• Ikat Explorations

    When I started exploring indigo dyeing last year, I couldn't wait to attempt ikat, despite knowing that it is an incredibly laborious technique. For those unfamiliar with the technique, the first step  is to wind a warp. The warp threads are then bound in a design so that when dyed, the dye will resist those bound areas and the design will be visible. The warp is then dyed, rinsed, and the tied areas are unbound. At this point, the warp is ready to be put on your loom, and weaving can finally begin.

    Ikat is a technique used in cultures around the world, with each culture making it uniquely their own. For my explorations, I was looking an examples of simple designs, made with just one dye bath.

    During my first attempt, I had used regular household plastic wrap to bind the yarns, which proved a terrible idea. The plastic wrap clings to itself, which is handy in the kitchen, but not so much when binding warp threads. For my second attempt, I used plastic tape that artist and friend Paula Becker passed along to me. It made all the difference as I was able to bind tightly, and work with it more easily. After wrapping with the tape, I reinforced the area with a strong thread to be sure that it was tight and no dye would penetrate.

    In my first piece, I used weft that had also been dyed, along with yarn that had been bound for use in weft ikat effects. (Thanks again to Paula for giving me her weft ikat yarn!)

    In my second piece, I used dyed yarn as a ground weft, with an inlay technique in areas to make the white areas more white.

    I hadn't used inlay much recently, but had used this technique extensively in college. It slows the weaving process down a lot, but the results it yields are worth the extra effort. (It doesn't look quite so slow in time-lapse!)

    Lastly, I had threaded my loom with a pointed draw so I could play with twill structures. While I do appreciate seeing the structure more on this piece, I found I prefer pieces woven with plain weave as the pattern already has so much interest.

    When binding my ikat, I imagined the shapes would hold together more. Yes, ikat is known for its shifting edges, but my pieces seemed to be shifting more than I expected. I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong, it takes more practice, or if I should ask a friend to help me  crank the warp on next time. Regardless, as I wove my warp, I loved the shifting more and more. The shapes became their own, and I was surprised to find that I felt liberated by that.

    Each ikat attempt inspires me to do another and to research more about how this technique is done around the world.

    This month I'm making a quick visit to Toronto and am excited to see that the Textile Museum of Canada currently has an ikat exhibit on display. Hopefully I'll come back feeling inspired, with lots of ideas of new projects.

    This post was originally published on The Common Thread.

  • Shibori, Ikat & the Joy of Making Together

    Urban living has it drawbacks. Such as, having to ask myself “Will my loom even fit into this place?” every time I’ve looked for an apartment. Also, sitting on a set of dyes for years because I have no space to rinse anything messy. And often, creating alone in my studio.

    Enter my friend Cathy and her brilliant idea to host an outdoor indigo dyeing party. I could not accept the invitation fast enough and joined fellow textile artists in sharing dye baths. Together we explored indigo dyeing, shibori techniques, and I attempted ikat.


    I accepted the invitation because I wanted to dye again, yet I came to realize it was about more than just the dyeing. Participating in these indigo dyeing parties filled a creative void that I didn’t really realize I had. My 16-harness Macomber loom is anything but portable, and I no longer work in the textile industry. I miss the days of working in a space with creative people, all of us working on our own projects, sharing ideas and offering feedback.

    I also don’t push myself to learn about new techniques or research textile history and culture. These projects and these gatherings connected me with other artists, and also reminded me of the value of slowing down and taking the time to learn new skills.

    By working together, we inspire each other to try new techniques, and share tools, resources and ideas.

    I came away with many interesting samples, and a burning urge to try more ikat. Technically, it was the biggest challenge for me. My first time wasn’t great, but good enough to make me want to try again. My second attempt seems better, and I’m already planning out a third.


    Creating can get lonely, it’s important to get out of that rut every now and then and be inspired by your community and hopefully inspire others.

    Where have you found a creative community? 


    And there’s good news for those of you in Southern New England. What started out as a group of friends getting together, has evolved into actual workshops taught by the talented Cathy Wilkerson of The Indigo Squirrel. Sign up if you’re interested in learning shibori techniques.

    Resources I found helpful:
    Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shape Resist Dyeing
    Japanese Ikat Weaving

    This post was originally published on The Common Thread.

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