What Is An Ikat Rug?

FH-02 from Farrah by Loloi

Ikat may seem to be a recently popular style when it comes to clothing, throw pillows, and rugs, but truthfully, it’s a style that has been around for ages. Ikat, pronounced “ee-kaht,” is a technique and style that originated in Asia and South America. While the pattern comes from a variety of countries, the term “Ikat” that we use today stems from the Indonesian tradition.

Ikat is a resist dyeing technique where the threads used for weaving are dyed beforehand. The Ikat threads are bound in a pattern so that the threads covered by the binding “resist” the dye, which forms into a pattern. The more binding done before weaving, the more intricate the design. Now, the blurry designs made popular by this Ikat tradition have become highly sought after and recreated in more modern approaches, including the use of other products like pillows and clothing. Here is everything you need to know about Ikat rugs and their different styles.

All About Ikat

Skylar from Geology by Artistic Weavers

The term “Ikat” stems from the Indonesian word “mengikat”. In Indonesia, “mengikat” is the noun for cord, thread, and knot and the verb used for the phrases “to tie” and “to bind.” The word is also used to describe the completed fabric. The resist dyeing technique is most common, however, the most complicated form is “double Ikat.” Double Ikat is a technique where both the warp and weft threads are dyed. In some countries, a double Ikat rug may be more precise, while other countries use the double Ikat technique to make their rugs even more blurry.

Central Asian designs favor the blurry aesthetic, while South American and Indonesian designs are more precise. For a more precise Ikat pattern, thread adjustments are required every time the shuttle passes through the weft yarns.

Styling Ikat Rugs

TSE-1037 from Tessera by Surya

Ikat style rugs are popular because of their worldly look. Those who love to travel to different countries bring Ikat rugs into their homes to evoke a sense of diversity and wonder. Bohemian dreamers find that Ikat rugs fit perfectly into their relaxed, down-to-earth homes. Ikat rugs come in every color imaginable so they can fit into a variety of different homes. Ikat rugs are both traditional and contemporary, and some even come in very vibrant, bright colors, like pink.

Because Ikat rugs tend to be rather busy, it is best to let your Ikat rug do the decorative work. If your Ikat rug is full of color and has a wild pattern, keep the rest of your room simple and neutral. This will allow the rug to be a work of art and truly stand out. If your Ikat rug is softer with neutral colors and more on the blurry side, you can play around with the decor in the room.

Traditional Ikat

FH-02 from Farrah by Loloi

Ikat rugs have been produced for hundreds of years. They originated in countries like Cambodia, Thailand, South America, and Central America. The more traditional Ikat rug styles are going to contain elements of culture from these places. Of course, a South American Ikat rug will look vastly different from a Cambodian rug, but each will hold onto the style foundations of each country.

This Egyptian Ikat rug has a precise pattern with blurred out sections for a vintage effect. The dark, rich colors make it suitable for a home with lots of natural wood. This rug would also contrast nicely in a bright white room. This Turkish Ikat rug is much more blurry. The lighter colors of blue and ivory make this rug soft and easy on the eyes. This rug would be fitting in a room with lots of neutral colors and pops of navy or dark blue.

Modern Ikat

Big Horn from Dryden by American Rug Craftsmen

Modern Ikat rug styles are very different from traditional Ikat. They have contemporary patterns that are more abstract and sometimes even minimalist. These modern Ikat rugs hold onto the origins of Ikat technique by creating that blurred effect that is so popular.

The Ikat in this modern Turkish rug is very subtle. The background of grey and ivory is done in an Ikat technique underneath the modern pattern. This grey and silver rug is incredibly blurry, taking the Ikat pattern to a more extreme abstract style. This modern Ikat rug is a Moroccan shag rug. This rug goes to show how Ikat has made its way into a variety of materials, and that Ikat has even blended into the shag rug-making process. The beautiful shag rug has a nice fade to it that makes it less stark. Here is a more extreme faded shag. A common trend in modern Ikat rugs is this overly distressed look, as you can see in this Persian Ikat rug.

Bright Ikat

Vintage Dahlia from Carnival by NuLoom

Many of the brighter Ikat rugs tend to be more contemporary in style. The Ikat on this bright multi-colored bohemian rug is subtle but keeps the rug from being overpowering. As you can see with this rug, Ikat is a technique used to soften up brightly-colored rugs, and it is used to fade fabrics to make them easier on the eyes. This is great when you want a bright and colorful rug in your home, but you’re afraid bright, solid colors will be “too much.” If that’s the case, look for a bright Ikat rug to get that faded look to soften things up.

Here is another bright, multi-color rug in a bohemian style. In this rug, the Ikat makes the rug very distressed and allows for a darker grey background to remain soft and light in contrast with the bolder colors. This bright floral pink rug with Ikat is a great example of how Ikat can subdue a pattern to make it more approachable and comfortable in a home.

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