Posted by Daniel_Deschuyteneer on 07-28-2002 09:06 AM:

A little contribution to the understanding of Kurdish weavings

Hi Michael,

It’s a long time I haven’t had the time to participate into TKT discussions but this time I can’t resist. Thanks for this very interesting Salon.

As you, I am a lover of Kurdish weavings but it has not always been so.

My love of Kurdish weavings is in fact an educated forward step.

When I began to collect, I was mostly attracted to Caucasian Kazak with their bold design and their strong contrasting colors, until I discovered that most of them were probably village or town workshop products with adaptation of Anatolian or Persian designs. Something was lost …

Designs migrated along the silk road and were adapted in their own way by lots of, if not all, weavers groups.

This is NOT a specific Kurdish practice!!!

It is well documented that many designs such as the small Holbein pattern or the "concentric moon motif" migrated from central Asia into the Anatolian weavings of the Ottoman period. Many other examples of transfer of design east or westwards can be cited. Nevertheless, I haven’t any difficulties to accept that even if a design has been transferred "it may become part of the tradition" of one tribe or a people. It is a fact that Kurds borrowed outside designs into their PILE weavings but they always adapted them in their own way using their own technique, structure, color scheme, making, in one word, their own. Peoples who underappreciated Kurdish weavings for this reason use a BAD argument, and if they persist to do so, they have to reject also, all the rugs showing outside influences.

Outside influence reflects only the power of one form of art at one moment and may be considered as the "style" of one period.

I love many west Anatolian weavings even if they contain borrowed designs as I also love this small Kurdish runner.

Such rugs where woven by the Kurdish Shavak tribe inhabiting an area north of Elazig in Anatolia.

Like the oldest one of its type it is a small and narrow runner: 235 cm x 99 cm.

The design is typical with two "sandikli" medallions, hexagons containing stylized crosses, eight pointed star main border and "S forms in hexagons" secondary border.

Each Sandikli medallion is nicely adorned with few small devices (see the close-up)

Strong colors: nice red, light violet-rose, excellent white, medium to dark blue, small amounts of yellow, light olive-brown and medium green (mixture off indigo and yellow),

(Technical analysis at the end of this thread)

While its "sandikli" medallion is an adaptation of a well known 15th century west Anatolian pattern it has been adapted in its own way to become the emblem of the Kurdish Shavak tribe.

Readers may like it or not, but they may not reject it just because it contains design showing outside influences. It’s a real tribal rug which became part of the weaving tradition of this tribe and wasn’t woven for any commercial purpose.

In the slightly southern Malatya area the same design has been also borrowed and adapted by Turkish weavers. Such examples appear in Eagleton’s book and you will have to admit that they are of far lower quality.

This rug doesn’t traduce the weaving tradition of the Kurds as it is a late development of it but it has its own Kurdish qualities.

Midway, we find lots of pile rugs of Kurdish facture, staying more in the original tradition with among them the several Jaf bags illustrated in this Salon and rugs like N° 7, 21 and 23 as well.

All these rugs show several small repetitive stepped or hooked motifs, arranged most often in lattice, derived from flatweaves (slit tapestry, brocading, ...) and offset knotting has been used to adapt these flatweaves designs into pile weavings. This point has been already discussed in earlier Salon (Salon 78) and is well documented on Marla Malett’s website (

If we want to trace the primarily weaving tradition of the Kurds we have to go to their flatweaves and this eastern Anatolian sack is one I like very much, and which I feel very Kurdish. It is in immaculate condition and is most probably a dowry piece which stayed "in the box" as we say.

The design is to my knowledge not documented and may be unique, shows how the Kurds are able to be inventive, WHEN they use their traditional weaving techniques and structure, and how they are able to use several material (goat hair and wool) and natural shades of yarns to create a perfectly drawn and balanced and appealing design.

This is a big storage sack, "each" face measuring 104 cm x 81 cm, designed with overlay underlay brocading. (technique analysis at the bottom of this thread)

All the colors are natural shades except three!!

The weaver used for the back side two different sorts of yarns, natural gray wool and dark brown goat hair mixed together to create subtle changes of colors. At the front side she used more suitable medium brown ground wool wefts to enhance the design woven with natural white wool yarns and dyed, red, blue and green yarns.

Hoping this will help to better understand the Kurdish weavings,


Daniel Deschuyteneer

Shavak Kurdish rug - Technical analysis:

Eastern Anatolia – North of Elazig.

Circa 1875

235 cm x 99 cm

Knots: wool, 2 singles, H 22/dm V 22/dm 484/dm²

Warps: 2 ply wool, white, medium brown, barber pole.

