Archive for December, 2009

Why Warp-faced Covers are Collectible

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2009 by rjohn

Dear folks –

On November 14, 2009, Raoul “Mike” Tschebull

conducted a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning at The Textile Museum, here in Washington, D.C. on “Why Warp-faced Covers Are Collectible: Plain, Substitution-warp Decorated, Twill-woven and Plaid “Jajims” from 19th Century Western Iran.”

Mike is a long-time figure in the rug world.  He is perhaps best known for his catalog “Kazak,”

a piece published in 1971, but that is still valued and referenced.  He was one of those selected to write an article for the very first volume of Hali and he has continued to contribute to it, his most recent article is in issue 156.

This particular program was congruent with some debunking arguments Mike has made in other areas, primarily with regard to what we, in fact, know about Caucasian pile rugs.

In the case of west Iranian jajims and other jajim-like weavings, he suggested that we actually know little about how to attribute them, either by very precise geography or by weaving group.  He said that most of the pieces he was speaking about were likely woven in northwest Iran, Fars, and Luristan in the 19th century.

So, he said, his comments would focus primarily on taxonomy – the visible aspects of the pieces themselves.

Mike started with some anthropological indications about the people who most likely wove such warp-faced textiles.  He drew on long-term contact with of Richard Tapper and his own Azarbayjani field experience in 1996 and 1997.

He said that about 100 years ago, it is estimated (and Russian efforts to “Russify” Azarbayjan played havoc with both traditional society and with information about Azarbayjan, like the census) that there were in East Azarbayjan about 70,00 nomads and many times that number of settled people – villagers and urban dwellers.

Azarbayjani villagers lived – and still do – in houses made of mud bricks and  burn dried cow dung for fuel.  Mike did not suggest, as do some writers about other societies with nomads, that the Azarbayjanis see nomad life as preferable to settled life (some Turkmen tribes have names for these two statuses that clearly indicate that the nomad one is preferred and that a certain order of affluence is needed to maintain a nomad existence).

Mike did point to some traditional advantages of being a nomad.  One could, for example, better evade tax collectors and conscription, but he also suggested that nomads were not as autonomous as more romantic pictures of them sometime suggest.

There was a dependence on the villages and urban areas for some nomad essentials, such as tea, tobacco, sugar, flour, gunpowder and shot, even the curved ceiling struts of the nomad yurts which were usually milled and “steamed” in settled circumstances.  Mike noted further that there are known to have been itinerant metal workers and felt makers who visited nomad camps, and he believes that most nomads didn’t have their own “dye set-ups,” but likely depended on village-based or itinerant specialists.

In many societies, former nomads who settle and become villagers retain many of their textile traditions for a time after they give up nomadism.  Western Iranian jajims had different functions in settled and nomad life, for example, nomads almost certainly used jajims to sit on, whereas villagers used pile rugs more often for that purpose.   Mike suggested that demographics alone indicate many of the jajims we have were woven in villages.

Despite often not being able to make very close attributions, it is likely that many of the jajims Mike showed were woven in East Azarbayjan.  He provided a battered but detailed Iranian topographic map of that province.

The area is dominated by extinct volcanoes and volcanic ash makes up a good portion of the soil base.  Tabriz is the dominant city and there are villages scattered in areas where there is water.  Nomads at one time summered in what are basically four mountainous areas, and wintered in various lowlands.  At this point, nomadism is much reduced, but is still pursued on a modified basis.

Mike also provided some photos of the some of the nomads whose ancestors wove the type of jajim brought to the RTAM today.

Here is a photo of an Azarbayjani nomad camp site in late summer.

Courtesy of Raoul Tschebull

This camp is pitched in open, but mountainous country at an altitude of 2500 meters.  Notice the use of reed screens in the housing and the camp guard dogs.

The photo below shows of one of the typical felt-covered tent-like structures Azarbayjani nomads use.  Note the felt door cover in an open position, the sheep corral, the shorn sheep.

Courtesy of Raoul Tschebull

This photo was taken in Arasburan, a mountainous district in East Azarbayjan, in 1997. Mike described this ribbed tent  as an “ahlechik”.   It resembles a Turkmen yurt with its light wooden frame,  felt covering and “up-turned bowl” shape.  It seems somewhat smaller than the Turkmen versions and the wooden frame seems cruder and less densely articulated.

