Kirk Keshishian and John Howe on “Repurposed Textiles,” Part 2, the Material Brought In

This is Part 2 of a program Kirk Keshishian and John Howe gave on “Repurposed Textiles.” 


It was preceded by a lecture that you can access using the link below:

In this virtual version of  our “show and tell” segment, we will treat, again, some of the pieces, in the room, that that you have seen in our lecture,  but not all of them. 


And we didn’t observe the sequence of our lecture outline.

We began with the piece below:


This is a hooked rug from Kirk’s family’s collection.  It features a version of the “log cabin” design, used frequently on quilts.

This piece is one that has definitely been made from cut up pieces of other garments.  Perhaps the most emphatic sign of this is that the red squares are hooked from cut up strips of a knitted item of some sort.


With this piece in hand, you can see the knitted stitches in the red strips.  The yarn in these knitted strips was not raveled.

The next piece had been brought in by a member of the audience.  She said that it was a panel composed of the fronts of women’s blouses.


I think she said she bought it in India.


The next piece was a small, shallow, zippered bag with a front made from a fragment, perhaps from a Caucasian rug.


Kirk had two small Uzbek bags: one side in ikat, the other in needle point.



The next piece was a round pillow, made from a field area with a single gul device from an Afghan “Ersari” main carpet.


The next piece was a sleeveless vest, made from some, seemingly, Anatolian slit tapestry kilim.


Next, was pair of boots decorated with slit tapestry material.


Next, were two mounted and fragment fragments of exquisite Turkish embroidery, perhaps from the edges of garments.


My photos do not do them justice.


Next, a small bag, composed of at least three different fabrics, its striped area being entirely of silk.


Its owner was unsure of an attribution, but it resembles a bag published by Robert Nooter in his Rugs and Textiles from the Caucasus, Plate 226.  Nooter attributes his to the Shasavan.  I have seen one other similar example, owned by a Canadian collector.

Although this little bag set is clearly “composed,” it may not be “repurposed” (like the little Dalmation bag in our lecture), because it was made, originally, to be what it is.

John had a knitted sleeveless sweater that was an odd instance of repurposing.


The wool in this sweater came an Anatolian project that was primarily producing naturally dyed wool for use in weaving pile carpets.  Some of this wool was redirected and used to knit sweaters of this sort.  There are a number of known  sweaters knitted with wool from this project and we may talk about them more generally some day.

Next, was a fragmented Yomut okbash, with very good color. 


Most will know that okbash designs are woven at right angles of their warps.

Okbashes can have features that seem constructed, but in this case, no new format has been attempted.  This piece was repurposed in our broadest sense, when it was fragmented and could no longer serve to encompass and decorate yurt pole covers.  It has been more permanently repurposed by being collected.

The next piece was an example of a “Boucherouite,” the contemporary Moroccan rag rug, treated in the lecture.


You will recall that these rugs are not weft-faced plain weave, but instead woven with symmetric knots and pile that can be lengthy.

Here’s are a couple of closer looks at details of this piece.


The pile points down in the image above.

Here is a look at its back.


The rows of pile knots are separated by multiple rows of weft.

John rehearsed his comments on the large, conventional hooked rug he found at a flea market.


He said that this rug is not important in itself, but rather because it seems such a typical example of the “poor man’s” type hooked rug.

Despite its clear urge toward economy,


the result is not unattractive.


Next, was a composed Uzbek panel.


Applique with ikat.

Its back was a faded Russian commercial cotton that might have been pretty interesting, once.


Jeff Krauss had brought in several repurposed textiles.

First, was the interesting shirt he was wearing.


Jeff said that “It’s ikat, silk, from Thailand.  Made from material used for sarongs.  Purchased in a shop in Chiang Mai.”

Jeff had, also, brought the Boucherouite rag rug from Morocco, but is, mostly, a serious collector of Japanese textiles.

