While wandering through the Metropolitan Museum last month, I came upon an exhibit of utilitarian articles made by nomadic tribes from the area around Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. Every piece had a very ordinary purpose - to carry their belongings from place to place. But the pieces were anything but ordinary. The weaving technique for each piece was chosen to suit the need of the object it would carry. Most of the pieces were executed in the sumak technique. This means that an extra weft thread was wrapped around the warp threads - over two threads, then back around one, or over four, back around two. This adds strength, makes a very dense fabric (needed when you are carrying things like salt or flour), and creates a beautiful pattern. Sometimes pile was added, to make the fabric even denser. Here are some of my favorite pieces:
I'll start with the spindle bag (western Iran, Bakhtiari tribe, ca. 1935), because of course the women need a way to carry their spindles so they can make the thread they need to weave. The fabric is sumak weave, with pile added at the bottom where it would have the most wear.
Here is a bag to carry salt (ca. 1920):
A double flour bag (last quarter 19th century):
Even larger, this container was used to carry bedding (Azerbaijan, ca. 1825-75):
And finally, a saddle bag (Shahsevan tribe, ca. 1875). The pattern seems so similar
to a quilt pattern.
I enjoy tapestry weaving. I think I will try my hand at sumak weaving this year. Perhaps I'll make my own spindle bag.