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-   -   Chodor dyslyks and indigo dyed brown wool (http://www.turkotek.com/VB37/showthread.php?t=3631)

Marvin Amstey August 17th, 2016 08:24 PM

Chodor dyslyks and indigo dyed brown wool
Recently I was able to acquire a matched pair of these from Michael Phillips. Upon publishing these here on Turkotek, I believe these are the only ones ever published. Here is an image of them:

and the back:


Another interesting feature of these pieces is that the brown stripes used as borders are black on the back. Within the pile of these stripes one can see deep indigo used to dye the brown wool black. I believe this is the first instance of seeing this on a chodor piece. It is the first time that I have seen this phenomenon although it has been reported many times. I do not believe that it is fading since no other color has faded. I believe that the brown wool was dyed without a mordant and the indigo rubbed off (after all, camels do kneel).

Rich Larkin August 17th, 2016 10:24 PM

Hi Chuck,

This is very interesting. Could you put up a closer shot of the pile side, and possibly a closer view of the back? Also, I don't disagree with your Chaudor attribution, but it would be informative to know your reasons.


Marvin Amstey August 18th, 2016 04:22 AM

Whose Chuck?
I'll put up the image tomorrow .
Best regards

Marvin Amstey August 18th, 2016 04:27 AM

The reasons for "Chodor":
Besides the color,asy knot open to right, double weft - one of cotton and one of wool (maybe hair in this case), and three cord, wool wrapped selvages. The decorative braided surround was added after completion of the piece.

Chuck Wagner August 18th, 2016 05:25 AM

Hi Marvin,

That would be me, I suppose; we were conversing in another thread.

I too would really appreciate a good closeup of the back.

In your image above, I get the impression of pronounced rib along the warp direction, although it may just be the lighting.

Chuck Wagner

Rich Larkin August 18th, 2016 12:53 PM

Thanks, Marvin. Sorry about the "Chuck."

Can you give us some dimensions, too?


Marvin Amstey August 18th, 2016 02:58 PM

Each dyslyk is about 7 x 11 inches.

Here is a closeup of the front pile:


And the back:


There is about 10-15% warp depression in some spots and flat in more.

Rich Larkin August 18th, 2016 03:56 PM

Hi Marvin,

That is quite interesting how that dyed brown wool went on the surface. I understand that indigo is susceptible to rubbing off to an extent, but it somehow doesn't strike me as a plausible answer. Yet, something went on there. Much less chance, certainly, of a cheap, non-indigo based fugitive dye. Anybody out there with alternative suggestions?

This comes two spots after "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" on the official Futile Arguments list, but I would call that partial warp depression more than 15% judging from the images. Closer to 30-40% or so.


P. S.: I have the impression (delusion?) that yellows in Chaudor pieces tend to have a distinctive lemon cast, relative to other Turkomans. Yours seems to have it.

Chuck Wagner August 18th, 2016 08:55 PM

Hi Marvin,

For any further structural discussion, here's a comparative image of the back of a late (like, 1900-ish) Chodor chuval.


Chuck Wagner

Marvin Amstey August 18th, 2016 09:06 PM

I'm sure that each weaver in her individual setting will pull a weft string tighter or not depending on the time of day, season, trouble with kids or whatever. Therefore I'm not sure what the comparison provides.

Pierre Galafassi August 18th, 2016 09:08 PM

Quote….That is quite interesting how that dyed brown wool went on the surface. I understand that indigo is susceptible to rubbing off to an extent, but it somehow doesn't strike me as a plausible answer. Yet, something went on there….

Hi Marvin & Rich,

Indeed an interesting case!!
I do agree with Rich that the rubbing-off of indigo is not very likely .

Of course, it is possible, purposely or by error, to do surface «dyeing» of wool with indigo. To achieve it, one has only to (repeatedly) perform very short dips of the wool yarn in a cold (room temperature) indigo vat and «air» it. The dye would not have enough time to fully penetrate into the fiber and a high percentage of it would just form the insoluble blue pigment on the fiber surface during each airing. This surface pigmentation (which is not a «dyeing» ) would have an inferior, but still quite reasonable light-fastness and indeed would rub-off quite easily.

But contrary to a rather common rugdom opinion, probably born from a confusion with the traditional process devised for cotton denims, ( in which, purposely a sequence of very short dippings and airings is indeed used to obtain a significant percentage of surface «dyeing» which makes it possible, later, during the so-called «stone washing» of the garment, to create the typical blue jeans look), wool dyers, including certainly the proud Turkmen carpet weavers, have no particular fashion incentive for performing such a lousy dyeing and would rather tend to use good old vat dyeing methods, with both higher temperature (40°-50°C for example) and longer dipping time, thus allowing good penetration of the small dye-precursor molecule in the fibre, which each successive «airing» turns into the blue indigo pigment inside the fiber.

Under the unsophisticated conditions of indigo-dyeing encountered in a nomad encampment, some surface «dyeing» is unavoidable of course, but it would require an exceptionally moronic dyer to create a wool yarn on which most or all of the indigo just sits on the surface.

True, it is not impossible, that the weaver of this rug was part of the Ibn Lewis tribe, famous for their «camel-washing» technique of indigo, later cynically copied in USA (replacing camel knees with more economical local stones).
However, I would rather put my 50 cents on a Turkmen lady’s creative idea combining natural brown wool with a dyeing with Saxon blue. Quick and easy.

