Dressing The Stans

Dress for a Pashtun girl, Afghanistan, early 21st century. Dress for a Pashtun girl, Afghanistan, early 21st century. TRC 2008.0231b.

7. Woven textiles

A variety of woven textiles have been produced in Central Asia, ranging from simple tabby weaves made on ground looms, to sophisticated brocades and velvets produced on variations of drawstring looms. In addition, carpet weaving and tablet weaving are practiced in some parts of Central Asia.

Tabby and twill weaves

Afghanistan, for example, is known for the production of tabby weave textiles in a variety of forms, including even weave, (warp-) faced weaves, and twill weaves (associated with men’s blankets). These are used for both undecorated and decorated textiles, with stripes being especially popular. Green and purple striped cloth, for example, has been traditionally woven in the north of Afghanistan for the production of the long-sleeved coats known as chapans, which were made famous by the former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai. Other regions also produced these sort of textiles, including Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

2011.0470Uzbek woman's brocaded dress in orange silk. TRC 2011.0470. For further information, click on the illustration.Brocade weaves

Uzbekistan, especially the cities of Bokhara and Samarkand, were until comparatively recently major producers of a wide range of brocade textiles, especially in silk, which were used for garments such as men and women’s coats, robes and dresses, as well as for soft furnishings of various types.

Velvet weaves

Uzbekistan has also long been famous for the production of silk velvet textiles that were used for the garments worn by elite men and women, as well as for cushions, covers, and wall-hangings for decorating palaces, homes and tents. Sometimes silk velvets were decorated using an ikat technique, creating a very rich and decorative textile that was very expensive.

Tablet weaving

Card or tablet weaving also occurs in some parts of Central Asia, most notably in Uzbekistan, where narrow bands are sewn onto the edges of some caps, as well as being used for the straps of bags, etc.

2016.1864Bicycle or motor bike saddle covering made from a freshly woven carpet, decorated with fringes. Kabul, Afghanistan, late 20th century. TRC 2016.1864. For more information click on the illustration.Pile carpets

Central Asia is also known for the production of pile carpets of many different types, colours and designs. Some of these carpets now sell for hundreds of thousands of euros. But there is also another form of carpet that is popular, especially in Afghanistan, namely bike carpets. These are small, woven to shape covers for bicycle and motorbike saddles. They come in a variety of sizes, but are generally made from wool with beaded tassels, and have similarly woven designs to their larger ‘cousins’.

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