TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Random thoughts
Author  :  Wendel Swan
Date  :  12-06-1999 on 02:52 p.m.
wdswan@erols.com Dear Daniel, The pile carpet which you saw in Milan probably has closer flatwoven relatives than the cuval. It seems to be approximately the same size and configuration as many covers that can be found throughout Turkey and the Caucasus. If you look carefully at the Lefevre example, you will see an unusually wide stripe down the middle of the carpet. One reason that there are several "half-carpets" in this design as you have indicated is that they may have been woven in two parts. In the Lefevre case, it seems that the weaver copied the center seam. Look at this brocaded cover from Karabagh with hexagonal medallions filling the field. It is not the same as the pile rug you present, but there is clearly a relationship. Notice the seam. Next I thought you might be interested in this image of an Anatolian rug from the Textile Museum's collection. Also woven in one piece, this is yet another variation of the hexagonal elements filling the field. No seam. The greatest structural limitation of weft faced textiles lies in the execution of vertical lines, but other limitations exist as well. In slit tapestry, this is most acute because of the gaps or slits that result in making a color change. The same is true of weftless (meaning no ground wefts) sumak and, to a lesser extent, with sumak bags when the ground wefts are thin or weak. Here is an image of a weftless sumak bag face published in From The Bosporous to Samarkand in which these limitations can clearly be seen. And the design is related to the cuval you present. My point here is that it is very difficult to trace many designs to any particular structure or to any particular format of that structure. In her paper at the ICOC in Milan, Marla Mallett precisely demonstrated how weavers of slit tapestry must use color shift so as to avoid structural weakness and why certain patterning elements would have no reason to exist except for this very purpose. When a weaver makes an accurate copy in pile of a flatwoven article, some of the characteristic (and structurally necessary) designs of the flatweave are repeated in pile. But one cannot tell when the flatweave copies the pile. Ultimately, if pile copies flatweaves and flatweaves copy piles, only the structural limitations of the flatweaves will persevere - in effect imprinting a "flatweave gene" on nearly all weavings - pile or not. Pile cannot imprint designs in flatweaves. Having said that, it remains clear that there are certain designs that remain true to their structural archetypes. Certain Turkish kilims, for example, seem never to have been copied in pile and have a design tradition completely independent of that of their pile contemporaries. I think that it is a valuable exercise to notice aspects of weavings such as certain design elements that appear to have previously existed in another structure, but I urge caution in trying to draw too many conclusions from these similarities. Wendel

Subject  :  RE:Less than random thoughts
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  12-08-1999 on 06:40 a.m.
Dear folks - Wendel's thoughts here about what "footprints" are possible when a flatweave design is produced in pile and vice versa is an instance for me of why it is sometimes useful to continue to discuss things that we have discussed before and about which we might have been tempted to move to conclusion. If I understand him, Wendel has suggested here that regardless of the direction in which designs actually move between between flatweaves and pile, the evidence we would see in the respective pieces will be the same. The movement of designs from more restrictive kinds of flatweave to pile probably suggests that the flatweave was prior and that the movement was from the flatweave to the pile. But if the movement had been from pile to the restrictive flatweave, we would have no evidence of that in the flatweave design. The imprinting of suggestive design indicators occurs only in the move from more restrictive forms of flatweave to pile. The logic of this observation seems impeccable to me and while it may not intrude seriously on our sense (based in part on other evidence) that the direction of movement is often from flatweave to pile (as Wendel said to me in a side conversation, there has to be some sort of flatweave base before pile "knots" can be tied) it does seem to suggest that we should be cautious about moving to conclusion in such areas. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  Tests of truth
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  12-08-1999 on 08:34 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Folks, This isn't the place for an extended exposition of the subject, but the discussion has reached a point at which I think it's worth reminding everyone that one common, useful system for testing truth is that used by science. It isn't the only one, but most people find it practical, and it has given us such wonders as the internet, instant grits and automatic weapons. Basically, the rules of thumb (please, somebody, ask me to explain the origin of the term, "rule of thumb") are that we accept as true the simplest explanation when more than one is possible (more than one is always possible), and that under most circumstances we are happy to be able to be 95% certain that we are right (that is, a 5% error rate in our conclusions is usually OK). These rules have some consequences. One is, being able to think of alternative possibilities doesn't prevent us from reaching tentative conclusions. Another is that the fact that there's a 5% chance that we're wrong doesn't, either. The bottom line is, truth is temporal and can change with time, and when we say we conclude something to be true what we really mean is that there is some fairly high probability of it being true, but it could ultimately turn out to be wrong. To put this into the present context, everyone agrees that there had to have been flatweaves before there was pile (meaning, we have a rather high level of confidence in this). It also seems likely that the flatweaves had decoration at some point. So, any time a design, pattern or motif that appears to be fairly ancient can be found on both pile and on flatweave, the conclusion would be that it was on flatweave first (meaning, we have some level of confidence in this, although lower than the level at which we believe flatweave to have predated pile). I teach a course in history of biological thought and present similar ideas, which horrify many students. I apologize to any reader who is horrified by them. Regards, Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:Horrifying thoughts
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  12-09-1999 on 06:21 a.m.
Hi Steve - You will agree that the history of biological thought has been on occasion one of real horror. But I digress --- John Howe

Subject  :  RE:Random thoughts
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  12-09-1999 on 06:35 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear John, The history of biological thought has its horrifying elements, but it is simply an extension of the history of thought in general. The real world is no place for a sissy, pal. Steve