First, he had brought three examples of “nagajubans,” which you may remember from the lecture, are “under-kimonos.”  The variety that Jeff brought is those that are “last year’s samples,” and are continuous lengths with one pattern after another.  They can seem to be patched, but are not.

Jeff asked for his examples to be modeled and volunteers did that.


A second example was this one.


We managed a front and back image of a third example.



All three of these nagayuban examples seem more deliberately put together, pattern-wise, than those we saw in the lecture.

Jeff had one more example, a Japanese vest, made in the weft-faced plain weave variety of rag rug.


Here is it’s back and a closer look at its weave.



Notice the white, reinforcing “sashiko” stitching in the detail above.

Another narrow pillow had a center panel take from another textile.


This seems an item of sumac or brocade.


I’ve seen very similar pillows made from repurposed parts of woven hats of various sorts.

There were a couple of constructed contemporary purses.





Someone had brought the still connected side panels of two cargo-type mafrash bags to show the original format from which his following constructed khorjin had been taken.  Here, below are his, original, mafrash side panel examples. 



And, below, a khorjin composed of such cargo-bag, type mafrash panels.



The next example was a panel composed of sections of a quite lovely Kyrgyz tent band.


Its owner agreed that the dark ground is unusual.


The colors were remarkable.

At one point a young man came to the front of the room wearing clothing into which textiles, from other sources had been inserted.


The “athletic” jacket he was wearing had a vertical panel that was predominantly yellow, and seemed, possibly inserted, but which, I think, was an original feature.


But the truly repurposed aspect of this jacket is that it had been lined with a man’s shirt that had not be disassembled.


The shirt had been inserted whole with its buttons, button holes and shirt pocket all still intact.

The young man’s blue jeans also featured strips of cloth and decorative piping that also seemed likely not part of them, originally.


It was not clear whether he had undertaken these insertions himself, but he was enthralled with our program and group, and said that he had thought there were no other people in the world like him.  🙂

We ended with several pieces from Kirk’s family’s collection.

First, a saddle cover,  with the dramatic “butterfly” shape.


This shape looks exotic, and there may be a temptation to think it was sourced in the East.   But, in fact, attributed to British cavalry units.  It was only used in Tibet since the early 20th century, after a known, expedition there by a British colonial cavalry unit, that had this style saddle blanket as part of their uniform regalia.

Here is a British military saddle blanket with this shape from 1750.


And here is another, viewed from the side and looking as it would when it was on a horse.  This one is for a major general in a  U.S. cavalry unit during the Civil War.


We do not have a clear attribution for the Keshishian example.  Its rich, pictorial fabric looks, vaguely, Chinese.

Here are some closer details of it.




It is a quite beautiful piece of fabric that seems ill-suited for wear.


A second piece from Kirk’s family’s collection was this interesting “crazy” quilt.


One has to look more closely at this colorful piece to see its most dramatic feature.


Its patches are all of “satiny” fabrics of various sorts.  But the feature that draws the eye in a closer examination is that, at the joined edges of all the patches (and on some of the patches, too) this quilt face is full of large, exposed stitches that would invite damage in use.  These stitches are in contrasting colors and are, clearly, intended for dramatic effect.


Kirk says that he likes the bird.


This interesting piece was meant to be seen rather than used.

One last seasonal piece, just for fun (it was December 23, 2012, as we wrote this part).

Kirk had brought his father’s Christmas stocking.


It was cut from a piece of Caucasian sumak, with a nice, unusual light blue.


Kirk said his father did actually hang it up. 

I knew Harold, a little, and suspect that he also expected to find something in it on Christmas morning.  🙂

Kirk and I took questions and adjourned the session.





I want to thank Kirk for his work with me to produce and conduct this program, and for his editing of my draft of this virtual version of it.

Thanks, too, to my wife, Jo Ann, who took the photos in the room.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, and agree that, it may well be the case, that there is still be more to be said, usefully, about repurposed textiles.

Hope you have had fine holidays,

R. John Howe

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: