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International Quilt Study Center & Museum: Ikats

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum (IQSCM) in Lincoln, Nebraska, is partnering with American Patchwork & Quilting to share information on quilting traditions from around the world.


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Global Perspective: Ikat Fabric

Written by Linzee Kull McCray

An appreciation for richly colored, lustrous textiles unites fabric lovers worldwide. This rare coverlet, made from silk ikat fabric dyed and woven in the country that today is Uzbekistan, was highly prized when it was created in the late 19th century. Today, stitchers thousands of miles and many years away still appreciate its luminous beauty.

Producing ikat fabric is a time-consuming process that involves resist-dyeing: Thread is bundled, dyed, then unwrapped (and sometimes rewrapped at specific points in the dyeing process) to produce a pattern. In some fabrics, both the warp and weft, or cross-wise threads, are resist-dyed. As ikat warp threads are strung on a loom they shift slightly, creating soft patterns.

The Central Asian region began producing ikat fabric in the 1800s. Because producing the fabric took many hours and required meticulous attention to detail the cloth was used for special occasions, such as weddings, as well as to indicate high rank and social status.

Photo courtesy of International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2007.007.0001.