Peter Andrews saw and documented a variety of yurts in East Azarbayjan in 1970 for his very taxonomic  “Nomad Tent Types in the Middle East”, and used the same word for dome-shaped felt-covered dwellings, but with a different spelling: “alacih”.  However, he described yurts with a central supporting vertical pole, while those Mike saw had unobstructed interior space.

As we shall see below, Mike thinks the common square-ish Azarbayjani nomad jajim format is well-suited to the space in an unobstructed domed yurt, even when a fire is placed inside near the doorway and family bedding and other possessions are stacked around the interior perimeter.  On the basis of his own field experience, Mike estimates the available space would be at least twelve feet long and up to fifteen feet wide and would nicely accommodate square-ish jajims about 7 feet on a side.

Here is one more “dwelling” image,  looking out with a chicken visible in the center of the doorway.

Courtesy of Raoul Tschebull

Mike said that, although some such folks still migrate, camels are no longer used.  But in the 1966 photo below they still were.

Courtesy of Richard Tapper

Rectangular bedding bags of the sort woven with decorated sumak sides, some other woven bags, and a chest are being loaded onto camels for a migratory move.  Such bags were still being woven in the late 90’s.

The photo below is an important one for understanding a number of the points that Mike made about jajims.  I have cropped a 1966 Nancy Tapper photo to bring things closer.

Courtesy of Richard Tapper

Jajims, as Mike said, usually have a rectangular format, some square-ish, others longer than they are wide.   But you can see in the photos above and below that the loom on which jajims are woven is narrow (usually they produce a fabric about 12 inches wide).  This means that a quite long length has to be warped up so that the finished fabric can be cut into pieces and sewn together (“buttonhole” stitch is usual) to achieve the more squarish rectangular shape.

From Jenny Housego’s “Tribal Rugs”

The need for a long length, sometimes approaching 50 feet, creates a couple of serious problems for jajim weavers.

The first is maintaining a constant warp tension over this long warp length.

A second is maintaining  a constant width as one proceeds.  Notice in the first of the two weaver photos above (here it is again for ease of reference)

Courtesy of Richard Tapper

that one can just see behind the weaver and the young girl, what may be a spreader, placed at that point to keep the warps at the width of the lower part of the jajim already woven).

And the various warp-faced structures used can themselves be challenging to weave.

The combined result, Mike said, is that jajim weaving is, in his and Marla Mallet’s view, more difficult – requires more skill –  than other techniques.

Mike suggested that one can also add to the difficulties cited above, the factor of time.  The nomads who wove jajims tended to have to move about every two weeks in season in order to provide adequate grazing for their livestock, especially their sheep, that famously eat grass “to the roots.”  So unless she is also very skilled at resetting a loom with a partly completed jajim, a weaver would likely press to complete a given jajim length needed in about two weeks.

This last factor also potentially affects jajim production in another way, namely that a settled community would provide a more hospitable environment for  jajim weaving than would a nomad camp and existence.

On the question of why he thought jajims and other warp-faced textiles were particularly “collectible, Mike cited several aspects of them he felt striking:

First, because of their relatively primitive nature, warp-faced structures (which importantly include bands as well as covers) have probably been made for a long time.  Animal fiber weaving dates back about eight thousand years  and one must assume bast fiber warp-faced structures predate it.

Second, he said, jajims were non-commercial weavings and, since they were not shaped by market pressures, were likely more reflective of the nomad cultures in which they were made.  And, consequently, they are vectors for early designs and design concepts.

Third, Azarbayjani jajims in particular have more colors than most, including an aubergine.

Fourth, they are technically sophisticated; more accomplished, as we noted above, than pile weavings. They exhibit tight spin and ply, and superb “spinning matches.”

As I indicated above, Mike does not feel that we actually know as much about Persian jajims as is sometimes asserted.  He particularly advised against usages that have been picked up in the “market.”  He argues that we need to reserve our indications for those based on “taxonomy.”

The notion of basing indications about rugs and textiles on a taxonomic approach seems to suggest that our statements should center on the physical attributes of the weavings themselves, on what field research can tell us about them, how they were used and who might have woven them, and on closer logical inferences based on such information.

