After spending many weeks talking about Afghanistan, I’d better get back to my own rugs.
In every recession that I can remember, and I have seen many, there was always a return to traditional design. Not so this time! To my surprise, as a percent of sales, we have sold an increasing number of contemporary rugs right through the depths of the weak period. And now, as we seem to be climbing out of it, it is modern design that is pulling us out of the ditch.
The contemporary trend is across the board, but Ikat patterns are the leading category of rugs that clients and designers seem to prefer. Beginning in 2008 my vendors began showing Ikats following a burst of popularity in the apparel field. It is another case of how apparel design leads trends in home furnishings. The Oscar de la Renta line of 2005 featured the dress shown here. Other lines followed. Designers tell me that Ikat design and shape are inspiring fabric lines in both commercial and residential.
Ikat weaving is possibly the oldest form of textile decoration and is practiced in cultures as divergent as Guatemalan, Indonesian and Japanese. The practice of making Ikat textiles reached the pinnacle of its ornamental beauty during the late 19th century in the land we know today as Uzbekistan. The Uzbek and Tajik peoples made these complicated silk fabrics for their robe-like outer garments that they called ‘chapan’. The fabrics they made were called simply ‘abr’. The name given these beautiful fabrics was different all over the world. In Thailand, the same cloth was called Mudmee. The word we use today for the technique and the fabric is Ikat and it is pronounced ‘ee-kaht’. It has actually taken the Javanese word that means ‘to tie or to bind’.
Making an Ikat fabric is extremely time consuming process and in the case of the most common type, the warp Ikat, the threads used in the length of the fabric are stretched over a 15 to 20 foot long frame. The frame and, eventually, the fabric are usually about 18 inches wide. The intended pattern is marked across the threads in charcoal. A binding of cotton thread, (if the Ikat is to be silk), is wound around each individual warp thread. It is wound around the entire length, except where the first color in the design is to appear. Wax may be used as a substitute, but it will give a more smeared look to the Ikat. The entire 15 to 20 feet of yarn is removed from the frame, dyed and returned to the frame. The now dyed section is wound with thread or waxed and a second section is revealed and dyed. This laborious process is repeated until all the colors are put in place. The yarn bundle is carefully positioned on a simple two heddle loom and the weft tightly inserted in an alternating shed. The pattern is finally revealed. There are even more complicated Ikat variants where the weft is dyed and also a double Ikat where both the warp and weft are dyed and used to make the pattern. Ikat dying differs from batik in that the threads are dyed before the fabric is made and batik is dyed using a wax or another dye resistant substance after the final fabric is formed.
For anyone interested in learning more about the Uzbek Ikat and their Chapan garments, I would refer them to Steppe Magazine, edited by a friend of mine, and the excellent article in Issue 6.
Rugs inspired by Ikats are made in the usual rug weaving, knotting or tufting techniques, but can closely resemble the designs seen in the Uzbek robes. The range of rug offerings has grown since their first appearance in 2008 and now spans popular interior design color palettes. They are also now available in a full range of price points.
At Fine Rugs of Charleston we are offering the bright colors I show here, but true to our Lowcountry design tendency we are selling soft, muted versions like the ones shown below.
More information is available at finerugsofcharleston.com or by calling the showroom at 843-577-3386