Middle Eastern nomads
and villagers have used a variety of techniques to create stunning textile
art. The most common structures are shown below.
is the technique used most frequently for the flat woven rugs and hangings
Slit tapestry is also used
for bags, pictorial tapestries, and other articles. The fabrics are
usually weft-faced, meaning that the
warp is covered completely; the surface is ribbed in a vertical
direction. Warp yarns are those that
were affixed to the loom; weft yarns are those that were
interlaced with the warps. In all of the photos here, the fabrics are
oriented as they were on the loom--with the warps running vertically.
In tapestry weaving, weft yarns are
discontinuous; the artisan interlaces each colored weft back and forth in
its own small pattern area. With slit
tapestry, at each point where colors meet, a small slit occurs if the
pattern boundary is vertical. Other tapestry techniques, in which wefts
are dovetailed or
interlocked, overcome this potential
problem but have their own disadvantages. Slit tapestry produces the
sharpest pattern delineation and the smoothest weave. It also permits the
most freedom and spontaneity; thus it is a favorite technique among
weavers worldwide. Slit tapestry is fun to weave.
You can see in the
loom photo that slit-tapestry kilims are woven in separate sections, in a
very free-form sort of way. Rarely are pattern parts woven with single
wefts, one and then another, right across the loom. Usually tapestry
designs are bolder and more dramatic than those produced with other
nomadic weaving techniques.
Since the weaver
avoids long vertical lines in her pattern (to avoid long slits), designs
are composed primarily of diagonal and horizontal elements. To construct
a strong piece, intersecting diagonal pattern lines are also avoided.
Because most kilim designs have been shaped significantly by structural
considerations, most tapestry motifs have developed directly on the
loom; they have not been copied from other sources. This is why we find
designs similar in character wherever slit tapestry is produced around the
world--whether by Anatolian, Navajo, Pre-Columbian Peruvian, or other
Tapestry weft yarns
need not always be horizontal. They can be pushed about as the weaver
wishes, to easily form curved or slanting shapes. Egyptian weavers who
put animals, plants, and human figures into their tapestries use the same
techniques as Anatolian, Persian, and Caucasian kilim weavers, but simply
do not restrict themselves to geometric or quasi-geometric forms. When we
compare Senneh kilims from western Iran which have erratic wefts, with the
Harranian folk art tapestries of Egypt, the structural similarities are
choose to weave slit-tapestry pieces sideways. The loom's width is always
a limitation, but the direction can also be shifted for design purposes.
An Egyptian artist who wishes to portray a group of long-legged animals
and still avoid long slits, logically produces her piece sideways on the
loom. Indeed, the internal rhythm in such pieces is nearly always
dominated by a verticality in the designs. On the other hand, pieces
woven right-side-up display a predominance of horizontal forms, as shown
in the photo above. When tapestries like these are designed directly on
the loom, with no preliminary drawings, the natural tapestry processes
help to shape graceful imagery.