Ikat vs. Patola
Recently I was strolling through the 'Weaves of India' exhibition when I noticed a booth named Ikat Sarees. Since I have heard the word Ikat only recently, I was curious.
I went to the booth and asked the attendant to show me the sarees. As soon as he showed me the first saree, I told him to not to show the Patolas but only the Ikats. The attendant said that he was showing Ikats and not the Patolas. We kept on arguing because he didn’t know what a Patola was and I didn’t know what an Ikat was. Anyways, I came back and decided to do some research and Voila! It turns out that both of us were right. Patola is a kind of Ikat.
Ikat is made through a labor intensive process of marking, tying and dyeing the design (also called the resist dyeing) into the yarn before the cloth is woven. A similar dyeing process is done for tie-and-dye and batik designs but it’s done on the woven cloth, whereas in Ikat the dyeing is done on the yarns before they are woven into the cloth. Since the surface design is created through the pattern on the yarns rather than the pattern on the cloth, in Ikat both fabric faces are patterned
In Single Ikat, either the warp (lengthwise yarn) or the weft (widthwise yarn) is dyed using the resist-dyeing technique. The other side yarn is dyed in the solid color and that’s why the final design is a little blurry.
In Double Ikat both the warp and the weft yarns are resist-dyed. Obviously it is more difficult to make patterns in this case and it becomes more expensive. The double ikat made in Patan, Gujarat is called Patola and it is made using the fine silk yarns. Since both the warp and the weft have patterns, these designs are much brighter than the Single Ikat.
So there you have it, Ikat is a dyeing technique and Patola uses Double Ikat for creating bright patterns. Mystery solved! Now you can confidently shop for Ikats and Patolas. You know which one should be more expensive and which one should be brighter. And here is a video of the whole process, if you are curious.
If you know more about Ikats, please do comment. We would love to hear from you.