Weft: singles, medium brown wool, 3 to 5 shoots

Selvage: ??? split symmetrical two color wrapping (Mallett – plate 15.66 and 15.67)

End finishes: top and bottom 2cm flat woven skirt, two pick oblique interlacing end finishing slightly frayed in one corner.



Back side:

weft faced plain weave ground – gray sheep wool wefts are mixed with dark-brown goat hair wefts.

Front side:

weft faced plain weave ground – medium brown wool wefts are mixed with a few dark brown goat hair wefts

Design woven with single wool wefts - overlay underlay brocading

Selvage: large plain interlaced selvage

Ends: hems sewn down on the front and back side panels

Colors: natural white - dark indigo blue – bottle green (mixture of yellow and indigo) – brownish matter red – various shades of natural gray and brown wool and dark brown goat hairs

Deschuyteneer Daniel

Posted by Michael Wendorf on 07-28-2002 09:32 AM:

east Anatolian sack

Dear Daniel:

Thank you for starting this thread. The east Anatolian storage sack does have at least one parallel. This is found in a 15th century or earlier knotted pile rug fragment that is illustrated in Carpets/Teppiche from the Vakiflar Museum in Istanbul by Balpinar and Hirsch as plate 4 on page 184 - 85. This fragment came from the Ulu Mosque, Divregi (Sivas). Warps Z2S, wool ivory; weft Z, wool light red, 4 - 6 shoots, wavy;
Knots 2 Z wool selvedge over 10 pairs of warps with additional weft thread (red). I think the overlay - underlay brocade structure of your piece is the original for this pattern of interlocked lozenges, intercepted on the corners by squares which produce, as Balpinar and Hirsch describe it, an 8 pointed star motif. There is also reference to mosaic and tile facades. See pp 52 - 54.

The use of undyed wool and goat hair is also noteworthy.

Thanks, Michael

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 07-28-2002 07:34 PM:



You said:
"I love many west Anatolian weavings even if they contain borrowed designs as I also love this small Kurdish runner."

My first assumption from that statement was that you were going to show us a west Anatolian rug, but the map shows otherwise; Elazig is in the center of eastern Anatolia.
The design, though, is certainly reminiscent of Bergama area western Anatolian rugs, with your rug showing two sets of the Two-One-Two design instead of the one often seen in Bergama rugs. The red-on-brick tone-on-tone, or ton-sur-ton as some call it, effect in the center of the guls is a subtle reflection of the smaller guls at each end and in the middle of your rug. The overall effect is bold, graphic and almost regal.

You mentioned Eagleton and note that his examples, at least of the Turkish Malatya versions of your Sandikli design, are of far lower quality. Are you saying they are lower quality than your rug, or of the Kurdish Elazig versions in general?

I have read the Eagleton book and see that there are a number of later, less desirable/collectable examples. However, Eagleton does say his book is just a beginning introduction to Kurdish weaves and leaves it to others to carry the torch forward.

One problem with collecting Kurdish Tribal rugs is their scarcity, probably due to a smaller number of them having been woven, fewer making their way to the marketplace and a general indifference to them, leading to their eventual destruction on the floors of the West. The older ones do have a depth and clarity of color and design that can be breathtaking.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Daniel_Deschuyteneer on 08-05-2002 08:52 AM:

Dear Patrick,

The Shavak rug I show is one of the best I have handled. Many people like it because it has a "Caucasian look" but it’s a pure Kurdish product.

Rugs with a related design are woven in the Malatya area as I told. These one are often longer runners and the colors are more subdued, less saturated.

In the Malatya, Gaziantepe and Adyaman pieces, the "petals" of the "sandikli" gull are of the same size as in the Bergama’s prototype while in the shavak rugs there are four narrower wings protruding.

Just look at this piece which is plate 92 in Eagleton’s book to see the difference.

Thanks for your interest.

Daniel Deschuyteneer

Deschuyteneer Daniel

Posted by Deschuyteneer daniel on 08-05-2002 09:30 AM:


Dear all,
Can anyone post a copy of the rug cited by Michael that is illustrated in Carpets/Teppiche from the Vakiflar Museum in Istanbul by Balpinar and Hirsch as plate 4 on page 184 - 85
I unfortunately don't have this book.

Posted by Michael Wendorf on 08-12-2002 10:11 AM:


Hi Daniel:

I am sorry I cannot post the image, I have no scanner.

