Below you will find a description of some basic characteristics of Tekke weaving, based on design, weave structure, and colors and dyes. We have also included some information about dating pieces.
The standard designs used by the Tekke vary according to the nature of the weaving.
"On Tekke carpets which were made up to ner the end of the 19th century, the major border is on a red ground and contains rows of octagons, usually filled either with four small eight-pointed stars (occasionally one large star) or with a kotchak-cross ornament." R. Pinner & M. Franses, Some Interesting Tekke Products and their Designs, TURKOKMAN STUDIES I 102, 106 (R. Pinner & M. Franses, eds. 1980).
Chuvals and torbas. Robert and Lesley Pinner distinguish four types of Tekke chuvals based on their field design: Chuvals with chuval guls; chuvals with compartmented guls, chuvals with salor guls, and chuvals in mixed techniques. Robert & Lesley Pinner, Some Aspects of the Tekke Chuval in Jon Thompson & Louise Mackie, Turkmen: Tribal Carpets and Traditions 203 (1980).
In chuvals using the chuval gul as the main gul, the chemche gul was predominantly used as the minor gul. The Pinners report three main borders on such chuvals: the flag border; borders consisting of the Kochak-cross; and the Kochanak border. Most of the later chuvals have a flower compartment border.
The field of compartmented chuvals consist of the aina-gul, which consists of a rectangle divided into four alternately colored compartments containing a diamond motif, a gul, or a cross motif at its center. "The flag border is found on most early and many later examples . . . ." Id.
The flag border is also found on most Salor gul chuvals. Salor gul chuvals use the shararch-palak minor gul. Some early Tekke salor gul chuvals have only three guls, like the original Salor chuvals. Aside from the very few such Tekke chuvals, the other salor gul chuvals have six or nine guls. Tekke salor guls have three different kinds of guls at their center: the banner gul, the salor minor gul, and the A-gul. Robert & Louise Pinner, supra at 207, 210. Most early examples of Tekke salor gul chuvals have a three-stem flower design in the elem, while small Ashik-headed trees predominant on later chuvals. See Jourdan, at 119, for examples.
Mixed technique chuvals consist of a flatweave ground decorated with horizontal bands containing piled designs. One type of mixed technique chuval, the "ak chuval", is characterized by a white end panel. The other, rarer type of mixed technique Tekke chuval, the Kizil chuval, has an end panel consisting of a continuation of the red plainweave ground. Ak chuvals generally have five broad and six narrow piled bands above the white piled end panel.
Ensis. Consistent with Turkoman ensis generally, Tekke ensis have the hatchli or katchli format, in which the field is divided into four panels by a vertical bar panel transected by a center horizontal bar panel. They also have a single mihrab-like design at the top center of the field, a design which has led some to the view (now considered misguided) that ensis are prayer rugs. The ensis of other Turkoman tribes do not uniformly have this design element.
In their pile weavings, the Tekke used an asymmetrical knot open to the right, almost always with nondepressed warps. In Hubel's classificatory scheme "[t]he knot is asymmetric, SIb or, rarely, SIII." Werner Loges, Turkoman Tribal Rugs 14 (1980). "Warps and wefts are ivory to light brown." Id. According to Uwe Jourdan, Oriental Rugs: Volume 5 - Turkoman 29 (1989), the warp is typically ivory wool while the weft is typically brown wool. The weft is "two-ply wool with two shots of slightly unequal tension." Jon Thompson & Louise Mackie, Turkmen: Tribal Carpets and Traditions 96 (1980). The selvedges are "[u]sually simple and in dark blue wool." Id. Among the Turkomans, Tekke pile weavings, together with those of the Salor, are the most finely knotted.
For an analysis of weave structure of Turkoman chuvals, see Robert & Lesley Pinner, supra at 213.
"The dominant ground colour of Tekke pieces is red, ranging from light red to brown- and purple-red. The normal palette does not include more than six to eight colours: two or three reds, light and dark blue, green or blue-green, yellow (only in small areas), brown and white." Loges, at 13. "Six basic colours: red, orange, blue, green, brown and ivory are common to early Tekke carpets and they were obtained by the use of three dyes, madder, indigo and a yellow dye which has not yet been identified with certainty. The brown and ivory colours in the pile as well as in the warp and weft represent natural, undyed wool. Green was obtained by double-dyeing with yellow and blue." TURKOMAN STUDIES, supra at 112. "It is curious . . . that in many early main carpets yellow was employed only to yield green shades, not as a colour in its own right." Id.
Dating pieces is difficult and often the subject of reasonable differences of opinion. However, the following criteria are generally used to distinguish between older (before late nineteenth century) and newer (late nineteenth century and early twentieth century)Tekke pieces.
Weave structure. Older pieces tend to have a lower knot count than more recent pieces. In addition, earlier pieces may tend to have a vertical to horizontal knot ratio that is more equal as compared with more recent pieces, which tend to have a vertical to horizontal knot ratio that sometimes approaches 2:1. "Thus Tekke main carpets which have the roundest guls are considered to be among the earliest; following from this, it is often argued that a squarish format is also indicative of an early age." Jourdan, at 17.
Designs. The designs of older pieces tend to be less busy and more spaciously organized than more recent pieces. For instance, the older main carpets "have sparingly applied, generously drawn main borders with large, impressive octagons and narrow guard stripes." Loges, at 19. "A predominance of small ornaments in a Turkoman carpet may indicate a later period, as does the proliferation of the number of guard stripes. Early pieces have one or, at most, three stripes flanking the main border." Id. See also Turkoman Studies I, supra at 106 (chronicaling changes in border design over time). Closely packed guls in the field tend to indicate a later date, though not necessarily so. Closely packed guls in combination with mulitiple elaborate borders are a fairly definite indicator of a late age. In addition, it is rare to find antique Tekke rugs with Tekke main guls that lack horizontal and vertical lines connecting the guls. "Those without these lines are almost always 20th century." V. G. Moshkova, Carpets of the People of Central Asia, at 219 (O'Bannon's commentary).
As for ensis, the array of the candlebra device in the four field panels can provide a clue as to age. Newer ensis tend to have an equal number of candelabras in each row. Earlier pieces, in contrast, have an unequal number in adjacent rows, with the candlebras staggered vertically rather than arrayed neatly in columns. In addition, the main border and sometimes the center panel in the field in earlier pieces often have a curled leaf meander.
In their highly detailed article, the Pinners identify a number of design features associated with earlier and later chuvals.
Palette.The presence of synthetic as opposed to natural dyes indicates a date of later than the 1870s or 1880s, when the Turkoman weavers first began to use such dyes. "[T]he earliest rugs with analine dyes . . . have only small amounts, the most common being a very light-fugitive mauve called fuchsine. Other early synthetic colors include a somewhat lurid orange and various types and shades of red and pink; the reds in particular have a tendency to run if brought into contact with liquids and most early synthetics show signs of fading, especially if the base of the knot is compared with the tip of the pile." Jourdan, at 17. Black as opposed to dark brown is a sign of late weaving. Id. In addition, "[l]ater Tekke weavings usually have a green which is not stable to light and that fades out slowly toward blue. Older pieces, on the other hand, may have a strong stable green matched only in later pieces that have been fully protected from light." Thompson & Mackie, at 100.
In older main carpets, "diagonal rows of gols contain a deep blue alternating with green or green or blue-green." Loges, at 16.