Buying Textiles in Bali

Buying Textiles in Bali

Buying Textiles in Bali

Carol Walker
Travel Today Egypt, September/October 2004

Everything from traditional Balinese and other Indonesian designs to tourist-oriented novelty pieces is sold in Bali. Likewise, quality and price cover a wide spectrum. Types of authentic Balinese textiles include:

Ikat – Also called endek in Bali, where the pattern is resist-dyed into the weft rather than the warp.

Songket – This cloth has patterns added through supplementary weft threads, usually gold.

Perada – Plain, striped, or checked cloth with designs painted on with gold paint, leaf, or dust.

Poleng – A black and white check pattern that is used extensively for decorating temples and stone statues, not usually sold in tourist shops.

Bebali – Colorful striped, checked, or plaid cloths. (Do not confuse this with poleng.)

Similar textiles are indigenous to other Indonesian islands, and only a practiced eye can know the place of origin by looking. But why let this deter you? The best songkets are often Sumatran. Batik (not an indigenous Balinese technique) from Java is usually the finest.

New, modern designs can be just as beautiful as the old and the Balinese happily wear sarongs of old and new motifs, Balinese and non-Balinese design, to their ceremonies.

To know what you’re looking at, ask the shopkeeper. Just be careful to frame your questions neutrally. Vendors will try to please you with the “right” answer, so don’t ask eagerly “is this a Balinese ikat?” Instead, try an offhand “where is this cloth from originally?”

As to quality, if you’re not sure of your ability to judge and you care about getting the best, visit Murni’s Warung Shop on Ubud’s main street. You’ll get honest answers, fair fixed prices, and a selection of the best textiles from throughout Indonesia and elsewhere. This is the only store recommended for geringsing.

Buying Textiles in Bali