Willem Floor on Persian Felts
Dear folks –
We recently had occasion to talk here about Willem Floor’s book “The Persian Textile Industry in Historical Perspective, 1500-1925.”
Floor’s book does not include an index and so it is possible to miss some indications that he has made in this volume about felts. But one place where information on felt is given and accessible is in his “glossary” section in which he treats, often far beyond mere definition, particular terms.
He has a long entry for “namad” that seems worth reproducing here. (Floor often reports traditional Persian terms without explanation.) I have not included all of his quotation marks. Much of his work is quotation from historical and trade documents.
"Namad is felt of which various products were made, notably carpets, but also tents, kavajeh-push, clothes and horse blankets. The was the work of the namadduz or namadbaf. Namad was not ironed, but beaten with a stone to make it ready for sale in the bazaar. The quality of a namad depended on the quality of the wool used. The best namadswere made of kork or down, the worst, of wool of old animals. Inferior qualities were not only rolled, but also beaten. The namadmal cheated sometimes by using good wool on the upper side of the namad, whilst using bad wool, cotton and other stuff on the inside, or by making the borders firm and thick, while the middle was made thin or, again instead of rolling it was pounded. DuMans says that the namads were so well made that one mistook them for cloth or landreh.
"Namads or fine felt carpets, were sometimes of great beauty, but they were dear, and apt to get moth eaten. Namads kept their natural color, and came with or without gaudy embellisment. The were often 4 cm thick, but nevertheless of incredible softness. There was no export of namad to Europe. ‘Felts are self-colored, with a small amount of stamped pattern. They have not got cut edges, but are made in one piece, consequently the shape is very inaccurate. They cost nearly as much as good carpets, and are protected with druggets in the same way.’
"Namads were already made prior to the Safavid era, so it does not come as a surprise to find mention of this product throughout that period. The same holds true of course for the Qajar period.
"The best felt carpets were made in and about Kerman. Hamadan was famous for its namades or felts, which were used as carpets and horse-covering and as great coats by the peasants, as well as by the Lurs. A good carpet of Hamadan manufacture was an inch thick, but some made at Yazd reached two inches thick. For rich men’s houses they were made to order to fit rooms. The largest Mrs. Bishop saw in Tehran was 120 X 80 feet and formed 14 mule loads; 60 X 40 feet was not an uncommon size and makes 8 mule loads. Due to their bulk and weight namads were not exported. The best made at Hamadan cost about 20 s. per sq. yard. Chairs spoil them and therefore the maufacture of these magnificent floor-covering will probably die.
"I have seen a namad, or felt carpet, eighty feet long and fifty feet wide, without a seam. The name of the maker is woven in it---as the painter puts his name on a painting. The great weight of these felt carpets forbid their exportation. Indeed, the chief item of expense connected with them is the cost of transportation from Yezd or Ispahan, where they are made, to the residence of the purchaser. But nothing in the way of a carpet can be made so luxurious and suggestive of comfort as a Persian namad an inch thick.
"A very beautiful one, covered with an intricate geometric pattern in blue, red, and green worsted. (…) In an inner room, carefully protected from the wind, is a polished plaster form. On this pieces of colored worsted are arranged in the desired pattern, with some sort of size. A very thin felt is then carefully pressed over them, and at once removed, carrying on its face the pieces of worsted in their proper place. This thin felt is laid on the thicker felt of the carpet, and the two incorporated with blows of the mallet.
"Namadswere made in a great many towns in Persia. In addition, to Kerman, Yazd and Hamadan there was also considerable production in Astarbad and Isfahan."
(ed.) There is a footnote for “Astarbad” as follows: “Astarbad exports felts, namad and horse coverings (jhul) manufactured by the Torkomans….They make good namads at Astarbad in 1903.”
R. John Howe
With such thickness namads must be very good insulators indeed!
On a different topic, I find difficult to accept the phrase:
"They cost nearly as much as good carpets, and are protected with druggets in the same way." because there is no way they can match the "intensity" and sophistication of work as hand knotted carpets of similar sizes.
I wonder if Melina could comment on this (without going too much into the detail because of our non-commercial politic).
In response to Filiberto's comments my first thought would be that comparing
mediums is a slippery slpoe. Having said that, it is my perception that felt
carpets probably were not developed at the level of knotted ones for practical
matters. Also, it is likely that felt was invented before weaving and could have
been done so accidentally. Weaving is certainly more hi-tech and was achieved
through real innovation. It is also likely that the need for a stronger, more
durable carpet led to it's invention. As a dealer, these issues certainly effect
my pricing. As an artist, I am honored to have the opportuniity to collaborate
with felt makers working in an ancient tradition. One reason that it appeals to
me is that it is similar to drawing and painting in that the felt maker "draws"
with wool on the floor. It has an immediacy that I respond to.
In reference to Willem Floor's observation of extremely thick and heavy felts, I doubt anyone is making namads like that anymore. I did see a really large and intricate namad under a knotted carpet in a museum in Ardebil.