One type of Azarbayjani nomad jajim is square-ish, something that would be suitable for floor or groundcover use (as we indicated above) in circular or oblong unobstructed yurts.  Mike points out that “the ground is awfully cold and damp at 2,000 meters,” and Tapper’s slides show some jajims and verneh that have a thick red felt backing.  So we have pretty good basis for suggesting that square-ish shaped felt-backed jajims were used as floor covers.

Mike speculates that “the larger jajims were used as yurt dividers and possibly packcovers for camels.”  Qajar paintings show jajims used as camel covers by 19th century Persian cavalry.

Another frequent use by villagers and other than Azarbayjani nomads of various types of textiles with a “cover” format was to cover stacks of piled bedding or packs.  Azarbayjani nomads placed bedding in bedding bags, which normally stood uncovered at yurt perimeters.

From Parviz Tanavoli’s “Persian Flatweaves”

Mike also observed  that, in Azarbayjan, it seems that specific patterns were woven by specific groups, although who wove what has not been sorted out much.  It may also be possible, ultimately, to classify some of these pieces in terms of the “order in which stripes appear.”

The English-language literature on jajims and other warp-faced textiles is not extensive.

Tanavoli’s “Persian Flatweaves,” and “Shahsavan” have sections on the jajim.  His treatment exhibits some of the taxonomic approach that Mike advises.

Tanavoli begins with a little linguistic archeology, looking for instances of “jajim” or its equivalents in various languages, and reports that the term was not in assured use in the 10th or the 11th centuries, but is frequently found in various written sources “from Safavid times onward.”

Tanavoli provides a nice map showing that Persian “jajims” were woven primarily in three centers.  First, NW Iran, especially in East Azarbayjan.  Second, in southwest Persia and third, in Khorasan in the northeast.  (Jajims were also woven in Central Asia and southeast Turkey.)

Tanavoli also classifies “jajims” by design, saying that there are plain, or more correctly, striped, and “patterned” varieties.  The plain types look the same on both front and back, but the fronts and backs of the patterned ones have very different appearances.  This latter is because the patterns are created by extra warps which are substituted for the structural warps whenever a color change is desired.  The “substituted” warps not being employed in a design at a given point, “float” visibly on the back, creating this difference in appearance.

Tanavoli agrees with Mike’s indication about some “jajims” being used as floor coverings and says that “It is no exaggeration to say that the jajim has the greatest number of uses among floor coverings.  It is a multi-purpose fabric, serving as a floor spread, a blanket, a rufarshi, a bedcover, a quilt, a korsi cover, a wrap for belongings (during the migration season),

From Parviz Tanavoli’s “Persian Flatweaves”

a curtain and a bedroll…This in addition to the use of animal coverings and containers in which the weaving pattern or fabric of the jajim the weave is used…”

And a little later, “The type and quality of the weave is linked to its purpose; jajims woven for use as bedcovers, blankets and wall hangings are considerably finer and more delicate than are those used a floor spreads, and sometimes are even made of silk.”

Tanavoli seems more willing to offer more specific attributions for the “jajims” he shows.  He will say for example about a given photographed piece “Jajim, Shahsevan of Moghan, Azabaijan, c. 1800.”  Mike is more conservative about such indications.

In his “Flatwoven Rugs and Textiles of the Caucasus,” 2004, Robert Nooter, gives the location where he bought a given piece and (in an appendix) what he paid for it.  He describes some jajims, and says about one in particular, “Antique jajim, said to have been woven by an Armenian ancestor of the present owner, found in the village of Kogh near Novemberian, Tausech region, Armenia.”

Tschebull approves of even the limited field work that is, in fact, possible, nowadays, but would, I think, be conservative about how we should treat the information conveyed in the stories told about textiles at purchase.

Tahir Sabahi, in Turin, Italy, has also published a book on jajims.  I do not have a copy and so cannot comment further about it.

Jenny Housego exhibits something of Mike’s caution about what we know, in her indications about the only jajim piece she included in her classic “Tribal Rugs,” 1996 edition, first published in 1978.  She wrote: “They (ed.jajims) are made throughout the country (ed. Iran) and are often hard to attribute.  This example was found in Tabriz where it was attributed to Hashtrod.”

In any event, Mike emphasized how little we know about who actually wove these pieces.

Mike now moved to the “in the fabric” pieces he had brought.

In each case I will  first give the number of the image, then the image, and third will be Mike’s comment on that image.

Although his strongest focus was on jajims produced in East Azarbayjan part of NW Iran, he had also brought some examples woven in southwest Iran.