About Savak Kurd rugs, Brueggemann and Boehmer discuss this group in Rugs of Anatolia, pages 116, 316. They say that their investigations show the Savaks are Kurdish but some having absorbed Turkoman features and speak Turkish, not Kurdish. Durul had noted (1969) the Savaks as Turkoman. They comment that Savak rugs often fit well into a Turkoman tradition. They illustrate a rug, no. 104, that has what they conclude is a particular Savak combination of colors similar to your rug. A bright red only slightly tinged with orange, contains small amounts of yellow dye apigenin; dark indigo blue and additional dark blue/black with a distinct violet hue probably from walnut. On this rug the warps are ivory, not barber poled. The wefts are violet brown x 4 - 6 with some packing wefts. Selvedge on 6 warp yarns, every 3 bunched with V form.

Perhaps someone else can post the image of the rug related to the storage sack?

Thanks, Michael

Posted by Steve Price on 08-13-2002 10:18 AM:

Hi People,

Marla Mallett was kind enough to scan the Vakiflar rug that Daniel asked for two messages up, and sent me the image. Here it is:


Steve Price

Posted by Glenn Manser on 08-22-2002 09:05 AM:

Iraqi Herki Weavings


Eagleton indicates that the Herki favoured rows of Memling guls in their pile weavings and gives two examples, plates 55 and 61 in his text and comments on the nomadic nature of these pieces.

The rug below probably illustrates best what Eagleton saw that was admirable in such pieces. He does indicate, however, that "only the poverty of primary colours within the Herki's selection of natural dyes has kept their weavings from matching the old Kazaks to which many of them are related in structure and some in design"(p.79).

To what extent do you think such Herki pieces with their dark colours represent an authentic Kurdish tradition ?

Thanks for a great salon


Posted by Michael Wendorf on 08-22-2002 09:53 AM:

Dark colors

Hi Glenn:

Thanks for the kind words and your post.

I am not certain what Ambassador Eagleton meant when he wrote those words. In my mind, Herki rugs first and foremost represent a flatweave tradition and, in particular, a slit tapestry influence. I am not certain how long the Herki, a large tribe in the area of northern Iraq as well as parts of Iran and Anatolia, have woven knotted pile rugs, they mostly seem derivative to me. The Memling gul rugs are an example. When Eagleton compared Herki rugs to Kazaks, perhaps he was thinking of Memling gul rugs woven by Kazaks and in the Moghan Steppe. It seems to me that any relationship is coincidental - they are all derived from slit tapestry. (That is not to say the Herki have not woven traditionally, the range of other weavings that Eagleton also comments on is fairly convincing evidence that the weaving tradition is long established - a flatweave tradition.)

In the same vein, I would not compare the color of Kazak rugs to those of the Herki, different forces at work in a completely diferent place among different people. But what about those dark colors? I hesitate to talk in terms of an "authentic tradition" since I am not sure what that means. However, I can tell you that when I compare the darker colors and particularly the earth tones in some of these Herki weavings and then look at slides/photos of the Zab River basin and areas of southeastern Anatolia I see a connection. To me these darker earth tones reflect the color of the land and landscape in which they were made. There is no cherry red or sea green in this landscape. There are many shades of brown, yellow and reds tending toward orange. In this way, I think Herki rugs are simple and uncontrived rugs and I think that some of their weavings - whether rugs in knotted pile or flatweaves - reflect the surroundings of the weavers as well as the circumstances in which they were made.

Hope this is responsive to your question. Glad that you enjoyed the Salon.

Best, Michael

Posted by Michael Wendorf on 08-23-2002 08:43 AM:

color and wool hierarchy

Dear Glenn, Daniel and Readers:

As I think about summarizing this salon, Glenn's question in connection about Herki weaving in the context of other weavings and Daniel's east Anatolian sack - it seems to me that Daniel's little sack represents an opportunity to make some general observations.

In other threads we have discussed that natural wool, and even goat hair, comes in a range of colors and I have argued that the long use of natural wools and hairs and their natural color variation has resulted in a deeply ingrained love or aesthetic of abrash among Kurdish weavers. I have also stated that wools are and have been graded in part on color. The lighter and ivory wools have a greater marketplace value if sold or bartered. In addition, I have also pointed out that one of the early, historical problems with wool was its pigmentation. Wool replaced goat hair when this and other issues were bred out.

So how does this relate to the sack? Well, the back of the sack, the area least likely to be seen is woven with natural gray wool and natural brown goat hair creating a subtle abrash. The front was woven with medium natural brown wefts and then adorned/decorated with natural ivory wool and three dyed wool colors - red, blue and green.

Daniel wrote that he hoped the sack (and his rug) would help us understand something about Kurdish weaving. I think the sack in particular does, from back to front we see a kind of material and color hierarchy and we see it resulting in a carefully crafted flatweave of what is little documented but probably a very traditional type.

My thanks for your posts.

Best, Michael