The ikat patterns are geometric or human and animal figures. East Sumba ikat cloths are characterized by striking figures of horses, deer, lions, birds, fish, skull trees, stars and other motifs. Stars, symbolizing descent from a celestial deity. Sea animals, shrimps, lobsters, represent the local coastal environment. Typical for East Sumba weaving is the skull tree motif.
Horses are a great feature in Sumba, symbol of heroism, being of economic and ritual value. Certain designs were restricted to aristocracy particularly the patola raty pattern, taken from Indian patola trading cloths.
The ikat textiles in East Sumba are important in life-cycle rites when they were exchanged between families and groups in the community. In marriage exchange of goods, the woman lineage counter the gifts of the man´s lineage with, among others, woven cloths.