The first piece below was one such.

Image T1

Comment on Image T1:  This Qashqa’i piece, a heavy, fairly coarsely woven textile, has twining stops on each end and terminating braids of different types.  Wefts are dark brown wool and are not exposed.  Pile tufts in various colors are knotted into the structure during weaving.  The piece is complete, but as is typical of old jajims, has some holes.  The piece is relatively long and narrow, at ca. 5’X10′, and would commonly have been used to cover packs at the back of a tent.  When these jajims have all natural dyes, as does this one, and are well made, trying to estimate age is not very useful.  Purchased in Iran in 1996.

A closer detail of the field of this piece.

Image T1a

Comment on Image T1a:  The detail shows “flocking” as a join between the two sections, in this case, aubergine wool.

A corner detail of Image T1.

Image T1b

Comment on T1b:

Another close field detail of Image T1.  Detail of twining and selvedge

Image T1c

Comment on Image T1c:  Detail of selvedge.  Fars jajims usually have a reinforcing selvedge in two colors, much as do pile rugs from the same area.

Jajims woven in Southwest Iran tended to be woven on wider looms that permit completed versions composed of only two sections.  They also tend to be longer and narrower than those from NW Iran.

The piece below is a Qashqa’i example, bought in Iran.

Image T2

Comments on Image T2:  This is a twill-woven textile, not technically a jajim, but certainly in the same family.  Twill weaving makes for a more flexible fabric, and a reasonable guess is that pieces in this weave were used to some extent as blankets.  I’ve seen them used as pack covers, also.  They are sometimes called “moj”, but there is some controversy with regards to this designation.

A detail of one corner.

Image T2a

Comments on Image T2a:  the white is cotton, not wool.  This type textile may have been woven by the Darrehshuri tribe.  It represents virtuoso four harness loom weaving.

A closer detail of the red part of the field.

Image T2b

Comment on Image T2b:  the original flocking has probably been replaced by a simple red wool join.

The two color effects are the result of the use of a heavier wefting of a different color in a weave in which both  weft and warps show.


Comment on Image T2c:  The structure is twill and double interlock tapestry.

Mike’s third piece was a distinctive plaid effect “moj”.  Again, only two panels.

Image T3

Comment on Image T3:  This piece is said to be Luri, and is complete and without damage.  Differently colored wefting at regular intervals, slightly exposed by the twill weave, creates the effect.  Colors are strong and clear, in great variety, the kinds of dyes used in older Luri pile rugs and bags.

Image T3a

Comment on Image T3a:  Flocking is aubergine wool.

Image T3b

Comment on Image T3b:   Note flocking detail.  Very heavy gage wool was used for joins in these pieces.

Image T3c

Comment on Image T3c:  Braided warp finish is complete.

Image T3d

Comment on Image T3d:  Use of very light blue is unusual.

Mike moved, now, to jajims woven in NW Iran.

Image T4

Here is an unobstructed look at T4.

Comment on T4:  Notice this is the sort of piece that is composed of narrower strips, so there are more of them.  Mike described the weave as “warp substitution.”


Comment on T4a:  This piece is about 6′ square and is composed of panels with both the red-background and teal-background designs on a single strip.  Usually, this design, called in Farsi “Yedi Dardasht”, has separately woven red and blue strips, sewn together along the edges.  There is a sewn-on hand-woven dark brown wool 1/2″ wide braided edge that goes all around the piece.  This is fairly common edge treatment for Azarbayjani  square-ish jajims, especially warp-substitution examples.  From Mike’s field observation, it seems likely that warp-substitution jajims were a nomad thing.


Comment on T4b:  Yedi Dardasht is alleged to be one of the most difficult warp-substitution designs to execute.


Comment on T4c:  The teal panels were slightly greener at one point.  Sun exposure of damp jajims, which must have occurred when they got wet from roof leaks and needed to be dried out on top of yurt felts, often faded colors substantially.  A little high altitude sunblasting can go a long way.

The image below shows some of the back of this piece that reveals the look of its weave on back, or down, side.


Comment on T4d:  Notice that many cords float on the back of this piece.


Comment on T5:  This square warp-substitution jajim, made up of nine panels taken from two different weavings, exhibits a pattern known to have been woven in the Transcaucasus, so it is probable that the weavers or their forbears migrated south into Iran at some point.

