How to weave a sacred cloth

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Have you heard of ikat weaving? No? Ikat is an intricate dying and weaving technique from South-East Asia – Indonesia, mostly – and it’s what the woman in the photo above is doing. (This pic was taken in Wera, on Sumbawa, on one of Dunia Baru’s charters. The village is known for its exceptional boat builders and ikat weavers.)

What happens in ikat is that threads – which will form either the warp or the weft of the cloth – are gathered into bundles and tied so that these sections resist the dye and create intricate patterns in the cloth. Traditionally palm fibres are used to tie the patterns and resist the dye, but these days plastic is often used. Once the dying process is complete and the pattern is revealed, the threads are woven on a loom.

The patterns that are created are varied and many of the motifs have symbolic meaning. Some pieces of cloth have exceptional value to the families who own them, and in some parts of Indonesia these pieces of cloth are believed to have magical power. In Bali, for example, in the Bali Aga village of Tenganan a very complex “double ikat” method of weaving is used (where patterns are dyed onto both the warp and the weft before weaving). This cloth is called geringsing and, it is believed, has the power to keep impurities and danger out of the village.

To see how the weaving is done, take a look at the video below, which we found on YouTube:

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