Posted by R. John Howe on 05-25-2007 07:23 AM:

A Textile-Related Item of Painted Wood

Dear folks -

As I said, the second shop we were in in Bergama was that of a dealer in Ottoman antiques, primarily metal, wood, jewelry, tile, etc. Textiles were not important to his business, although I bought both the sash and the heybe from him.

But wandering initially in the shop, the first item that attracted my eye was a turned and painted item of wood. Nicely shaped and pleasantly colorful.

I asked what it was. The dealer said that it was from Central Asia and was used as a kind of "needle" to put the cord into the bottom of women's pantaloons. He folded over a piece of cloth and inserted the piece into the opening to demonstrate. I liked it as an "object d'art," and included it when we did our final bidding.

Down the road I showed it to other folks and asked their opinons. The experienced Ottoman dealer in Selcuk didn't question the described usage, but said that it was perhaps only 20 years old. Another dealer in Anatolya also seemed to accept the described usage, but said that it had to be at least 60-70 years old because the process for inserting such cords was modernized that far back.

But when I got to Cappadocia, the dealer there, shook his head and said that he did not think it was used in the described way at all. He said that he thought that it was the part of an antique spinning wheel and that he had a couple of them in various stages of completeness in the shop.

Here is one that I took through his front window.

And here is another that sat inside on the floor.

I think his suggestion is convincing. I notice on my piece that there is no decoration on the bottom end, precisely where it would have been inserted into a wooden base.

Isn't it interesting the variety of indications serious dealers will give or accept concerning what something is and how it was used? I don't think anyone in this sequence was trying to deceive. They were simply honestly mistaken. And it may well be that there were similar "needle-like" devices for threading cord in the bottoms of pantaloons and that this piece resembles them. Such cords had to be inserted somehow.


R. John Howe

Posted by Marty Grove on 05-25-2007 09:52 AM:

G'day John,

Yep, its certainly an interesting thing, trying to ascribe a use for something unknown found out of the blue. Its also another example of my belief that some peoples intreguing minds strike it right quite often ...

How lucky (or precient)for you to find an old item connected to one of your primary passions, weaving/s! On your last photo, the wooden turned rod in the lower left, showing it thrust beneath the wheel block appears to have a function which your piece would serve well for.

Dont we all love old stuff!! Wonderful find.


Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 06-14-2007 08:42 AM:


Thanks for posting this excellent find. It is a multi purpose measuring tool. Probably mostly used for attaining harmoniously proportioned stripes. While I knew such tools must have existed, and have been looking high and low for one for a few years, this is the first one I've seen. Sue

Posted by R. John Howe on 06-14-2007 01:23 PM:

Sue -

Say a bit more about how you think this item was used in measuring. And what about it suggests this use to you?

As I've looked at it, I have become more doubtful about it's being part of an antique spinning wheel, mostly because of its size (it's 9.5 inches long and 0.75 inches wide at its widest diameter).

It seems very similar in shape to some spinning wheel parts, but its size would suggest that the wheel that it might have been a part of would have to have been diminutive indeed.

So I'm open to other suggestions again.


R. John Howe

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 06-14-2007 03:16 PM:

Hi John,

On a very basic level, (there are several others), the tool's 3 dark lines mark out phi proportions. The bottom one to the middle one stand for 1. The middle one to the top one would be 1.608..times that. Golden mean proportioning, in other words.

The weavers would hold the tool right where the paint has rubbed off and move it closer or nearer towards their eyes to gauge where to begin and end stripes on a kilim, as they were weaving, just as a for instance.

If you use the tool that way to line up stripes, yourself, in front of old kilims in books you will quickly see what I mean. You will have to flip the tool over often as it is a tool made for weavers not for designers. Designers had better tools.

By the way, these nice old spinning wheels pictured were quickly, systematically, and maliciously destroyed beyond repair for some reason. Sue

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 06-15-2007 09:40 AM:

John, and anyone else,

Due to scale the following will be more useful for gauging phi relationships in rug book photos. The proportions can be mark off from here and used as little Phi rulers.

ooxxx oooxxxx ooooxxxxxx ooooooxxxxxxxxxx

Posted by R. John Howe on 06-15-2007 10:15 AM:

Sue -


Do you know whether there are photographs of a weaver using such a tool in this way?