There are fragments of other jajims like this one out there, but I have not seen another complete piece.  It has numerous old darns and reweaves, which is pretty typical of a textile given hard wear as a groundcover.  The floating pattern warps on the back, combined with the sewn-on felt, long since taken off and thrown away, made for a reasonably soft cushion to sit on.


Comment on T5a:  The dark selvedge here is woven and applied separately to guard against edge wear.


Comment on T5b:  Fred Mushkat points out that the minor border in orange, red and dark brown is a feature of Uzbek tentbands.


Comment on T5c:  The main design element, half medallions or “flying birds”, shows up on Turkmen pile rugs as an end panel, or elem decoration.


Comment on T5d:  Good Azarbayjani jajims have the same strong color values as old sumak bags and the wool must have come out of the same dye pots.  This piece has three madder tones.


Comment on T5e:  Detail of the selvedge


Comment on T5f:  Note the secondary design elements in the central panel.  Why would a weaver break the pattern?  Boredom?  It’s not a mistake or botched design.

While examining the T5 example, Mike brought out an Azarbayjani nomad packband to show similarities.

The “flying bird” design appears almost exactly the same on the jajim and the packband.  It cannot be new news that many packband and jajim designs end up used on pile rugs.


Comments on T6:  The non-repetitive design in this piece seems almost like weavers’ doodles – small elements that make you want to think they originated in the Neolithic past.  This warp-substitution jajim is about 6’X7′, and has some food stains that won’t come out in the wash – not unexpected.

A closer corner of the piece above.


Comments on T6a:

Another close detail.  Good warp-substitution jajims have at least two madder dyes.  Complete examples have the original joins, hemmed ends,  and selvedge.


Comments on T6c:  The snake-like forms in the upper right of the image are described as dragons by some Iranians with pretty good insight into design origins.


Comments on T7:  This warp-substitution design of half medallions within a meander, may be the inspiration for a whole class of similar pile rug borders in the Caucasus and Anatolia.  The inclusion of a large humanoid in the righthand panel is unusual, but not unique.  The piece, sewn together with undyed beige wool, is more than 7′ square.  The pattern is one of the most common among Azarbayjani nomads, and may have been woven in several locations.


Comments on T7a:  The hem is also sewn down with beige wool.

Mike and T7

Comments on Mike and T7:

Close-up of animal and human forms in one design strip.


Comments on T7b:  What could the meaning of the box form be?  Guard border design here is highly variable – tuning forks, “S” forms, little diagonals.  This jajim is made up of two separate weavings, sewn together.  An example of modular construction.

Mike and back of T7c

Comment on Mike and back of T7:

Below is another look at the back of T7.


Comment on T7c:

Below a close-up of a front detail of T7


There is no T8.


Comment on T9:  This large – almost 6’X9′ plain striped piece is notable for its strong aubergine and green stripes.  Striped jajims with strong color exert an almost Rothko-esque pull.  Like Rothko paintings, they need space.


Comment on T9a:  Closer details of T9.



Comment on T10:  This 6’X9′ jajim has elaborate joins in various colors.  There are others almost exactly like it, one of which has a parade of “peacocks” in weft wrapping parading across each end.  It is possible, even probable, that patterns of stripes were tribe or clan specific.  This piece is very finely woven, that is, there are a lot of warps to the horizontal inch.


Comment on T10a:  The greens have probably turned more blue over the years, a common characteristic, as the yellow oxidizes.


Comments on T10b:  Dye quality wouldn’t be so high on old jajims if they weren’t highly valued at the time of their weaving.



Comments on T11:  This plain striped jajim is quite delicate and has red wefting which shows through the pale yellow stripes, producing a green tint in places.  It is made up of four relatively wide panels, the right-hand one of which is reversed, top to bottom, so that the two green stripes abut each other.  This panel reversal gives the jajim a very unconventional, artsy appearance, and it was not readily apparent why without some study.


T11b  The joins are red wool.

Comment on T11b:  The sewn-on edge is a quite unusual finger- braided black and ivory 3’/4″ decorative band.  Note the red stitches securing it to the jajim.

This is the end of pieces Mike brought.

Members of the audience had brought in various “warp-faced” textiles and we began to look at them.  We will venture comments only on some of them and these need to be treated with the kind of caution Mike advises.


