An interior design lover’s guide to Ikat lampshades

It’s colourful, it’s vibrant, it makes your home sing….Ikat dyeing has been used for thousands of years to make all sorts of cotton and silk products – not least, beautiful lampshades.

As we introduce some gorgeous new designs into our Ikat shade collection, here’s everything you need to know about Ikat dyeing: from how to pronounce it, to how to use it to maximum effect in your home interior design…  


How to say ‘Ikat’

This one catches a lot of people out. You pronounce Ikat as ‘ee-kaht’ (so it rhymes with ‘peek at’; not ‘eye cat’). The word comes from the Indonesian-Malay, and, depending on context, literally translates as the verbs to bind or to tie; or the nouns cord, thread, knot, or bundle. 

When we say it we’re either referring to the special dyeing technique used to create those characteristic, striking patterns, or to the finished dyed fabric itself.

 black and cream atlas ikatStraight empire silk ikat shade in black and cream atlas 

The origins of Ikat

Ikat dyeing is one of the oldest forms of textile design with a history spanning thousands of years. While generally believed to have originated in Indonesia, Ikat fabrics have been produced by various cultures over the centuries, including in India and across East and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas – although the term ‘Ikat’ only entered the European vocabulary in the early 20th Century.

Ancient Ikat techniques designs are still employed today in places like Indonesia, India and Japan, and Ikat fabrics are used for everything from clothing and accessories to bedding, door screens, tea towels and wall hangings. And of course, lovely lampshades. 

smarkand ikatChildren with their tracher in 19th century Samarkand. The child on thr right wears a striking Ikat robe. Image: Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii, Public domain

How are Ikat designs made?

Ikat is a form of ‘resist’ dyeing, which involves the application of a material such as wax or paste to stop the dye from reaching certain parts of a weave or fabric – and that contrast of dyed and undyed parts results in the creation of a distinctive pattern. 

 With other types of resist dyeing, such as batik or tie-dye, the resist is applied to the already woven fabric – but with Ikat, individual yarns or bundles of yarn (usually silk, cotton, linen or wool) are bound with a tight wrapping and then dyed to create the pattern, before weaving the yarn into fabric. This process means that unlike other forms of dyeing, Ikat produces a pattern on both sides of the fabric. 

ikat weavingIkat weaving. Image: Public domain 

For more elaborate Ikat designs with complex patterns or colours, the yarns are untied, rebound and dyed again, sometimes multiple times. 

Lining up the dyed yarns is an exceptionally tricky business, requiring a lot of skill. The near-impossibility of getting 100% perfect alignment means that Ikat designs tend to have a characteristic ‘blurred’ quality. But for Ikat fans, that’s an essential part of the charm.


Using Ikat lampshades in your home  

Despite its deep roots in tradition, Ikat has a wonderful timelessness, even a contemporary edge. So a big and bold (or small and sweet) Ikat lampshade is a splendid way to bring colour and texture and exotic handcrafted style into your home.  

Here at Pooky, we’ve long loved the pure joy and colour of Ikat: it’s been a very popular part of our lampshade range for years now. And we’re still exploring the boundaries of Ikat, recently welcoming some boundary-pushing new arrivals into our collection.

 Here are just a few ideas for using Ikat lampshades to style up your home…


1) Warm up (or cool down) a space with Ikat colours

pink and ecru koyari ikat

The pink and ecru koyari ikat warms up a cool space

One of the great advantages of Ikat is the way it can combine colours in unusual and interesting ways, and help you transform the feel of a space. For example, you can create feelings of warmth with a pink and ecru koyari ikat or conversely, cool down a warm space with the turquoise version.

Straight empire silk ikat shadein turquoise and ecru koyari

2) Bring pattern into a monochrome scheme

bianca hall black and white ikat
Straight empire shades in black printed linen Ikat, styled by Bianca Hall. Image: @frenchforpineapple 

This set-up by designer Bianca Hall (@frenchforpineapple) is proof of Ikat’s versatility: instead of colour bursts you can make an impact with monochrome. The zig-zags of this matching pair of straight empire gathered Ikat lampshades in black printed linen are especially striking alongside the plain white table lamps. (Find out more about Bianca and her work in our interview.)

3) Create texture with a contrasting Ikat lampshade and base

amara ikatA spectacular colour, pattern and texture explosion by the brilliant Amara. Image: @thepajaamahub

Texture in interior design is how something ‘feels to the eye’. Ikat fabric has a wonderful feely look, and to really liven things up, try teaming a striking Ikat lampshade with a contrastingly textured table lamp. Here, Amara of @thepajaamahub has put an orange printed linen Ikat lampshade on a Stucco table lamp in emerald green, with its distinctive sculpted ceramic ‘leaves’, creating a veritable feast of colours, patterns and textures. 


4) Create an eye-level room feature with a floor lamp and ikat combo 

straight empire shade in denim tie dyed cotto


From the moment we introduced Ikat shades into our collection they were a smash hit with our customers and with interior design pros. It's a delight to see them endlessly popping up on Instagram  and Pinterest and in the interiors magazines. Viva la eekat! 

Browse the full collection of Ikat lampshades, including our splendid new additions, here.