Some aspects of weaving are never documented.

The DOBAG weaver I observed put the wefts through entirely by hand (she pulled the warps apart by hand to do it, although there was some narrow separation of alternate warps before she began). It took her about three efforts of this sort to take a pick of weft through all the warps and on top of a given row of knots. I had expected a single pass through using some sort of shuttle.


R. John Howe

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 06-15-2007 12:42 PM:


I can continue but first do you find the measuring test understandable? Could you try it? Try it on your DOBAG bag's stripes. You will soon understand they had no such tool. Sue

Posted by Steve Price on 06-15-2007 01:27 PM:

Hi Sue

Yesterday, you wrote:

The weavers would hold the tool right where the paint has rubbed off and move it closer or nearer towards their eyes to gauge where to begin and end stripes on a kilim, as they were weaving ... it is a tool made for weavers not for designers. Designers had better tools.

Today, less than 24 hours later, it's:

... they had no such tool.


Steve Price

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 06-15-2007 02:14 PM:

I said DOBAG has no such tool. It is not a modern tool. Sue

Posted by Steve Price on 06-15-2007 02:27 PM:

Hi Sue

I see.

How do you know it was a tool in, say, the 19th century? Being able to measure lengths with ratios around 1.6 to 1 (the precision implied by calling it 1.608 to 1 can't be right) is simple and requires no tools. Body parts (fingers or segments of fingers, for example) are convenient and can't get misplaced.


Steve Price

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 06-15-2007 03:25 PM:


Yes, it is easy to use one's built in indexing fingers for this task, and I've done a lot of that. It gets old really fast. In low light situations, where many variously proportioned hands are involved a tool such as this has it's equivalent in the ease provided ,in our culture, by tape measures and yardsticks when fingers and arm lengths could be used, but aren't, unless one has to.
People who work with their hands appreciate nice tools. Women like pretty ones. Besides, this is a multi purpose tool, quite necessary to have had at hand anyway, which makes it all the more attractive. Like a Swiss Army knife for girls.
John's tool is probably but one of a set made to various sizes. There were a lot of scales needed for that sort of all inclusive proportioning in the good old weavings. Better to use several at once. Give it a try, you'll see. The proportioning system which got lost along the way is worth the time it takes to find again. It's so easy, too, to do. Sue

Posted by Steve Price on 06-15-2007 03:37 PM:

Hi Sue

I'll ask one more time. Do you KNOW that these were weaver's measuring tools in the past? If you KNOW it to be so, HOW did you find this out? Photograph? Traveler's report? Some other source?

Steve Price

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 06-15-2007 03:47 PM:


I don't know when this tool was made. If you do the simple easy homework though, it won't be long before you will know, by measuring, some things you didn't know before about weavings. If you don't do the homework, though, you won't. Sue

Posted by Steve Price on 06-15-2007 03:59 PM:

Hi Sue

I didn't ask when it was made. I didn't ask who made it. I didn't ask how many different things someone could use it to do. I didn't ask how you would use it if you owned one.

I asked (twice) whether you KNOW that it was a weaver's measuring tool and, if so, HOW do you know that?

Steve Price

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 06-16-2007 10:46 AM:

Hi Steve,

Yes, I still know what this tool is.

Do you have a copy of Al-Jazari's "The book of Ingenious Mechanical Devices" handy? Sue

Posted by R. John Howe on 06-16-2007 11:28 AM:

Dear folks -

Well, I searched ABE for the title Sue provides and there is such a book. searchurl=tn%3DThe%2Bbook%2Bof%2BIngenious%2BMecha<br />nical%2BDevices%26sts%3Dt%26an%3DAl-Jazari%26y%3D11%26x%3D59

There's only one copy available at the moment and it ain't cheap.

I doubt if many of us have it "handy" since I've not heard of it before.

Sue - Could you maybe quote or summarize what it says about tools like my wooden piece?


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 06-16-2007 07:55 PM:

Hi Sue

No, I don't have a copy of that book. Now that we have that behind us, may I assume that the book has something to do with why you believe that this item was a measuring tool used by weavers to get horizontal stripes with heights in a 1 to 1.6 ratio? If my assumption is correct, would you kindly reveal what the book has to say about it?

Steve Price