Subject  :  RE:The "Real World"
Author  :  R.John Howe
Date  :  12-09-1999 on 08:35 p.m.
Hi Steve - Your description of the real world (as a civil servant, working in Washington, I make no claim) almost tempts one to remain in the shelter of convoluted logic. I guess we should probably go back to the rugs now. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:Random thoughts
Author  :  Marla Mallett
Date  :  12-09-1999 on 09:40 p.m.
marlam@mindspring.com OK...Back to the rugs. I am completely befuddled by some of the statements made above, especially about "pile carpet designs executed in flatweaves." And that "one cannot tell when the flatweave copies the pile." One would be hard pressed to find a single carpet design which was not already a flat-weave "copy" or "adaptation" that could possibly be copied exactly in slit tapestry, common overlay/underlay brocading, zili brocading, or warp substitution--some of the truly restrictive flatweaves. So to say "one cannot tell when the flatweave copies the pile" makes no sense. Soumak is not a restrictive flatweave and so is not a legitimate part of this discussion. Overlay-underlay brocade designing, for example, as practiced in Asia, usually requires that HALF of the warp units throughout the design serve as negative, or "background" components. Yet no design element can be much more than 3 warp units wide. The designs must be linear. Severe restrictions! Zili brocade designs require motifs built up of 4-warp blocks. Warp-substitution weaves that require the hand-picking of new sheds encourage narrow design stripes, and require a design equally divided in a vertical direction between two colors because of warp-tension concerns. Slit tapestry requires that long verticals be avoided, but even more important--and usually overlooked--is that a strong tapestry fabric usually requires the weaver to avoid intersecting diagonals or to stabilize them with horizontal design elements. Each of these restrictions (along with many more!) means that "copying" pile designs is usually not an option for weavers using these techniques. Marla

Subject  :  RE:Flatweaves Aping Pile?
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  12-10-1999 on 01:16 a.m.
Hi Marla - Just to follow your ending point in your last post here: that copying a design in a pile piece is not an option for most workers in flatweave. And I ask this from a position of considerable ignorance. I own a piece of flatweave, likely a Khorussan Kurd bag face (poshti)that is very similar to a piece Stanzer shows at the bottom opposite page 204 in his book "Kordi." (I can scan it if this turns out to be useful.) This piece has the kind of latch hook diamonds we've discussed here and that occur frequently in the pile weavings of Jaff Kurds. The Jaff Kurd pile pieces often achieve their steep angles through the use of offset knotting. Stanzer describes the flatweave technique used to produce his poshti (and I think my own piece has the same weave) as "supplementary design weft: knotted weft-wrapping technique." Now these particular pieces and some Jaff Kurd pile bags with seeming similar designs are likely approximate contemporaries. Stanzer estimates his is 1935 apparently because it contains one synthetic. Mine is likely older on this basis. But there are numerous Jaff Kurd pile bag faces that are estimated to have been woven in the 19th century. More, to perhaps argue momentarily against Wendel's suggestion that a flatwoven piece attempting to ape a pile design leaves no trace of that, the weaver in my pile piece moves with her weft wrapping color changes in the steep angles of the diamonds one warp at a time seeming to imitate offset knotting. Wendel, in fact, pointed this out to me when he once examined my piece. Is this perhaps an instance in which the flatweaver might have been looking at an old Jaff Kurd pile piece and is this particular flatweave technique one that has the kind of flexibility that would permit the flatweaver to copy a pile design pretty faithfully? Or is it that the Jaff Kurd pile weavers were originally likely making a design originating (for them) in older flatweaves and is the offset knotting in Jaff Kurd bags likely a recognition by the pile weaver of some structural restriction in these source flatweaves? If this latter point were the case then the ability of a later flatweaver to copy a Jaff Kurd pile piece back into flatweave would not be a problem since the pile weaving already conforms to the restrictions of the earlier source flatweave. If not, though, this might be an instance movement from pile to flatweave and one that appears to leave some trace. I may now have done no more here than to demonstrate the wisdom of Steve's quoted axiom that simpler is usually more likely, but I'd still be interested in your view of this particular example. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  Design origins: flatweave or pile
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  12-10-1999 on 06:31 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear John, The question of whether a Kurdish weaver in, say, 1910, copied a latchhook design from a pile rug she saw or from a flatweave she saw seems (to me) to have little to do with the question of whether pile latchhooks originated by being transferred from slit kilims. Even if we knew with absolute certainty that the weaver in question was copying from pile, the likelihood that the design was on kilims long before it appeared on pile for the first time seems very high. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:Random thoughts
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  12-10-1999 on 07:41 a.m.
Hi Steve - I don't disagree. I was (perhaps not very usefully) simply probing Marla's seeming ending indication that a flatweaver would usually find it difficult to copy in flatweave something she has seen in pile. I simply wondered whether movement sometimes could not occur in this direction. I was not suggesting anything about about the predominant perhaps most historically noteworthy movement of designs between flatweave and pile. It was a question about what is possible and also about whether this might be one instance in which (if the movement was possibly from pile to flatweave) there might be some "footprints" from the pile side. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:Random thoughts
Author  :  Marla Mallett
Date  :  12-10-1999 on 12:15 p.m.
marlam@mindspring.com John, Steve, and all, The central problem in this discussion is the all-inclusive and rather meaningless word "flatweave." My statement above was that "copying pile designs is usually not an option for weavers using 'these' techniques"--referring to the restrictive brocades, slit tapestry, and warp subsitution that I had just described. In discussions of design evolution and migration and the role played by the RESTRICTIVE FLATWEAVES, it's important to NOT confuse soumak with these. Soumak has almost precisely the same lack of restrictions and limitations as knotted pile. It can copy anything, and the products are just as eclectic as knotted-pile weavings. This of course includes knotted soumak variations, including the "knotted weft-wrapping" you apparently are describing in the Khorasan piece, John. Your example is a perfect illustration of soumak weavers' ecclecticism. Marla

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