Saxon blue fades quite quickly when exposed to light or when washed. Neither would I bet the house-cat on its perfect camel-sweat fastness.
IMHO, some import of Saxon blue into Transcaspia during the 19th or early 20th century may have taken place, even more so if the pile, as you suggest, is of Chodor origin.

The Chodor were not only the closest Turkmen neighbors to Russia as we know, but are also documented as being much involved in protection- and leading of caravans on the Bukhara-Russia route.

This being said, poor rubbing fastness of Turkmen dyeing can never be completely excluded, even with dyes which, a priory, are much less susceptible than indigo to show such a defect, as the following anecdote suggests:
A 19th century traveler (can’t remember who the bloke was) mentioned the case of an Akh Sakhal which beard may have been indeed white, but his initially white pants had largely turned red from idling on his favorite rug.

Marvin Amstey August 18th, 2016 09:54 PM

I just read about that dye in the encyclopedia as being known to fade easily if the indigo was dissolved only in sulfuric acid. Clearly that is a better conclusion than the kneeling camel.
As always, your knowledge and insights are appreciated by all of us. I was unaware that Saxon blue was available in the hinterlands of Central Asia.

Rich Larkin August 18th, 2016 10:05 PM

Hey Marvin,


I'm sure that each weaver in her individual setting will pull a weft string tighter or not depending on the time of day, season, trouble with kids or whatever. Therefore I'm not sure what the comparison provides.
I don't know about that. The Chaudor weavings are probably among the more variable, structure-wise, of the Turkoman output; but there is a predictable profile for most of it.


Chuck Wagner August 19th, 2016 02:07 AM

Hi Marvin,

I was thinking more of our silent majority, with respect to comparisons. We don't look at Chodor material that often here on TTek and I think some examples showing similarities and natural variation of the Chodor weaves have some value for observers.

Also, I observe that warp depression is not one of the features described for the pieces in Vanishing Jewels; something to consider should there ever be Version 2.0.


Marvin Amstey August 19th, 2016 04:04 AM

Thanks Chuck for that good suggestion. At my age such an undertaking won't happen. I'll leave to the younger folks. BTW are there any such? Seems like the ranks of collectors and Turkomaniacs is pretty thin.

Joel Greifinger August 19th, 2016 03:03 PM


Under the unsophisticated conditions of indigo-dyeing encountered in a nomad encampment
Hi Pierre,

Was there indigo vat dying being practiced by nomads in their encampments? I've recently been trying to research this question, though not about Turkmen. I haven't come across anything that indicates that indigo dying in the region was being done by the nomadic weavers themselves rather than by professional dyers. Given the complexity of successfully preparing and using indigo vats, would this be carried out by nomads at their encampments? Or, would they bring yarn that they had prepared to dyers, who jealously guarded their indigo secrets, for their blues?

If you know of any sources that suggest that there were nomads doing their own indigo vat dying, please send them my way.


Pierre Galafassi August 20th, 2016 09:42 PM

Hi Joel,

I can’t remember either having met any paper proving that nomads performed indigo vat dyeing themselves, and it seems quite probable to me too that they often purchased dyed wool from urban, specialized dyers rather than buying indigo and using it themselves.
Khiva, Bukhara and Persia were certainly supplying indigo dyed yarn to the Turkmen. In Bukhara it was a specialty of the local Jew community. There was also a small settled community of Jews (dyers, business people and artisans) in the Merv oasis when O’Donovan and de Bloqueville stayed there.

However, I would not exclude that Turkmen nomads were quite capable of performing competent vat dyeing too. Just remember the outstanding reds performed by the Salor dyers, which required a quite sophisticated knowledge of mordant dyeing.

Besides, the Turkmen were also documented as excellent forgers of Persian coins, as making their own gunpowder, building dams and huge adobe fortresses (Porsa kala, Yengi sheher,..) and doing quite passable agricultural work, activities little compatible with full nomadism.

Surely, keeping a stable vat liquor while following sheep or camels from pasture to pasture is not at all practical, but remember that many 19th century visitors of Transcaspia, like general / governor von Kaufman, O’ Donovan, Moser etc… did mention the dual social structure of Turkmen tribes:
While part of them, the so-called « tscharwa» (Mainly younger and / or poorer fellows, probably assisted by slaves) took care of the animals and had a truly nomadic life during most part of the year, another part, the so called «tschomrri» (mainly the older and middle- to upper class) remained encamped for long periods of time or even permanently at the same places and were keeping (relatively) buzzy with some agricultural work, the occasional raids into Persia and especially with contemplative laid-back «*activities*» (the males, of course). The ladies, next to feeding their husbands, taking care of the kids and weaving, may have welcomed a good vat dyeing for a change.

Best regards

P.S. I vaguely remember now that V.G. Moshkova in «*Carpets of the People of Central Asia*» claimed that most indigo yarn was purchased, but mentioned a certain number of Turkmen communities which kept doing indigo vat dyeing.

Joel Greifinger August 21st, 2016 04:02 AM

Hi Pierre,

Thanks for your input.

For anyone interested in 'the blues', let me recommend two wonderful books by Jenny Balfour-Paul, Indigo and Indigo in the Arab World.


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