For the first time in years, I took a “real vacation”. It seems like I am always traveling, but most of the time it's to mills, factories, and suppliers. Being on vaca time didn’t stop me from checking out some local textiles. What’s most fascinating to me about textiles is that no matter where you go there are textiles unique to the area and learning about them often leads to a new understanding of the history in that part of the world.
I spent last week in Mallorca, Spain. Mallorca is one of the islands in the Balearic Island’s, the most famous of the islands probably being Ibiza. The islands are known for their Ikat fabrics, aka el ikat. Locally they are called tela de llengüe or roba de llengos, which means the fabric of tounges, this reference refers to the flame like patterns in the fabric.
Ikats are not unique to one area of the world, they are found everywhere from Asia, to Europe, to South America. Interestingly enough, many of these styles were developed independently without being influenced by one another. European countries first learned about Ikat fabrics from Asia via the Silk Road, which linked the two regions for the first time.
Ikat fabrics, along with many other Asian goods, were seen as exotic, and therefore luxurious to Europeans. The Ikat fabrics that have become so iconic to the region of Spain and seen through homes, hotels, and restaurants are actually echoes of Asian influence and the beginning of globalization. Through the years, since its first introduction, the Spanish style of Ikat has morphed, thanks mostly to French influence and has become unique to the country.
There are 3 fabric mills that are operational on the island of Mallorca, I choose to visit Bujosa Textil, they are a third generation run family business. A quick google search, looking at prices and product lead me to believe that the other 2 were a little more tourist trappy and this one was closer to the real deal. Prices at the other mills started at 65 Euro, Bujosa prices were only 15 Euro per meter - a very fair price for a novel handcrafted fabric. The shop is located in the town of Santa Maria del Camí, a quiet town towards the north of the island surrounded by windy roads and mountain views - the drive up is an event in itself.
how ikats are made
Ikat fabric is made using resist printing techniques. I have written about Indian dabu printing, which uses mud as a resist printing medium on fabric, this process uses the same basic principles. But instead of treating fabrics, the yarns are treated individually.
Wax or resist chemicals are used to block out where dye is not wanted on long skeins of yarns. The resist medium can be printed on or brushed on depending on how precise of a pattern is wanted. The yarns are then dyed, the treated parts remaining white. The dyed yarn skeins then become the warp yarns on the loom, and solid colored yarns are woven into to the weft. The result is a fabric with a lot of character and dimension.
Check out these photos of Bujosa Textil weaving process and workshop. The looms are extremely old and powered through a system of electricity and pulleys. The only downside of these fabrics is that they are made with chemical dyes. Bujosa is looking into getting natural dyes again, like the old days, but currently, there are no natural dye suppliers on the island. They explained to me that customers no longer want the problems that are associated with natural dyes like, poor colorfastness and a limited range of colors so the tradition of plant dying has, literally, dyed out.
entrance to Bujosa Textil
black diamond ikat fabric being woven
blue diamon ikat fabric being woven
close up of resist dyed warp yarns
dyed yarns being wound onto a warp beam
spare loom parts
close up of finished fabric on the loom and a wooden shuttle
display of old traditional natural dyes
dyed yarn skeins and dye formulas
yarn dying area, from left to right - centrifuge, dye vat, and wash bin
finished fabric for sale
ikat placemats for sale in the shop
pillows, small bags, scarves, and other goods for sale in the shop