The weaving island of Pulau Rote is located a ferry ride from Timor and is one of the closest Indonesian islands to Australia, only 800 km from Darwin. Women have been weaving ikat here for centuries, but natural dyes are getting more difficult to find as commercial threads are cheaper and easier. Through a contact we have been able to connect with a weaving group producing magnificent natural dyes from local plants. The colours range from soft blue and grey to deeper browns and red.
Indonesia is well known for their Ikat style of textiles. This piece is made on a backstrap loom that sits on the ground. The warp thread is strung onto the loom and the desired pattern is sketched onto the thread. The thread is then wrapped with sting, straw or plastic so certain areas of the thread resist the dye. The thread is then soaked in one or numerous dye baths depending on the desired pattern. The thread is then returned to the warp of the loom and the weaving process begins. As the weft is woven through the warp the pattern emerges in the cloth. Once piece of cloth can take 1-12 months to complete.
Natural Dyeing Process
Beautiful soft tones as well as strong and vibrant colours are produced using only natural dyes. The process to produce strong colours that last is often a long one. It takes generations of local knowledge which is being lost with the popularity of chemical dyes.
The blue is made from indigo which is grown and harvested locally. It is first soaked in water mixed with lime powder. The lime reacts with the leaf and turns the water blue. It is them fermented for weeks to ensure the colour is strong and will remain in the cloth.
Red, yellow, brown, green and black are produced with various roots and leaves, sometimes mixed together for varying colour tones.