Mudmee or Ikat Fabric in Thailand
Mudmee, or ikat (which it is often called by expatriates), is hand woven Thai silk or cotton fabric that comes from Isaan, Thailand’s Northeastern region that is made up of 17 provinces on the Korat plateau. It also goes by other spellings such as matmi, mudmi and ikkat. Ikat (pronounced ‘ee-KAHT’) is derived from the Malaysian word ‘mengikat’, which means ‘to tie/bind’, and is not used by Thais to describe the fabric.
How Is Mudmee Made?
Mudmee is produced through the traditional method of tying in the desired pattern with straw, hay or banana ropes. The ropes stop water from affecting the silk or cotton yarns, whilst dyeing it in the process. The tied yarns move through the dyeing process, but only the untied yarns absorb the dye. The method is repeated as many times as necessary, depending on the preferred colour variations.Afterwards, each silk or cotton yarn is woven to create a variety of designs, combining the coloured areas to produce patterns. The mudmee motifs are based on the varieties of patterns and lines. There are three motif variations: weft mudmee, warp mudmee and double mudmee.
Mudmee fabrics are the oldest recognised patterned textiles throughout the world. They have been around for thousands of years, though scholars are not sure exactly when it originated due to the shorter lifespan of textiles. The majority of historic information has come from long-lasting weaving equipment found at various sites. Traces of silk have been found dating back to 500 B.C. from Isaan’s Ban Na Dee site.
Traditionally in Thailand the nobility wore mudmee on a daily basis, whilst others wore it during festive occasions or ceremonies. Nowadays mudmee is worn more casually, though the complexity of the weaving makes it stand out from the majority of casualwear.
Even though basic looms and equipment often create mudmee textiles, they end up being spectacular works of art due to the pattern placement and complexity of the process. There are thousands of designs in a wide array of colour combinations, and modern designers are reinventing mudmee by maintaining the techniques but modernising the designs. Mudmee is now being used in exciting new ways as well, such as in drapery, upholstery and fashion.
These are mudmee fashion fabrics, woven from cotton in northern Thailand.