Introducing Lurik, The Javanese Hand-Woven Fabric

History of Lurik

Lurik (/lu:rik/) is derived from Javanese word of lorek that means lines. It’s traditionally woven by using a hand-powered pedal loom and made with close to 3,000 individual threads.

First traces was recorded back 3000 years ago, centuries before Batik came to scene. While the later is closely associated to royalty, Lurik has its origins amongst the rural people, for its humbleness and is comfortable to wear.

The Traditional Practice of Lurik Making

The traditional hand-weaving process itself entails endless patience, dedication and skill. A trained eye and skilled hands are required in this intricate and slow process and like everything produced lovingly by hand, it can take up to 2 months to complete the fabric.

First the threads are dyed in colours and then dried to be spun into bobbins.  Next the bobbins are organized onto the loom. This bit is a a tricky and complex process as one misplaced bobbin can ruin the pattern. The threads are then woven into the final fabric using a weaving loom that is hand-powered and pedaled (i.e. non-machine). It takes years of practice to detect broken threads and ensure they're not loose during the weaving.

The Humble Yet Mighty Heirloom

Whilst the fabric seemingly looks simple, with stripes, or checks or broken lines, like other Indonesian heirloom textile, the design is rich in philosophies.  A scattered striped pattern is called ‘udan liris’ which means drizzling rain (doesn’t it sound soothing) that symbolizes prosperity and fertility. Other pattern is called ‘telupat’ which means 3 and 4, when summed becomes 7, which is a sacred number inJavanese culture that represent life and wellness.

Originally made by brown, white and yellow threads, as society evolves and modernization is introduced in a bid to preserve the dying art, new colour ways and pattern are introduced. Whilst machine-produced lurik has perfect consistency, hand-woven lurik carries its distinct characters of its coarse texture and some (human made) imperfection on the fabric.

Why Lurik?

As with many manually produced fabric especially by hand, this industry has regeneration issues. Youngsters prefer to move to big cities to find work and machine replaces the tool as it can produce faster and cheaper textile. Local artisans left in Java are averaging 60 years old.

Conversing with the Lurik vendors in Java, the Covid19 pandemic has hit them hard. Demand that was already subdued, had come to a halt that they needed to stop stocking the fabric, which meant no income for the crafters. And as somebody who has healthy obsessions on stripes (and dots and patterns), it's a no brainer that sooner or later, epitomi will support this heritage textile industry and its artisans and start yelling, I mean, telling to the world, how beautiful Lurik is.

And we chose sooner.

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