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Indonesian Textiles

Indonesian Textiles

Textiles form one of Indonesia's best known exports. They are also a significant Indonesian art form. Traditionally, spinning, dyeing, and weaving were tasks performed by women. They symbolized creation. Many of the designs also have special meaning. Some were used only for royalty. Others were used at rituals such as birth, circumcision, marriage, and death. There are three broad categories of textiles that come from Indonesia. These are:

  1. Songket
  2. Ikat
  3. Batik


Indonesia is famous for its Batik. Originally, batik was made by drawing a pattern on a piece of white cloth (cotton or silk). Parts of the pattern were covered with wax, using a 'canting' which is a hollow pen-like instrument, with a small cup for melted wax on the top. The cloth was then immersed in dye. The part of the cloth which was covered with wax did not get dyed. The whole process was then repeated on additional parts of the design, using a darker dye, and so on until the pattern was ready. Yogyakarta and Solo (Surakarta) are the two main Batik centers of Indonesia. Other places which have their own distinct style of Batik are Cirebon and Pekalongan. Common patterns include flowers, birds, and clouds. This hand-made process still exists, but now batik is also made by printing machines in factories. 



Ikat is another category of textiles that comes from Indonesia. Ikat involves dyeing patterns on threads and then weaving the threads into fabric. Ikat is popular in the islands east of Bali, such as Lombok, Sumbawa, and Sumba. The colors for Ikat are produced from plants and trees. Common Ikat patterns include ancestor figures, nature scenes, and geometric patterns.



'Songket' is a kind of textile found mostly in Sumatra. 'Songket' involves weaving gold and silver threads into the fabric. The patterns are mostly either floral, or geometric. The area around Padang and Bukitinggi is famous for 'Songket'.