Iranian Plateau

Iranian Plateau

Kabuli embroidery is associated with Kabul, the capital and largest city of Afghanistan.

The British Museum, London, houses a long piece of embroidered cloth, some 6.5 by 1 m, which is described as a table cover or a floor mat, but which is possibly a kamarband, a traditional stretch of cloth wound around the waist. The ground material is cotton, and the embroidery is carried out in chain stitch with an ari hook, using silk thread.

The Textile Research Centre (TRC) in Leiden houses a traditional felt coat from southern Afghanistan (TRC 2010.0087). This type of garment is called a khosai and is already illustrated in Mounstuart Elphinsone's Account of the Kindom of Caubul.., which was first published in 1815. This type of coat is still worn by Pashtun nomads (Kuchis) in the region.

The Lakai Uzbeks moved from Central Asia in the north and settled in the Kunduz area of northern Afghanistan, after the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. They are particularly known for their embroidery. Their work is characterised by the use of the cross stitch, and the multi-coloured geometric motifs carried out on bags, belts and bands.

Naqsh work is one of the most famous and striking forms of Iranian embroidery, and was popular in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is characterised by its diagonal bands and patterns of very densely worked stitching. The embroidery was especially used for panels that were sewn onto garments, in particular the lower legs of women's voluminous trousers.

The Textile Research Centre (TRC), Leiden, houses a pair of leather, gold embroidered man's shoes from Afghanistan. They measure 27 x 11 cm. The pointed tips belong to the traditional style of footwear of the Indian continent. They are probably are associated with the Pashtun ethnic group.

The collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, includes a piece of fabric that was probably meant for a pair of woman's trousers. The fragment measures 65 x 51 cm and is made of a cotton ground material with silk thread embroidery in outline stitch. The embroidery consists of diagonal bands in the Naqsh tradition.

The Textile Research Centre in Leiden houses an embroidered shirt that is linked to the Pashai community in Afghanistan. The Pashai live northeast of the Afghan capital, Kabul, and speak a Dardic (Indic) language, different from the dominant Iranian and Turkic languages of the country. 

Pateh (Farsi: پته‎‎ ), or pateh-duzi is a style of Iranian embroidery, in particular from Kerman province in the southeast. It may be linked to local carpet weaving, and many of the embroidered designs recall carpet motifs, such as the toranj (bergamia), sarv (cypress) and the buteh (paisley), but also the sun.

The collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London includes an Iranian, Qajar-period prayer mat. The mat measures 130 x 90 cm. The quilted mat has a yellow upper layer that is made of silk and cotton satin. It is decorated with silk thread using straight and running stitch (or back stitch?) and couching. The mat is padded and quilted with a cotton lining. The mat has a woven silk facing (edging).

The Textile Research Centre in Leiden houses a protective prayer cloth from Afghanistan. It measures 29.5 x 29 cm. It is made of cotton with silk thread embroidery. The techniques used are satin stitch and double running stitch. Such prayer cloths are used by Shi'ite muslims to protect the turbah (also called muhr), which they use when praying. It probably belonged to the (Shi'ite) Hazara population of the country.

The Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin houses an embroidered protective prayer cloth, used to cover the stone that Shi'ite muslims apply for their three-times per day prayer. It measures 21.5 x 21.5 cm and is made of cotton with silk thread embroidery. The cloth is comparable to another example housed at the Textile Research Centre in Leiden.

The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, houses a Qajar-era (nineteenth century) covering from Iran, with silk thread embroidery in running stitch and surface darning, worked on a cotton ground material. It measures 101 x 102 cm. The embroidery shows a range of geometric motifs.

The Cleveland Museum online catalogue (retrieved 3rd September 2017).


The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, houses a Qajar-era (nineteenth century) floor covering from Iran, with silk thread embroidery on a cotton ground material. It measures 175 x 118 cm. The embroidery shows a large stylised representation of a lion in the centre, surrounded by various repeated hunting scenes, including a horseman with a bird of prey, a lion attacking a bull, and nightingales.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London houses a fragment of a tent panel from Qajar-period Iran. It is decorated partly in the typical Rasht-style (Rashti-duzi), named after an Iranian town north of the Elburz mountains close to the Caspian Sea. The panel is made of felted wool, embroidered with silk and metal thread and inlay patchwork (the latter being typical for Rasht work).

The Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin houses a quilted cap from Afghanistan, which was collected by Oskar von Niedermayer (1885-1948) when he was sent to Afghanistan by the German government to set up the Afghans against the British in India, during the First World War (1914-1918). The mission failed, and the German mission was forced to leave the country.

The Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, houses an Iranian prayer rug with inlay patchwork in the Rasht tradition. It measures 195 x 133 cm and is made of wool and woollen inlays, with silk thread embroidery worked in chain stitch. A large representation of a cypress tree occupies the centre of the rug, placed on top of peacocks and dragon heads.

The Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, holds in its collection a ceremonial tent that is inscribed with the name of Muhammad Shah, the Qajar dynasty ruler of Iran between 1834 and 1848. The tent measures 360 x 400 cm, and the side panels reach to a height of 165 cm.

The National Army Museum in Chelsea, London, houses a shabraque (saddle blanket) that was reputedly acquired on 7th April 1842 during a British sortie against Afghan troops outside of Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan, at the end of the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1842). The saddle cloth was allegedly taken by Captain (later Major) James Henry Fenwick of the 13th (1st Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot.

Suzani is the general term for a type of large, embroidered textile from mainly Uzbek communities in Central Asia, and found in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The term derives from the Persian word suzan or ‘needle’ and suzanduzi for 'needlework'. The oldest surviving suzanis date from the late eighteenth century, but it is likely that their production and use date back to much earlier times.

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