Lurik Fabric, A Beautiful Traditional Fabric from Indonesia’s Noble Culture

Lurik Fabric, A Beautiful Traditional Culture from Indonesia | Get a piece of genuine lurik fabric for an affordable price, starting at just $1.40 per yard. Indonesia is an archipelago country that has a diversity of cultures, each other has different characteristics. In terms of dress for example, there are more than 1000 traditional clothes in this 1000 islands of country. One of the materials from the traditional clothing is Lurik woven fabric.

Lurik Fabric, A Beautiful Traditional Fabric from Indonesia's Noble Culture
Lurik is made by hand woven techniques. (Photo: Said/LurikFabric.com)

Lurik is one of traditional Indonesian fabric. This fabric is made by hand woven techniques from cotton spun, using a tool called Gedogan.

When did this fabric begin? It’s not known certainly, but certainly this fabric is older than batik, in Java this fabric spreads begin are from Yogyakarta, Solo and than Tuban.

Evidently this fabric has extensive functions and it used by various ages and castes. this fabric often appears not only in daily activities or households, but even appeared in Javanese court ceremonies.

Are you curious to know more about hand-woven Lurik fabric?

The History of Lurik Fabric in Indonesia

Every country in this world has their own cultural identities that measure the richness and diversity of its native people through generation. Indonesia, as an archipelago country in South East Asia, is one of the most diverse countries in terms of cultural aspects, such as: languages, woven fabrics, folklores, ancient findings, culture, etc. 

When we want to talk about tenun lurik, it cannot be denied that tenun lurik is related to woven fabric making. It is because lurik fabric is one of the simplest woven fabrics made in countries that produce traditional woven fabrics, including Indonesia. 

Traditional fabricing in Indonesia is very diverse because each region has its own distinctive fabric. These fabrics were traditionally produced using looms. Therefore, each weaving product has its own name, such as tenun lurik weaving from Yogyakarta and Solo Central Java, Tanimbar tie weaving from West Southeast Maluku, tenun Ulos from Batak, Garut weaving from West Java, Songket Siak from Riau, tenun Troso from Jepara, etc. 

History of Indonesia lurik fabric as traditional weaving products can be traced from the archeology’s finding in folklores, temple reliefs, inscriptions and others. Archaeologists have found lurik weaving in many temple reliefs.

At the Borobudur temple, for example, they found reliefs depicting people weaving on a loom. A relief of a woman weaving was also found in one of the stone pedestal collections in the Trowulan museum. On one side of the stone pedestal, a woman can be seen weaving using a loom in a carrying loom in a building with a floor, then the binoculars fall and are taken by the man.

The history of weaving, in this case lurik, is also found in inscriptions. In the inscription from the Mataram kingdom, it shows the lurik fabric with pakan malang (transverse lines) motif. The King Erlangga inscription from East Java in 1033 mentions the Tuluh Watu motif as one of the names of the lurik fabric. 

In addition, there are allegations that lurik weaving was already popular among the people of the Majapahit Kingdom era. This can be seen from the story of Wayang Beber, which describes a knight proposing a princess with a loom as his dowry.

The Meaning of Lurik

Lurik (Javanese script: ꦭꦸꦫꦶꦏ꧀) comes from, Old Javanese language, the word lorek which means line or stripe, but can also be interpreted as a pattern. Lurik is a woven fabric with a motif of small, transverse or longitudinal stripes, which is processed into the typical fabricant of rural residents among Javanese people, especially the areas of Yogyakarta, Klaten, Tuban, Jepara which are also used as centers for craftsmen of lurik fabric. The checkered pattern, also known as the chopped pattern, which consists of crossed lines, is also a lurik fabric pattern.

According to the Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian Dictionary), lurik is a woven fabric that has a path pattern while according to the Big Javanese Dictionary; lurik is a “lorek-lorek” pattern which means lurik in Indonesian. The word lorek comes from the origin of the word rik, which means a trench or protective fence for the wearer.

From various sources, it is stated that lurik is a woven fabric produced from “lawe” yarn through a weaving process in such a way as using a non-machine loom (ATBM) or a carrying loom to produce sheets of fabric. The weaving process of lurik fabrics starts from spinning the threads, dyeing, plastering, shining, cleaning, weaving, and at the end is finishing.

The Process of Making Tenun Lurik Fabrics

The process of making lurik fabric can be said to be quite complicated because it goes through quite a lot of stages. A piece of lurik fabric does not come from a plain fabric that is stamped or written like a batik fabric. A sheet of lurik fabric is produced starting with spinning the yarn until it becomes the final result in the form of a sheet of cloth.