Comment on BI0:  Plain stripes, but with a band at each end of weft wrapping.  End non-finishes are perhaps original, but more commonly, there would be a hem.


Comment on BI0a:  Detail of weft wrapping


Image BI1

Comment on BI1:  This jajim may be Lakai.  We treat some other Central Asian examples below.


Comment on BI1a:  We can see that the use of yellow enlivens its aesthetics.


Comment on BI2:  I think the piece above is of silk.  It may not be complete.

Looking at the bottom edge in the image above, you can see that four strips were sewn together to compose it.


Comments on BI2a:  An effective use of white.


Comments on BI2b:  The selection and variation of colors and width of stripe in such a piece provide complexity and heighten aesthetic interest despite its basic simplicity.


Comment on BI3:  This piece has designs that closely resemble Mike’s T4 above.  Tanavoli shows a piece with a similar design that he attributes to the “Shahsavan of Moghan.”  These “Yedi Dardasht” jajims are not as uncommon as once thought.


Comment on BI3a: The narrow stripes with small “S-like” devices here have these “S’s” more spaciously placed and more articulated in their drawing.


Comment on BI3b:  Some additional close details.



Comment on BI4:  Tanavoli’s Plate 212 seems similar.  He attributes it to “Talesh, Gilan.”


Comment on BI4a:  Again, some closer details.


Comment on BI4b:  Notice the subtle instrumentation on the red and blue ground stripes.


Comments on BI4c:  The right side of the image above is of its back and shows “floats” in some areas.


Comments on BI 5:  The piece above is something of a departure, since it is a jajim woven by Uzbeks in Central Asia.  I brought it to show the sort of thing Tanavoli refers to when he says warp-dominant structures occur in Central Asia and southeastern Turkey, not just in Iran.



Comments on BI5b: Some closer details.


Comment on BI5c:  In the image above, the top part shows the front of this piece, but the lower majority of this image has been pulled up to show the back.  The back exhibits lots of areas with floating warps.

The colors on the back of this piece are much brighter than those on the front, leading Mike to say “The dyes in this piece may not be madder.”  Since the piece is mine, I can say that I think Mike feels that the reds in this piece may be from synthetic dyes, and that could well be the case.

As I noted above, Tanavoli indicates that jajims are woven not just in Iran, but also in Central Asia and in southeastern Anatolia.  Since the piece above is Uzbek, this might be a convenient place to insert two pieces congruent with Mike’s “warp-faced” focus but, not shown in the room during Mike’s presentation, and not woven in Iran.

The Turkmen wove tent bands with a warp-faced structure very similar to that used in Persian jajims.  Here is an overall image of one such.

This Yomut piece is 11 inches wide.  I have seen Central Asian textiles composed of flatwoven tent band sections to form a jajim-like format, although I am not sure that the composition was not by a dealer.

Here is a detail showing the front of this piece on the left and its back on the right.

Its appearance on the back is very similar to an image Tanavoli provides of the back of a jajim section.  The front “diamond” devices rise a little above the surrounding area and have a “couched” appearance.

A second “departure” image is of a horse cover from Siirt in southeastern Anatolia.

You may have to shade your eyes a bit from its wild colors, but this piece was woven in four strips that were then sewn together.  It has a feature we’ll encounter in one other piece below: it is done in mixed technique (pile and flatweave) exactly like that of Turkmen mixed technique tentbands.

That is, the pile areas are woven on raised alternate warps.  The design in the pile areas does not “show” much on the back.

Siirt weavers do not, traditionally, weave this structure (although a few other pieces of this sort have been found in the Siirt area).

Marla Mallett and Josephine Powell, who believe that Turkmen mixed technique tent bands were likely woven by specialists, conjecture that such Siirt pieces might have been woven by a displaced Turkmen mixed technique tent band specialist who is employing her skills in a new geographic context.

In any event, this garish horse cover provides an example of a jajim-like textile woven in southeastern Anatolia.

Now let’s return to the other, audience-owned, pieces shown in the room during Mike’s session.


Comment on BI6:  This looks to be a silk quilt top decoration used on wool Shekki bedding in the northern Transcaucasus.

Comment on BI6a:  The top and bottom edges are secured with a tape-like band, not original.


Comment on BI7b:  Again color selection and placement and width of stripe are used effectively.



Comment on BI7: Tanavoli offers a very similar-seeming piece in his Plate 222.  He attributes it to “Kurds of Khorasan.”

