There are more types of traditional Indonesian textiles than you can count on both hands. One reason for the great variety is that Indonesia is an archipelago of thousands of islands. Nearly every inhabited island has its own unique methods of weaving and dying. Today, there is much travel and trade between the islands, so you are likely to find classic techniques in ceremonial pieces and household fabrics where ever you go.
The classics to take home are batik and ikat. Although these wax-resistant dying methods originated in Java, you’ll find them throughout the islands. Liquid is painted in various designs on fine cotton fabric (batik) or directly on the threads to be woven (ikat). When dipped in layers of multi-colored dyes, the wax-blocked designs block the dye and create a textile of lovely patterns, images and symbolic designs. The designs in ikat textiles are created in the dying of the threads, but the completed fabric may also be dyed. The islands of Flores and Sumba are famous for their tenun ikat. Prized tenun ikat patterns depict symbols of daily life and cosmology and are typically used in ceremonial clothing.
Where to see textiles: The Museum and shop, Dunia Danar Hadi in Solo, Java is devoted to a rich collection of batik, including those that were once worn only by royalty. You can watch batik-making here and in other workshops throughout the islands. You’ll also find quality batik work in Jogjakarta, Java.
The small but lovely Threads of Life museum and shop in Ubud, Bali has a wide range of traditional and modern ikat. Video’s show the various techniques used and workshops are also held here where you can practice some of the techniques yourself.
A family-owned museum – Museum Batik Yogyakarta – has a fine collection of textiles and also offers workshops in dyeing.
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