Therefore, the process of making lurik fabric can only be done by people, usually craftswomen, who have learned the lurik weaving process. Here they are the stages of making lurik:

1. Color Dyeing

Lurik is made by weaving threads into a piece of fabric. Before being made into fabric, the pattern is designed according to the composition and color needed, then the yarn is dyed according to the desired color.

If there are four colors in one fabric pattern, then the threads are dyed in the appropriate colors. The threads are dyed in batches, squeezed, and then dried them under the sun. From these various colored threads, that will be woven into a lurik fabric.

2. Spools or Pallets (Spinning Yarn)

At this stage, the dyed yarn is then spun to facilitate the arrangement of the yarn. Yarn is spun in either small or large rolls. These rolls are called spools or pallets.

3. Sekir (arranging threads into motifs)

Among all the lurik weaving processes, this process is said to be the most complex. In arranging threads into motifs, a driver (one who arranges the treads) must arrange thousands of thin threads, approximately 2.100 threads, to produce one sheet of fabric measuring 70 cm.

Each motif has a different formula and this formula is translated into numbers to make it easier for the drivers to weave. While the motifs of lurik fabrics are quite a lot, both classic and modern. Therefore, being a driver requires carefulness, high concentration, weaving from their hearts and high patience.

4. Nyucuk (transferring the motif design to the loom)

In this process, the threads that have been arranged according to the motif on the thread are then transferred to the loom. At this stage, it takes two people to complete the “nyucuk” process. One person is tasked with sorting the threads one by one then handing them over to the other partner, while the other person is in charge of receiving the threads in attaching them to the loom.

5. Weaving

The next process is weaving that can use a carrying loom or a non-machine weaving tool (ATBM). Weaving the treads into a fabric requires not only focus, concentration, a high level of carefulness, patience, but also excellent stamina and hand strength.

The hand pushes the spool from one side to the other. If the stamina decreases, the thrust will be less strong and the string will loosen, especially when the craftswomen weave using looms instead of machines.

In the past, the loom was divided into two, namely the “Bendho” loom and the “Gendhong” loom. A Bendho loom is made of bamboo or wood. Bendho is taken from the Javanese language which means a machete. The machete is part of the weaving production because the tool used to tighten the weft thread is a machete.

The bendho loom is used by the weaver or craftwoman standing up to weave so that fitness is needed when weaving. This tool is used to weave yarn into stagen. Stagen is a long fabric with a width of 20cm that was wrapped around the stomach area of ​​women in ancient times in Java to tie the fingers. Stagen functioned as a substitute for a belt of a woman.

The next loom is the Gendhong (carrying) loom. It is so named because one of the parts is placed behind the waist while the weaver sits as the main tool in a sitting position. The gendhong loom is used to make wide lurik fabric for jarik, fabrics, or scarves.

Especially for lurik fabric from Yogyakarta and Solo, lurik fabrics are woven using the wareg technique, which means flat or plain plait. In these two cities there are other differences, namely that it is not customary to use additional “pakan tambahan” motif while this lurik is still commonly produced in Tuban.

In Tuban, lurik with pakan tambahan motif is called kain lurik kembangan Terbang. Whereas in Yogyakarta and Solo, the edges of the fabric are reinforced with twisted threads, in Tuban the use of twisted threads is inserted between the wefts for a more attractive effect.

Lurik Fabric Coloring

Formerly, lurik fabrics were produced manually with natural dyes and process the dying manually as well. Traditional lurik craftsmen mix the materials they get from nature to dye the threads of the lurik fabric. Nowadays, there are two options for dyeing threads to make lurik fabric. Either they can use natural dyes or use synthetic dyes.

1. Natural dyes

Natural colors come from natural products, such as parts of plants, namely wood, bark, seeds, flowers, leaves, fruit, roots and others, then extracted. This is the dye used by the people who made lurik in the past.

The ancients knew varieties of plants and their parts that could be used to colour their textiles or fabrics, including lurik fabric. They are able to find out by selecting colored plants or scratching it on the white surface to find out what colors can be produced. Among these plants are:

