Ikat weaving is considered slow fashion and here’s why. The act of weaving the material from thread to textile, ‘ikat’ translates to tie, which is part of an ancient technique used to apply pattern on threads. Patterns are created by means of compressing the thread, preventing contact with dyes during immersion. Tenun ikat, or ikat weaving, combines processes of coloring and assembling the textile. It is an intricate and time-consuming process.

The basic steps of ikat

  • Arranging the warp yarn on a tying frame.

  • Tying the knot for negative coloring, based on the motif

  • Removing the yarns from the frame  and dyeing first color

  • Remove or add some of the knots for second color dyeing process (if needed)

  • Removing all ties and arrange the yarns back on the loom 


Creating natural colors 

Everything starts at home. All naturally dyed, weavers obtained the ingredients from the surrounding areas of their homes. Coloring techniques are methods passed down through generations, carefully refined through years of personal research and experience. These ingredients are then processed into natural dye in small batches in Maumere, each color with its own recipe; some plants must be brought to boil, others require fermentation for a certain amount of time. To achieve a certain depth of color, the dyeing process is often repeated. 

Red, and core of Orange, Purple, and Brown
Red is made from an extract of the bark base and root fibers of the morinda tree (Morinda citrifolia). To preserve the tree, Maumere weavers only used one-third of the root volume, minimizing harm to the tree. 

Approximately 20 kg of the ingredients is needed for a batch of dye. The more the threads are dipped in the dye, the darker the shade. The coloring process also requires mordanting*. 

Red is, indeed, one of the most challenging colors. 

*Mordant: a required preliminary treatment of the yarn. Maumere weavers used to make a mordanting mixture by boiling candlenut, loba leaves, papaya leaves, talinbao leaves, and dadap leaves.

Blue is made from leaves of the indigo plant or Indigofera tinctoria. The indigo grows on the coast of Maumere. Leaves are fermented overnight before processed into the dye. Threads are immersed reaching 10 times to achieve the specific blue. 

Yellow and Cream
Made of turmeric (Curcuma longa) and kayu kuning (Cudrania, sp). We mixed the yellow and red morinda to achieve orange. 

In Maumere the green is produced from a leaves mixture of turi (Sesbania grandiflora), katuk (Sauropus androgynus), and occasionally indigo and turmeric dye. 


Not as simple as mixing red and blue, purple is made from teak leaves, processed similar to that of red, with an additional oiling process. 

Repeatable immersion in indigo dye with black mud, or an additional teak leaves. 


Mordanting is a preliminary technique applied to the yarn, which bounds the natural dye onto the thread before coloring. Maumere weavers boil candlenut, leaves of loba (Symplocos, sp.), leaves of papaya (Carica papaya), talinbao (Marsdenia tinctoria), and dadap (Erythine lithosperma Miq) to create the mordanting mix. In creating the mixture, Maumere weavers harvest ingredients during specific times of the year, specifically morinda roots.

The mordanting process can take up to three months. The process also depends on the weather; better during the dry season because the thread must be fully dry before the process. The longer the mordanting process, the easier the dyeing process. 


Threads are manually rerolled to then be placed on the tying frame. Patterns are then tied onto the thread using palm leaves or fiber from rice sacks, a modern modification of material because it’s stronger and durable. It is then dismantled from the frame to be immersed in the natural dye. After coloration, the thread is processed with starch and rearranged on the weaving frame. Once the motifs are neatly placed, it is then combined with other patterns and laid out on the major frame. The entire layout is then stretched out using a backstrap loom, which technique relies on weaver’s body to create thread tension during the weaving process.