Share on facebook
Share on skype
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on telegram
Share on pinterest

The magnificent patterns and bright colors of ikat woven products are the status symbols of Central Asia in the 19th century.

In pre-Soviet times in Uzbekistan, it was not just a colorful accent: ikat was the highest manifestation of a fashion designer’s art and a dyer’s skill, an indispensable part of life in those households that could afford it, an important area of the growing urban economy, a valuable and prestigious gift, whether for a loved one or the king.

Ikat was a link in many spheres of life: political, economic and social.


One of the reasons for the prestige of ikat textiles is the difficulty of their manufacture. The whole trick of ikat is that the colors and patterns are applied to the threads in advance, before the fabric is woven, and only when the product is ready does the pattern appear prominently before your eyes.

Each strand of yarn can be dyed and dried up to three times. The main colors of the dyes are yellow, red and blue. Before each stage of the dyeing process, the master must tie each strand to protect the areas that should not absorb this dye. Therefore, the area to be blue must be tied off before dyeing yellow and red; the area to be green should soak up the yellow tint, then bind for the red, and then unbind the blue, so that the yellow and blue together make green.

Ikats with some variations were produced in many regions of the world

The word “ikat” itself comes from a Malay term meaning “to bind”. Central Asian weavers, who worked with the ikat technique, used fine, dry silk threads for weaving. The warp, the threads of which were located across the weft threads, was usually a soft, unobtrusive chintz.

The ikat technique was also used in other places, but in Central Asia things were different. Their fabrics turned out to be the most striking: colors reminiscent of precious stones, with very clear patterns. You won’t see this anywhere else in the world.

The ancient cities of Central Asia, located along the northern Silk Road, were famous for centuries for the production of luxurious fabrics. As for ikats, their main production began in Bukhara and spread to Samarkand, and then to the Ferghana Valley. It flourished in the early 19th century and essentially died out in the 1920s and 1930s, when Soviet power came to the region. People who are familiar with Islamic art and its language immediately grasp the connection to tradition, but note that here it has really been raised to a new level.

Early period products are often distinguished by rapid color transitions from one area to another, with no clear distinctions between the main pattern and the background. The form changed in the middle of the 19th century, when the craftsmen had mastered the technique well. “By the middle of the 19th century they were ready to create new drawings. And, as you can see, between 1850 and 1880 there was an explosion of new ideas.

The above patterns repeated themselves, but not exactly. The artists did not stand still. Trying something new, they followed traditional patterns but interpreted them differently. The art of ikat masters can be compared to jazz improvisation: against the background of the repetition of old themes, new elements are added and new melodies arise.

Old ikat masters said in the 1940s and 1950s that they were driven by a desire to convey a seasonal mood, for example by using abstract figures based on natural forms.

Although the designs are complex and the production process time-consuming, the simplest garments were made from fabrics using the ikat technique: women’s dresses and shalwars, T-shaped robes, for both men and women. Patterns of women’s dressing gowns differ only in small pleats under the sleeves, so that the upper part of the dressing gown fits a little more closely to the figure, and a slightly looser cut at the bottom.

The lining of the tunic was also made bright, but not from ikat, but from printed cotton fabric. Ikat was too “expensive and prestigious” for most people. It was a luxurious fabric for special occasions. Everyone wanted to have it, but not everyone could afford it: for this it was necessary to have a high income. Depending on a person’s income, their wardrobe could have just one such product, or dozens.

Not a single piece of old ikat was thrown away. A worn gown for an adult could be altered for a child or used as trim for other clothing.

Although ikat fabrics and garments were made in the urban centers of Central Asia -oases along the Silk Road-, they were also used by nomads from the interior of the country, as well as by upper-class urban residents. half.

However, in the 20th century, the prestige of Central Asian ikats caused the decline of the industry that produced them. Because, for example, private workshops – fashion designers, dyers, weavers and tailors, sometimes from different ethnic and religious groups – could not fit into the ideal of collectivism preached in the Soviet Union. They tried by all means to preserve the tradition in some way, but unfortunately, when the Soviet regime came, ikat was considered a typical product of the middle class, for wealthy customers, and therefore, in essence, they prohibited the production and the use. of this material

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *