Tuesday 8 January 2008

Iranian Textiles

Zoroastrian stitched bathmitt bought in Yazd

Detail of finely stitched blackwork piece for strapping Quran to arm

Before I went to Iran, I'd told John Gillow where I was going and he gave directions for various cities on where I might find textile dealers. I followed his instructions in Yazd ( in courtyard behind SilkRoad Hotel) and came up trumps. On the streets around the main mosque there were sellers of supposedly 'local' scarves ( got a bit suspicious when I found a discarded heap of 'Acrylic, Made in China' labels ). This shop was of a different order, an Aladdins cave of metalwork, glass, ceramics ,textiles with some treasures brought out from glass cabinets. The 2 pieces I bought were very reasonable ( Ian succumbed to a carpet and I helped him haggle) - I wish I'd selected more, they had some nice pieces stitched with silk floss in floral designs, also local Zoroastrian designs.

In Esfahan I found the location of another textile stall that John had directed me to by the Ikats and embroidered cloths hanging above it near the roof. Alas it was lunchtime and closed and didn't have the opportunity to go back.


In the bazaar in Zanjan there was a whole section dedicated to carpets: completed, fleeces and carding equipment, dyes, dyed and undyed wools,stalls with patterns on graph paper, looms threaded up with a cotton warp. The dyed wool, particularly the reds, were very varied along the hank, vegetable dyed in the main. Ian and I watched in fascination as 2 men set up the warp on a metal frame - one man sitting throwing the ball of thread upwards, a man standing catching and throwing it back.

In Esfahan we had the tea and talk at the Nomad carpet shop. The owner Hussein was very knowledgable and not pushy and showed a variety of carpets and kelims that we wouldn't necessarily want in the house ( eg the helicopters, Kalashnikovs and tanks of an Afghan refugee pictured above) ) but nevertheless interesting to see. I fell in love with 'tree of life' embroidered kelim ( detail below)that was pinned on a wall - it's now found a home in our entrance hall!!

'Tree of Life' Kelim


In Nairn we saw an elderly man weaving camel hair in an underground room. The cloth is very fine and water-resistant and worn by mullah's. After weaving , the excess fuzz is rubbed off ( used for stuffing mattresses etc) . He only makes a few lengths a year now but as its expensive cloth and the cost of living is low, it seems he doesn't make a bad living. And our tips would help too. As most young people head for the cities, I guess its a dying art. Also in the area are long weaving sheds where harnesses and straps are woven from camelhair but didn't get to see that.

The weavers bed - stacked with quilts ( and note the cigarette boxes!)


Esfahan is the centre of fabric printing , with nearly all the hotels and restaurants we visited in Iran having tablecloths etc printed there. The main motifs are paisley and figures from Persepolis. It was interesting to see a higher quality printer in action, skillfully using old wooden printblocks in up to 4 colours. Registration was by eye as far as I could see. However it soon degenerated into the usual sales pitch and I wasn't really interested in the heavy cotton tasselled tablecloths on offer. Yardage or indeed an old block might have been a different matter!

In Yazd we had lunch one day in the restaurant /teahouse of a hotel based on a traditional house (I've forgotten the name of the place - its recommended in 'Lonely Planet' ) The roof of what would have been the courtyard was covered with a tent-like awning (rather tatty in places). There were screen-printed panels on it that I'd have liked a closer look at, again based on floral and Zoroastrian motifs.


verobirdie said...

Thank you for this very interesting virtual journey!

Olga Norris said...

Fascinating, thanks. I particularly like the tanks and helicopters carpet!

jude said...

thanks for sharing all this. i plan to do the same when i visit turkey this year.