Why Uzbek ikats are so narrow?

Why Uzbek ikats are so narrow?

One of the main questions that interests most people is a narrow width of Uzbek Ikats. There is a story of how in the Soviet days, when there was no such thing as a private business, the production of ikat textiles was in the hands of the government and the production was industrialized in a sense there were industrial scale weaving machines. However, even those machines could not make a fabric wider than 90 centimeters. Why not? Because old Soviet industrialized looms were limited to 90 cm!

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening up of the market revived artisanal craftsmanship. Fabrics that were made in big factories started being produced by artisans at home on hand looms, which are narrow. To these day most of ikats made in Uzbekistan are made on hand looms.

To answer the question as to whether the Uzbek ikats can be made in width greater than 90 cm, we had to drill ikat gurus with our endless questions and have to report that, sadly, “no” is the answer. There have been attempts to try weaving ikats on wider looms that were imported from India – another ikat making culture – and unfortunately, in trials, it was discovered that the quality of Uzbek silk is not suitable for wider loom weaving.

In addition to this conversation we can add some of pre-1991 era photos which were given us not long ago from an ikat maker in Margilan.


Here we go – black and white photos from the old days.

Sorting out silk cocoons

Young woman weaving

Soviet textile factory

Textile factory in USSR days, city of Margilan


If at that time the width of the ikat was 90 cm, then today this figure has decreased to 40-50 cm. The fabric is so narrow because most of them are woven by hand, and the hand looms of Uzbek weavers are narrow. In this width it is more possible to fit the most unique prints and patterns of the ikat. Imagine how our usual ikat pattern looked more than a meter long. Not exactly what you need, right?


This width allows you to create unusual design solutions and give ikat uniqueness. Of course, considering the peculiarities of sewing clothes from ikat, it can be said that the creation of national dresses, robes and other types of clothing requires more fabric. That is, in order to bring together the flower to a flower symmetrically, you need to spend more fabric.

Unusual qualities of ikat

The peculiarity of ikat is that, in addition to the print, it is a complicated weaving procedure, which considers the fact that threads of different thickness are interconnected. Then the bundles with threads are dyed in any color and thus the desired pattern created. Because of this, the ikat ornament is so valued. And the width of the fabric plays an important role here, since the wide fabric will not allow creating such a pattern. Because of its value, ikat was available only to rich people. Therefore, this ornament is a symbol of luxury and wealth. Still, earlier it was believed that ikat has special, supernatural capabilities. Residents of Central Asia believed that the canvas can store the master’s energy.


Since ikat is a fairly durable material, it is used as a material for sewing clothes, as well as textiles. Ikat can be found in the collections of ancient relics as carpets or bedspreads. Often this ornament is used for furniture upholstery. You can find ikat on dishes, tablecloths or other things. If you are a conservative in essence and do not like to change anything, ikat will suit you perfectly. This pattern is ethnic in origin, which means that it will suit the design of a classic interior style. Blue ikat will add elegance to your room. In this case, the shade of blue does not play a special role. For a more original and luxurious version, you need to take a more colored ikat with the use of hot colors, where there will be quite complex patterns.


Ikat can be one-sided and two-sided (double ikat). For one-sided ikat, the pattern is applied only to the warp threads (these are the threads along the canvas). Two-sided ikat drawing is applied to both the warp and the weft. Two-sided ikat – is a highest pilotage of hand weaving. Even in a one-sided ikat, in order for the drawing not to “blur”, excellent craftsmanship is required. In two-sided ikat, everything is much more complicated. Exact combination of the pattern can only achieve the master of the extra class. The width of a two-sided ikat is also 40 or 50 cm.


Ikat is a genuine work of art. It is passed from generation to generation. There are ikats that are 250 years old or more. Many types of ikat are sacred, they play an important role in rituals. All ikats possess positive magical powers that protect the wearer from evil spirits. Two-sided ikat is especially complex ikat – a symbol of wealth, wealth and power. Ikats were used on some islands as money or rich gifts, and even civil wars happened because of them.

Any ikat is a rarity and a work of art. In today’s manual ikat only vegetable dyes are used, and all of them have strong healing properties and positive magic power.