto a piece of cloth.
Bukhara, Margilan, Namangan, Kokand were and are the centres of Uzbekistan decorative weaving crafts. Today these workshops are renowned for the beauty of hand-made silk fabrics all over the world. Centuries old traditions of hand-woven silk and cotton fabrics have been an essential part of national clothes, culture and interiors.
Each school of silk weaving in Central Asia was famous for its ornamental art. The composition of the abr drawing was distinguished by a variety of motifs. They combined geometric, floral and object motifs, as well as stylized images of jewellery. Each pattern was named after the shape it resembled and the content was based on ancient beliefs. The most famous are: Kapalak (butterfly), Ilon easy (snake trail), Gajak (earring pattern), Bodom (almond), Tarokcha (scallop), Chakrik (echo), Tumorcha (amulet), Tarok (comb), Lesson (sickle), Darakht (tree), Anor (garnet), Oy (moon), Shoh (horn), Nogora (timpani drum), Chayon (scorpion), Patnis - nuskha (tray), Bargi - karam (cabbage leaves), Tagalyak (ram's horn).
In modern times ikat making became a fluid form of applied art and the artisans were open to experiments with colours and patterns. Sometimes it is impossible to take one ornament or a popular pattern to define their meaning. We can conclude, however, that the ikat design pattern is infused with symbols, which stand for what’s important to any human being – luck, future of the family (fertility) and prosperity. With experimentation of processes and inspiration coming from many directions, the final result is the fruit of creativity.
Within the Abra fabric family there are different varieties of material, each with its own method of weaving. We would like to introduce you to these terminologies:
Adras is when cotton is used for the weft, the basis is silk and the weaving technique is two-pedal. It is the combination of cotton and silk threads that make Adras original. But the percentage combination of threads may be different. For example, 80% silk and 20% cotton or vice versa. It depends on the purpose of the fabric. It keeps it cool in the summer and gives off heat in the winter.
Khan – atlas - a soft, dense, pure silk fabric with a smooth shiny front surface. The most famous fabric, the real wealth of Uzbekistan, the main production centre of which is the city of Margilan.
Bakhmal is another masterpiece. It’s a velvet fabric with a silk pile, the basis of which is silk and cotton.
Bekasam is a striped fabric made of combination of silk and cotton. Unlike Adras or Bakhmal, Bekasam has a different thickness of warps from which it is made. It is representative of the Fergana school of weaving, which is traditionally used for men’s dressing gowns.
With a variety of ikat fabrics made around the world, one can identify Uzbek ikat fabrics by the vibrancy of colours and a boldness of patterns that make them so interesting. In the same way that food and music can tell a lot about the culture, the same holds true for fabrics and patterns. In Uzbekistan we believe that a tight knit supportive family is a foundation of good happy life. Uzbek families are usually large, especially in villages - gatherings are celebrated widely with music, dancing and a lot of good food. Uzbeks like things that are vibrant, colourful and festive and this is evident in the clothing and bold ikat patterns of ikat fabrics made and worn in Uzbekistan.