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Old August 18th, 2016, 09:08 PM   #11
Pierre Galafassi
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 87

Quote….That is quite interesting how that dyed brown wool went on the surface. I understand that indigo is susceptible to rubbing off to an extent, but it somehow doesn't strike me as a plausible answer. Yet, something went on there….

Hi Marvin & Rich,

Indeed an interesting case!!
I do agree with Rich that the rubbing-off of indigo is not very likely .

Of course, it is possible, purposely or by error, to do surface «dyeing» of wool with indigo. To achieve it, one has only to (repeatedly) perform very short dips of the wool yarn in a cold (room temperature) indigo vat and «air» it. The dye would not have enough time to fully penetrate into the fiber and a high percentage of it would just form the insoluble blue pigment on the fiber surface during each airing. This surface pigmentation (which is not a «dyeing» ) would have an inferior, but still quite reasonable light-fastness and indeed would rub-off quite easily.

But contrary to a rather common rugdom opinion, probably born from a confusion with the traditional process devised for cotton denims, ( in which, purposely a sequence of very short dippings and airings is indeed used to obtain a significant percentage of surface «dyeing» which makes it possible, later, during the so-called «stone washing» of the garment, to create the typical blue jeans look), wool dyers, including certainly the proud Turkmen carpet weavers, have no particular fashion incentive for performing such a lousy dyeing and would rather tend to use good old vat dyeing methods, with both higher temperature (40°-50°C for example) and longer dipping time, thus allowing good penetration of the small dye-precursor molecule in the fibre, which each successive «airing» turns into the blue indigo pigment inside the fiber.

Under the unsophisticated conditions of indigo-dyeing encountered in a nomad encampment, some surface «dyeing» is unavoidable of course, but it would require an exceptionally moronic dyer to create a wool yarn on which most or all of the indigo just sits on the surface.

True, it is not impossible, that the weaver of this rug was part of the Ibn Lewis tribe, famous for their «camel-washing» technique of indigo, later cynically copied in USA (replacing camel knees with more economical local stones).
However, I would rather put my 50 cents on a Turkmen lady’s creative idea combining natural brown wool with a dyeing with Saxon blue. Quick and easy.

Saxon blue fades quite quickly when exposed to light or when washed. Neither would I bet the house-cat on its perfect camel-sweat fastness.
IMHO, some import of Saxon blue into Transcaspia during the 19th or early 20th century may have taken place, even more so if the pile, as you suggest, is of Chodor origin.

The Chodor were not only the closest Turkmen neighbors to Russia as we know, but are also documented as being much involved in protection- and leading of caravans on the Bukhara-Russia route.

This being said, poor rubbing fastness of Turkmen dyeing can never be completely excluded, even with dyes which, a priory, are much less susceptible than indigo to show such a defect, as the following anecdote suggests:
A 19th century traveler (can’t remember who the bloke was) mentioned the case of an Akh Sakhal which beard may have been indeed white, but his initially white pants had largely turned red from idling on his favorite rug.
Pierre Galafassi is offline