If you love the special touch that ethnic fabrics give to any room, you will be also fascinate about the history behind them. After seeing the origin and legends surrounding batik and shibori fabrics, comes the turn of the ethnic fabric considered the oldest one in the world: the ikat.

telasikat1Ikat from Blasco & Blasco.

In many cultures, more than 2,500 years ago…

The origin of ikat is not clear, so we find countless hypotheses. It is likely the ikat commenced in many places in parallel, because the technic has appeared in cultures as distant as Japan, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Turkey, India, Colombia …

telasikat2Via: Pinterest.

If the ethnic fabrics survive, hopefully, a couple of thousands of years, the oldest vestige of ikat dates from 500 B.C., in the south of Indonesia. The ikat fabrics have been associated for centuries with the Silk Road between Asia and Europe, where served as currency. From ikats were made the robes of the leaders of the tribes, the adornments of the best horses and the decoration of luxury palaces. There is evidence that a ikat could be changed by a slave.

telasikat3Via: http://carlaaston.com/

In the thirteenth century, Arabic settlers started to manufacture ikats in Mallorca (Balearic Islands). One theory states that from that island the ikat spread across Europe. Another theory holds that the ikat reached Mallorca by that time but from France and Italy, countries where it was already highly prized by royalty. Anyway, Mallorca is the only place in Europe where this art still lingers. The ikat from Mallorca has its own identity and is known as “tela de lenguas” or roba de llengos (in English: “fabric of tongues”) because their designs are reminiscent of the flames or tongues of fire.

telasikat4“Telas de lenguas” de Serendipity Fabrics

The technique of ikat is as old as intricate. It’s a form of reserve dyeing (as shibori and batik). But the fabric is not dyed, the threads are dyed before weaving. To prevent dye penetration in some areas and get variety of tones in a same thread, knots are tied or areas are waterproofed with wax. After dyed, when the piece is wowen, the drawing will appear depending on the position where the knots were and the colors used. That is why the ikats have the same pattern on both sides.

telasikat5Via: Urban Outfitters

Today, ikats looms continue to operate through generations of artisans in diferent countries of Asia, Arabia, North and West Africa, Latin America and… Mallorca, while collectors and designers pay fortunes by small fragments of old ikats.

telasikat6Via: Pottery Barn

The ikat, that traveled during centuries in caravans of camels, continues to reinvent itself, combining old techniques and new designs. Now this ethnic fabric is present in fabrics, cushions, carpets, wallpaper… an unstoppable influence on the design around the world.

telasikat7Via: Anthropologie