Posted by R. John Howe on 05-24-2007 08:08 AM:

A Leather-Bound Heybe

Dear folks -

In this same Ottoman antique shop in Bergama where I bought the "wrap," I also bought a complete heybe bound in leather.

Perhaps, before I show it to you, I should say a little about this format, one that, in truth, we do not often see in the U.S.

“Heybe” is the name given in Turkey to saddle bags. They most usually are composed of two nearly square compartments, formed by a front and back and have a long connecting piece with a slit in it.

Below is the front of a complete heybe.

The front designs can be elaborate.

And here is the full back of a different one.

The backs are usually colorfully striped and the nature and color of the striping can help in attribution.

Some heybe’s are reinforced heavily with leather, as part of their original construction, and that is the sort I bought.

Heybes are carried over one’s shoulder.

Or over one’s arm.

But the long connecting section is likely intended to permit a heybe to be placed behind a horse's saddle.

The backs are plain woven, but the more elaborately patterned front panels can be either flatweave or pile. Pile Turkish bags are rather rare.

I ran into one heybe face in pile at a local flea market last year, without knowing what it was.

Here is a link to the conversation we had about it:

In this conversation, Lars Jurrell, who follows this format a bit, had interesting things to say and Ali Tuna put us onto the only book to date on the heybe format.

It is “Traditional Saddlebags from Anatolia,” by Bieber, Pinkwart and Steiner (the latter two wrote the only book on the grain sacks from this same area of northwest Turkey).

The pieces in this book are stunning and one wonders how they managed to find so many high quality instances of a format that one hardly ever encounters on the U.S. market.

With that background, perhaps I should show you my humble piece.

It is flatwoven front and back with a compartmented design that I like and has a nice use of blue, wine, black and white.

I also liked the fact that the closure system was largely intact.
I worried about the red (and still do) as a likely synthetic. I liked the fact that it was leather-bound and that the leather was in good shape and modestly embossed.

I liked the striping on the back and the wine, blue, yellow, black, white combination.

As I said in the discussion of the "sash," this heybe was also attributed to Balikesir by an experienced Ottoman antiques dealer in Selcuk.

I had varying opinions as others saw it, as I went along, about whether the bright bits on the connecting panels are original or added later. If original, this makes the red of the piece even more suspicious.

One more thing about the fact that this piece is leather-bound. One dealer downstream from Bergama was excited about that. He said that if it were his he would carefully remove the leather and we would then be able to see the currently covered areas as they were when the piece came off the loom. (There may be something to this since you can see in one small area in the image above there there is a two-color selvege under the leather.)

An interesting notion.

As always, comments and opinions are invited.


R. John Howe

Posted by Lloyd Kannenberg on 05-24-2007 08:35 AM:

Hello John,
I like your heybe! The leather binding may not be original, but I think it's attractive anyway.
The book "Sattel Taschen" by Helmut Reinisch has about a dozen images of heybes, and the NERS online exhibit "To Have and to Hold" also includes a couple, Plates 2 and 3.
Thanks for sharing yours with us.
Lloyd Kannenberg

Posted by Marty Grove on 05-24-2007 08:50 AM:


G'day John and all,

Woven bags in all their forms, large and small, have always appealed to me and those you show, including your new one, still affect me nicely.

Myself, I throw a nice old bag behind me on my motorcycle with all my stuff daily, on my way to work. When not using the bike and Im off to the shop I throw it over my arm as do those in your photos above.

I do get a few funny looks, but dont really mind as the bag is beautiful with great colours and is so practical nowadays, we being assaulted from all sides, in efforts to get us to assist against global warming by not using plastic shopping bags.

My large bags are really useful for storing clothes and jumpers etc when travelling out bush, except they tend to pick up burrs, twigs and other ground stuff when thrown around carelessly.

I have always thought it a pity that oriental woven bags have never become an 'item', fashionable for general use in the West - we dont have anything so functional really, except those soft, big leather bags from high end companies which tend to charge the earth for them, not really accessable for normal purchasers.


Posted by Steve Price on 05-24-2007 09:06 AM:

Hi Marty

Luggage made from pieces of rugs and bags had quite a run in the USA in the 19th century. At the end of the War of Northern Aggression, the (damn) Yankees who migrated into the former CSA to enjoy the spoils of war became known as carpetbaggers, a term that still means "unwelcome exploiters from elsewhere" in much of this country.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 05-24-2007 10:07 AM:

Lloyd -

Are you seeing something that suggests to you that the leather on my piece may not be original?

I asked about leather-bound pieces before, and the answer was that they were usually made that way to begin with, not as an effort to prolong use once a piece was somewhat worn (although I suspect that could have been done and sometimes was).

Maybe Lars or Ali will see this and comment on that point.

You may have, inadvertently, given me an additional reason for removing the leather. To see if the covered area is worn or pristine.


