Types of Turkmen Weaving

The various types of weaving were determined by the nomadic lifestyle – tent dwelling and ease of mobility – and by the raw materials available from which everything was made, from the various types of bag, cradles, rugs and covers, weavings for dividing the space within a tent, entrance covers, bands for concealing the joint between the ‘walls’ to the “roof” and so on – in other words a woven “architecture” and interior design. Both the objects themselves and the manner in which they were made and decorated were the results of a long tradition; many of the designs were handed down from generation to generation and are associated with specific tribes or sub-tribes. Apart from the large main carpets (hali or khali), which, like other specific weavings, seem to have been used only on special occasions, the following are some of the most interesting types of Turkmen weaving:


Used to cover the entrance to a tent, in other words a woven ‘door’. Because of the mihrab-like design of many ensis, some writers have assumed that they were also used as prayer rugs; there appears to be no evidence of this usage and a number of authorities have specifically excluded it.


A prayer rug, usually with a clearly recognizable mihrab (niche) design. Turkmen prayer rugs are primarily associated with the Ersari; surviving examples by other tribes are generally late in date.


An hexagonal weaving, the exact function of which is controversial . Again, the mihrab-like designs of many examples have led some writers to suggest that they are prayer rugs hut several specialists in Turkmen weavings, including Siawosch Azadi, have stated that they were made as cot covers. Some examples have a slit at one end, suggesting use as a saddlecloth. Again, the majority of published examples do not appear particularly old (see also Tainakisha).

Small Rugs

Rugs woven in a small, almost square, format. In the opinion of many writers, they were used as hearth rugs . They do not appear to have a specific name and like the larger main carpets are usually called hali or khali. However, according to the Russian writer V.G. Moshkova. The source of much of the taxonomy of Turkmen weavings now in common use, a small rug with Tekke guls used for the threshold is called a dip Khali.


A shaped weaving with two long hanging sides made to hang above the interior of the tent entrance.


Small pile-weaving, narrow and rectangular in shape, suspended in the tent-entrance on a rod about 25cm. above the ground to keep out dirt and animals. Visually, such weavings are indistinguishable from torbas and according to Azadi in Turkmen Carpets, only four examples are known.


Tent hand, usually on a white ground. Usually less than 0.30m. wide by more than 20m. In length. The more usual type has the design piled on a flat-woven ground hut there is a small number of highly valued all-pile examples. Most jolami are attributed to either the Tekke or Yomut tribes. There are various types of band used within the tent to give strength to the structure; these have different names depending on their function, with the main kind of band described above being called ak yup or ‘white girth’.


The largest of the various kinds of Turkmen woven bags with a single face.


Smaller version of the above.


The smallest format Turkmen single-faced bag which, like chuvals and torbas, has a flat-woven hack, usually in undecorated plain weave, and 1oop fastenings. The word mafrash, it should he noted, appears in various Central Asian languages to describe different types of woven hag. Among the Shahsavan of the Caucasus and northwest Iran, for example, it refers to a large multi-sided bedding hag or woven ‘trunk’, usually in the sumak technique Some examples of all three types of single-faced hag retain long, free-hanging side-cords and side-tassels.


Small envelope-like bags woven in one piece with the four sides forming four triangular shaped flaps.


Small pouch-like bags, usually with triangular bases and often retaining long plaited cords decorated with tassels. Apparently used to cover the ends of tent strut-poles. Most old examples are attributed to the Yomut. Although at least three by the Tekke are known. There seems to he some confusion between an okbash and an igsulyk (see below) in the literature, with the leading contemporary Soviet specialist, Elena Tzareva (Rugs and Carpets from Centra/Asia, Leningrad and Harmondsworth, 1984), describing two weavings (Nos. 82-3). which in the West would be called okbash, as “igsalik”.

Igsalyk, Gashokdan, Chemche Torba, Aina Khalta, At Torba, Dis Torba(or Duz Torba), Darakbash

Types of small piled containers for specific objects -cutlery, mirrors, etc. Igsalyks are of rectangular, almost square, shape with four triangular flaps at the base (i.e. the same weavings as those called okbash in the West). According to Soviet ~ researchers, they are used as spindle bags. Aina khaltas are small rectangular weavings, approximately 40 x 25cm., used to carry mirrors. At torbas are rectangular horse nose-bags and chemche torbas, although of very similar shape, were used apparently for carrying long-handled wooden spoons; a darakhash is a tiny pentagonal bag for a comb. Dis torbas were used for salt and, according to their shape, for other comestibles such as sugar, flour, etc.


Large shaped horse blanket, examples of which can be either piled or flat-woven. Many Soviet writers also describe a salatshak (see above) as a horse or saddle cover.

Eyerklyk, Tsherlyk

Forms of horse saddle covers, the former has a semi- -circular body with or without two long rectangular flaps.


Camel-flank hangings, presumably always made in pairs. The most usual form is pentagonal but there are some rarer _ heptagonal examples known. Large rectangular weavings by the Salor with _ indented “T’ -shaped compositions are also presumed by many Turkmen experts to have served the same function. Rectangular weavings without specific ‘T’ -shaped compositions but which do not seem to have had backs, _ are often called jollars and are presumed by some writers to have also been used as camel-flank hangings.

Khalyk, Dezlyk

Shaped weavings somewhat similar to kapunuks (see above) but smaller and often with an extra rectangular flap at the base of the cross-bar’. Used as decoration for the camel’s breast. Khalyk is the word favoured by Western writers, modern Soviet researchers preferring dezlyk (or dezlik).

Diah Dezlyk, Tutash

The former are small pentagonal weavings used to cover the front knees of a camel, usually during festivals and special occasions such as wedding processions. Azadi (Turkoman Carpets, P1.53) illustrates a pair of very similar weavings which he describes as tutash or pan-holders, remarking that such pieces were always made in pairs.

The Role of Pile Weaving

The practical importance of weaving to the nomadic way of life undoubtedly led to the development of increasingly sophisticated knotted artifacts as well as to the craft itself becoming an expression of individual identities and beliefs. The skill of Turkmen weavers thus not only demonstrated a desire for comfort and decoration but was also used in specific instances, of which the making of prayer rugs is the most obvious, to illustrate certain aspects of their culture.
A woman’s importance, indeed her value, within such a society depended to a great extent on her abilities as a weaver. Men were essential to ensure a particular group’s survival, to defend it against attack and to increase its strength and influence by subduing others. The hearing of children and their rearing, the care of livestock and the making of most of the appurtenances of tribal life, including weavings. Were the tasks of women. It is understandable, therefore, that weddings were occasions of particular importance and were used by brides to display all their talents as weavers.

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