This beautiful fabric is called Tenun Lurik … I discovered it at the *Kraton or Keraton, the palace of the Sultan in Yogyakarta in April 2016, on a day trip from Solo, and my first visit to Central Java. I couldn’t but notice the handsome striped shirts worn by the palace courtiers at the Kraton and I was later to learn that the simple, hand-woven fabric that the shirts were made from, was called ‘Lurik’.
In today’s post I take you on my journey to understanding this simple but stunning cloth, rich in heritage, laden with meaning … and later share some ideas on using lurik.
What is Tenun Lurik?
Lurik is derived from the Javanese word lorek, which means stripes. Lurik is not particularly well known to the western world, and sadly is one of the many Indonesian traditional weavings in danger of disappearing.
The traditional hand weaving process itself entails endless patience, dedication and skill. The weavers use equipment commonly known as ATBM or non-machine weaving tools. First there’s the painstaking dying and sizing of the yarns, making sure each thread of all colours in the weaving achieves exactly the right hue. Next the dyed yarns are spun to untangle and twist them.
The weavers then set up over 2,700 individual threads on a peddle-loom to achieve the desired motif. Once all this has been accomplished the weaving begins.
Origins and symbolism
Originating in ancient Java, (Surakarta and Yogyakarta) lurik motifs are always a combination of stripes or checks. In the past, lurik was traditionally worn by rural Javanese men. Made from rough woven cotton, the fabric was chosen because it was relatively cheap and affordable.
Like all things Javanese, each design is rich in symbolism and superstition. For example, a broken, scattered striped pattern called ‘udan liris’ (gentle rain; drizzle; sprinkle) symbolizes fertility and prosperity. A man in authority might wear this cloth hoping to receive God’s blessings. Another striped motif called tuluh watu (glittering or shining stones) is believed to protect the wearer from evil or bad luck.
The ‘telupa lajur motif’ used in the shirts in the Sultan’s palace (meaning “three-four”) is purported to have been designed by Sultan Hamengku Buwono I (1717-1792). When added together, the numbers three and four equal seven, a number representing perfection in the traditional Javanese belief system.
Even as time has passed, this iconic fabric is still used in various Javanese ceremonies and its philosophy is still adhered to. In the Tujuh Bulanan (the seventh month of a first pregnancy) and Labuhan ceremonies (where offerings are made), lurik is used.
Motifs and Patterns
Lajur – which features horizontal stripes along the length of the fabric
Pakan Malan – which features stripes across its width
Cacahan – which features checkered motifs
A lurik fashion house
On my ‘whirlwind day trip’ to Yogyakarta back in 2016, (teenage kids in tow) on my ‘must-visit list’ after the Kraton was the fashion house by Lulu Lutfi Labibi. Back in Jakarta, I was following Lulu on Instagram. I was besotted by the fabric he was using, and on top of that, the beautiful location of the shop … down a narrow alleyway, covered in graffiti by local aspiring artists and tropical foliage.
Bringing your travels home
In January this year I visited Yogyakarta for the third time, and as a reminder of my trip; I bought four different classic-coloured hand-woven lurik fabrics, by the metre from Hamzah Batik, an enormous, department-like store for all types of traditional fabric and fabric product you could want …
Where to buy Tenun Lurik in Yogyakarta?
Jl. Margo Mulyo No.9
Yogyakarta (next door to Pasar Beringharjo)
(When you’re done shopping here try the traditional Javanese food on the roof terrace)
Lulu Lutfti Labibi (ready to wear)
Jl. Trunojayan 858A
Who made my pillow cases in Jakarta?
Hanidas Collection – Pak Hasan
Jl. Petita Abdul Majid No. 5B
(next to Excellent Carwash)
Telephone: +62 812 8394 2478
Who made my dress in Jakarta?
Jl Terogong Raya No. 36
Telephone: +62 859 2504 2236
(Pak Nana is in the ruku opposite JIS next door to Woodpecker Cafe.
Walk to the far left of the complex on Terogong Raya, down a narrow walkway, turn right and follow the path all the way to the end. You will find Pak Nana’s shop there)
I’d love your thoughts on tenun lurik … any other fans out there? … and ways you ‘take your travels home’? What’s in your suitcase from your travels? and what do you do with it once you’re home?
Wishing you a lovely weekend
* Kraton or Keraton is the Javanese word for a royal palace. Its name is derived from ka-ratu-an which means the residence of ratu. Ratu is the traditional honorific title to refer to the “ruler” (king or queen). The Kraton continues to be used as the home of the Sultan of Yogyakarta as well as for other important ceremonial functions.
* Tenun – weave, woven, weaving
* As recently as 2017 a study has examined how lurik fabrics can be developed as an aesthetic element in the design of furniture and interior products, as a result of the decline in sales of tenun lurik for fashion ware. Let’s hope …
You might also like:
ajb’s 5 easy steps to create your own batik bed cover
Tips for using a tailor in Jakarta
Top 10 recommendations for success at the dressmaker for your Jakarta visitor
Meet intercultural trainer and coach : Silke Irmscher
Words : Liz McClean Photography : a journey bespoke