He says that such jajims are one of two types woven in Khorasan and that “a lay person would be unable to distinguish (ed. this type) from the Azarbaijan jajim.”  The “size, design and pattern” resemble the Azarbaijan pieces, but the Kurdish varieties are “coarser” and “experts will recognize differences in color schemes.”

Here are some closer details of this piece.




BI7   Back detail


Comment on BI8:  This handsome fragmented warp-substitution jajim may be from East Azarbayjan, may be nomad work.


Comment on BI8a:  Some closer details.  The use of negative space is very effective.


Comment on BI8b:  It projects the good “old” colors.


Comment on BI9:  What strikes me at first glance about the piece above is how “tall” it is in relation to it width.  I believe it has silk wefting.  It has a very high warp count.


Comment on BI9a:  It has designs that can be discerned only when one gets quite close to it.


Comment on BI9b:  It seems different from other pieces shown today and I don’t have further comments to offer about it.


Comment on BI10:  Another “tall” piece and one, I think, made of six widths of striped silk.


Comment on BI10a: Mike examines its side finish.



Comment on BI10c:  Once more, colors are good.


Comment on BI11:  This seems another piece similar to Mike’s T4 and to BI3, both above.


Comment on BI11a:  Mike points at a “complex “Z-like” device.


Comment on BI12:  Mike made the point in his lecture that tent bands are often very similar to jajim strips both in structure and in the design devices used on them.

Wendel Swan brought in the 15 foot, complete Shahsevan white ground band.  It is warp-faced and has a cotton foundation.

It must have been made strictly as decoration, as cotton would not be strong enough to use in this structure as a pack or tent band.  It’s also wider than pack and tent bands.


Comment on BI12a:  It has interesting iconography, including two “tree of life” designs.


Comment on BI12b: Wendel said that it is not the oldest of the type (probably from the first quarter of the 20th century).


Comment on BI12c:  Except for the brocading, the structure is similar to the jajims Mike exhibited.

The last two pieces were the two in the image below.


Comment on BI13:  Wendel brought the highly unusual and rare camel hair textile above above (which I’ve turned 45 degrees so you can see its full length a little closer).  It has a structure that we would expect from nomads.

Although it seems a little wide, John Wertime (who, years ago wrote an article on the format) has suggested that it may have been a kind of leg wrapping (a “puttee”).  Wendel says the wear pattern on it makes this plausible.

Puttees functioned both to protect legs and to keep stones and dirt out of boots.  They were frequent parts of (especially European) military uniforms in the 19th century, but their functions are so basic, and advantageous, and the format itself is so simple to fashion, that it seems likely that there were similar indigenous usages and formats in many traditional societies (0ne known, similar, traditional format is the voluminous, embroidered and striped, pantaloons worn by Zorastrian women which are made from similarly shaped strips).


Comment on BI13a:  There is some scattered brocaded decoration on this piece, but the wider patterned bands on its ends are pile and done in the same “knots on alternative raised warps” mode that we saw in the Turkmen mixed technique tent band fragment and the Anatolian horse cover above.

Wendel says that the presence of small areas of knotted angora wool in this piece suggest that it was woven in Anatolia.


Comment on B14:   John Wertime brought the last piece, which  was also very unusual.  He said that it is part of a larger jajim with angora pile at one end, and that the function or use of this weaving remains a mystery to him.  He said bought it in Istanbul because of its rarity, and that he is not aware of another example like it.

Again, the angora suggests that it is Anatolian.

BI14 back detail

Comment on BI14 back detail:  The back shows wide areas flat weave between the pile rows of knotted pile, something frequent in long-pile rugs.

General discussion of brought in pieces came to an end.

Mike answered questions,

concluded the session, and folks began to move to the front to handle and examine some of this material more closely.

I want to thank Mike for permitting the construction and publication, here, of this virtual version of his RTAM session.  Thanks to him also for considerable editorial assistance as we prepared what you have just read.

My thanks, also, to Frances Plunkett for a good set of notes, and to Wendel Swan for assistance in describing some of the “brought in” pieces.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief treatment of these interesting, warp-faced textiles.

Mike has indicated that he is willing to answer questions and respond to comments about these warp-faced textiles.  I will be the connection point.  Send them to <>.

We may add selected questions and comments below, together with Mike’s responses.


R. John Howe