R. John Howe

Posted by Lloyd Kannenberg on 05-24-2007 10:39 AM:

Hi John -
I, too, always thught the leather bindings were original, but it seems a shame to cover up that cool selvage!
It might be worthwhile to open up a little of the binding to see what's underneath, but I would be very reluctant to remove the leather altogether. Whatever you do, I hope you make sure the procedure can be reversed.
Good luck!
Lloyd Kannenberg

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 05-24-2007 08:46 PM:

Is that a banana in that bag?


You don't say if your new acquisition is large enough to carry a couple of bottles of Laphroaig back from the liquor store.

I am curious how big it is and if these heybes come in various sizes similar to the Persian and Caucasian versions, or if they are all the same size.

On our trip to Turkey for the ICOC, we started in Athens for a few days (until our luggage caught up with us) and then took a ferry to the west coast of Turkey, driving up the coast and stopping to view the ruins in Ephesus, Bergama and Troy. I, too, passed the same rug stores you encountered, with their pieces hung outside. For anyone interested in nice, antique oriental rugs (that would probably be most of us) I do not recommend Greece. There are some nice embroideries, but the rugs in the few shops I ventured into seemed to have gotten their stock from the same warehouse.
But, back to Bergama. The town itself works its way up a hill, with the Pergamon ruins at the top.
The closer you get to the Acropolis at the top of the hill, the more compact, dense and crowded the town is, with a maze of delightful narrow, winding streets and shops. We were in a bit of a hurry, so I did not have a chance to visit the rug stores, though, knowing that you would be hot on our trail and would appreciate it if we left some goods behind for you to encounter.
I notice that the closures are leather strips, so one would assume that the bag was initially made with the leather sewn on. The leather was probably meant to lessen the number of Australian burrs the heybe would pick up when handled carelessly.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by R. John Howe on 05-25-2007 07:50 AM:

Hi Pat -

We are grateful that you left a few things in Bergama for us to glean.

About variation in heybe size: there is some. I'm leafing through the book and lengths seem to vary between 102 and 154 cm, while widths are from about 29 to 60 cm. Those are pretty big differences.

Yes, we could do a salon on narrow, crooked streets in Turkey if we could find a way to relate it to rugs.


R. John Howe

Posted by Marty Grove on 05-25-2007 08:50 AM:

G'day all,

Thanks Steve, my ears always pricked when I heard the word 'carpetbag' or read it, and presumed they were manufactured using machine woven materials even though I always rather hoped they were 'real'.

And Im sure that when the carpetbaggers were ducking and weaving in their attempts to escape the flaming arrows in the dry and dusty Wild West, Patrick, their bags were just as thoroughly invaded by spiked vegetation ...


Posted by R. John Howe on 05-25-2007 10:29 AM:

NERS Heybe Examples

Dear folks -

As mentioned in the "grain bag" thread, one of the New England Rug Society's on-line exhibitions treats a variety of bags.

Bags 2 and 3 are examples of heybes.

Link to bag 2:

Note that bag 2 is a rarer pile example.

Link to bag 3:

Bag 3 is very small and speaks to the question of how small heybes sometimes were.


R. John Howe

Posted by Lars_Jurell on 05-25-2007 12:32 PM:

Hello all
I had a close look at my two saddle bags with leather, one from Bergama area, one from Sivas area in Anatolia.
Both seems to have the leather from the beginning.
And both with bindings of leather.
Bindings is not common on Anatolian heybes ( bags ).

But I think the weaver was weaving the bag as normal, then after it was finished the leather was put on.

So I am sure the leather on the bag in this thread is original.

Another bag with leather can you see in the thread on "Show and Tell" about weaving from Savak Kurds.
The leather on that bag is also original.


Lars Jurell
Akrep oriental Rug Society, Sweden

Posted by Lars_Jurell on 05-27-2007 01:18 PM:

John and all

I asked a member in our rug society, Sonny Berntsson who is very familiar with Anatolia and their textiles, about traditions with leather on heybes.

First he told that John´s heybe with diamonds, said as a Balikesir heybe, is from Dösemealti area, the mountains around Elmali and Fethiye, SW Anatolia.
The people both in Bergama area and Dösemealti area are Turkmens, related to each other.
Many textiles, sold as Bergama, are from Dösemealti.

Traditions with leather on heybe´s are most common in West Anatolia.
And the leather is changed many times during the heybe´s life, depending on that it is destroyed and not taken care of.
The owner goes to a “saddle-maker” ( Swedish in English ) who change the leather. This can happened each 5-10 years.

Lars Jurell
Akrep Oriental Rug Society, Sweden

Posted by R. John Howe on 05-27-2007 02:29 PM:

Dear Lars -

Thanks to both you and Sonny for these additional indications.

Interesting stuff.

Sounds like I could remove the leather, if I want, without intruding on the "soul" of this piece.


R. John Howe

Posted by Lars_Jurell on 05-27-2007 02:42 PM:

That is up to you.
But take some photos first for the future.

On my textiles I don´t remove leather, "tribal" reparations or anything else that is a part of the history.

Lars Jurell