  • a. The blue color of the leaves and branches of the Tom or Tilapia (Indigofera Tintoria L) tree that is soaked and then boiled until fermentation occurs, followed by the next process.
  • b. The black color of crushed ebony fruit (Diospyro Ebenam). You can also mix the dark blue color of the indigo leaves with the red color produced by the Noni tree roots.
  • c. The yellow color is obtained from the turmeric plant (Curcuma domestica), the leaves and bark of the mango tree (Magnivera laurinia) and the jackfruit tree (Artoprus interqripolia).
  • d. Red color from the roots of the Noni tree to get a dark red color or the Sepang tree to get a bright red color. The roots of the tree are pounded and then soaked with several other types of materials to get the desired color level. The red color when mixed with other ingredients can produce a purple or brownish red color.
  • e. The green color is obtained from the cotton tree or mango skin. This color can also be obtained by mixing the blue color of the indigo tree with a yellow dye, namely the turmeric plant. Or you can also re-dye the yarn that is yellow with indigo dye.
  • f. The purple color of lurik threads can also be obtained from natural sources. This color is an extract from the mangosteen peel. Mangosteen peel can also produce red and blue colors.
  • g. The brown color is divided into several parts. There is sogan brown color, which is a brown color ranging from light to dark, which comes from natural dyes from the bark of tall trees (Cerriops condoleana). While the reddish brown color is obtained from teak wood (Tectona grandis) and the dull brown color is obtained from the areca tree.

2. Synthetic dyes

Synthetic dyes for textiles have been admirable since they were first discovered by William Henry Perkin in 1856. This is due to the cheap production costs of fabrics, more color variations, fast without waiting for long and practical use when using synthetic dyes.

However, there is a drawback to textile yarns derived from synthetic fibers such as polyester or nylon that cannot be dyed with natural dyes because they do not have an attraction to natural dyes. This differs from threads derived from natural fibers such as silk, wool, and cotton. All three are easier to absorb colors from nature.

The Use of Lurik Fabric from Time to Time

The lurik woven fabric was used by many people, especially from the lower classes, including the (abdi dalem) palace servants but not for the court nobility. This hand-woven fabric is used as a material for jarik, kebaya, and scarves for women.

Indonesian women, especially on the island of Java, in the past were synonymous with the use of jarik fabric that wrapped their lower body so that they walked more gracefully and seemed gentle when wearing them. Now we find that jarik fabric, seen from its original function, is only used at certain moments such as during weddings and ceremonies at the palace or certain places.

There are also carrying ropes made from lurik which are used by women traders to hold the tenggok or baskets (containers made of woven bamboo to store their merchandise) in the market.

As for men, the use of lurik is more for traditional upper formal attire. Lurik is used as a raw material for making surjan or beskap, and shirts for men. Surjan is a typical term used for men’s fabric typically of Yogjakarta in the past, while beskap is a typical term from the city of Solo or Surakarta for men’s fabric as raw material.

According to the Indonesian National Encyclopedia (1997), lurik is thought to have originated in rural areas in Java. Lurik at that time was made in the form of a scarf. The scarf is functioned as a cover for a woman’s chest (kemben) and a tool for carrying something by tying it to the body. The use of lurik then developed. Not only belong to the people, but also to be used in the palace environment.

During the reign of Mataram Kingdom in Java, lurik fabric were made from coarse, heavy and hot fabric, which came from spun pure cotton. Produced at a relatively cheap and affordable price for the underprivileged or the lower class.

When the palace was still in power, lurik was only used by abdi dalem because the material used to make lurik was thick and hot so that the royal family felt uncomfortable wearing it. Thus, the court aristocrats use imported fabrics that are more expensive, smoother, and comfortable to wear and function optimally for them.

Meanwhile, nowadays, the royal family begins to wear fabrics with the basic material of lurik woven fabric as formal attire at certain moments. This can happen because of the development of the raw material for making lurik fabric so that the end result is comfortable to wear.

However, the lurik pattern for members of the palace and the abdi dalem is distinguished to mark their different status. The lurik fabric used by the royal family, especially for princes, has a wider pattern and is bright in color. Meanwhile, the lurik fabric motif for the abdi dalem is softer and has tight lines.

The general public does not abandon fabrics made from lurik fabric for everyday wear or for certain moments such as formal weddings, work, and so on. This can happen because lurik craftsmen understand that innovation is needed in making lurik so that its enthusiasts will not abandon it and can capture new target markets, especially young people, or influencers. Young people consider lurik or batik to be old fashioned and not suits their tastes.

Therefore, lurik craftsmen produce lurik with the latest motifs and bright colors such as batik lurik. Then sew the lurik with a different model so that it can follow the latest fashion styles. Not only young people but also young mothers, and others wear fabrics made of stained fabric to accompany social gatherings, invitations, casual meetings, and even hang out at the mall. In this way, Indonesian lurik fabric can continue to target various ages, social economies and cultures.

LurikFabric.com is a traditional fabric company that produces lurik, as an alternative to the most popular traditional fabric in Indonesia known as Batik.

Both, lurik and batik, are traditional fabrics derived from the noble cultural heritage of Indonesian society, especially Javanese culture. However, unlike batik, not many people are familiar with lurik woven fabrics.

At LurikFabric.com we are committed to preserving lurik fabric as our ancestral cultural heritage, while promoting this beautiful fabric to the world.