Posted by Lloyd Kannenberg on 10-08-2007 09:40 PM:

More examples

Hello John and all,

How I envy all the attendees at this presentation! It must have been a real feast. May I offer a couple of related examples I think are interesting? First, this piece,

shows a pattern related to that in Plate 110 of Wertime's "Sumak Bags", whose weaving technique was called "proto-soumak" by Daniel Deschuteneer in a Discussion Forum about four years ago (can't find the exact reference at the moment). Next, this piece,

which is not unlike Wertime's Plate 102, is from quite far north, the Ghyzy or Khizy district of Azerbaijan, near Baku. Please excuse the condition, especially along the top. Finally, this is one of my favorite pieces,

clearly a sibling of Wertime's Plate 26 and Plate 57 of McMullan's "Islamic Carpets" (the latter also reproduced as Plate 46 in "From the Bosporus to Samarkand"). The two reds knock me out!

It would be interesting to see as well some examples of the group of techniques called "reverse sumak". The few pieces I have haven't photographed very well yet.

Best wishes to all,

Lloyd Kannenberg

Posted by R. John Howe on 10-09-2007 07:18 AM:

Hi Lloyd -

One of the reasons I do virtual versions of these TM "rug morning" programs is that I continually sorrow about the fact that they can be enjoyed in person only by the number of folks (about 60) who can fit into Mr. Myers' former living room.

The TM could do what I do (and better) but they have so far seemed reluctant to put up on their own site, things that are more informal, sometimes candid. I can, with the help of our technical managers, often put a rug morning session up in less than 24 hours after its occurence. The TM would take a long time vetting something of their own to ensure "publishable quality."

Thanks for sharing these additioinal pieces that I agree are all interesting. I think the third one is exceptional, a wonderful thing to own.

About the reverse sumak: I didn't include any images of the various sumack weaves but probably the most useful thing to do if someone is interested and has Marla Mallett's book, is to scan her drawings of the varieties of sumak that she treats.

Note that the optimum description of sumak structures is something about which Marla and the Irene Emery devotee (Wertime is one of the latter) often disagree.

Even at the most basic level there is disagreement. Wertime uses the terms "weft wrapping" to describe sumak. Marla says that this Emery-usage is ambiguous and does not indicate clearly enough whether the warp or the weft is being wrapped. She tends to say that "soumak" is a weave in which the "warps are wrapped by the wefts." In other areas Marla thinks the Emery usages are too elaborate and more simple description is possible.

Marla treats "soumak" in her session on basic weaves on her web site and provides one drawing that of "countered soumak."

In Part 2 of Marla's "What's New?" on her site, you can read more about her debate with the Emory devotees.


R. John Howe

Posted by richard tomlinson on 10-09-2007 07:52 AM:

hi john, lloyd, and all

this has been brought up before but.....

i think there is still confusion as to exactly what 'reverse' sumak is.

as far as i can tell, "extra weft knotted wrapping" - a term used by tanavoli, and something used perhaps only in shahsavan weavings -

is NOT reverse sumak.

many dealers and others tend not to distinguish between extra weft KW and TRUE reverse sumak , referring to both as 'reverse sumak'

while both weavings have a 'ribbed' look from the front, extra weft KW tends to feel chunkier. and the back looks slightly different.

i have several pieces i would call extra weft KW, but only one piece that i think is 'reverse sumak'

perhaps more enlightened folk can speak further.

richard tomlinson

Posted by R. John Howe on 10-09-2007 08:40 AM:

Hi Richard -

My guess is that "words" are not going to do it.

Drawings are likely needed.

But in case words will be adequate, Marla uses the term "reverse soumak" and describes it as follows"

"In 'reverse soumak' the normal front and back faces are reversed. Long diagonal wrapping spans appear on the back, along with loose ends and floats, while short horizontal spans appear on the front. Pattern units are half the normal if single warps are wrapped, designs can be intricate..."

"Keep in mind that the word "reverse" when used in reference to a soumak textile, describes the front-side appearance of the structure, and does not indicate the side from which the structure was worked."

Marla goes on to treat "Reverse offset soumak" as well, but unless the words above help, I suggest drawings are needed. And Marla doesn't provide them for "reverse soumak." Instead, her photo 5.14 on page 62 of the first edition of her "Woven Structures" book shows an example that has a "cordoroy" appearance (I think the "front side" is shown).

"Extra weft wrapping" is one of the terms Marla sees as ambiguous, since it has the "weft wrapping" core I mentioned above. She also questions the use of both "extra" and "weft" in this situation. But you can read her discussion of this usage on pages 70 and 71 of her first edition.


R. John Howe

Posted by Marty Grove on 10-09-2007 01:23 PM:

Beyond Extraordinary

G'day John and all,

I must confess not having much experience of 'soumac' per se, all those loose threads on the back of these one sided pieces having me feel they are sort of unfinished. There doesnt seem all that much difference to me between soumac and the weft substitution encountered on our Baluchi rugs.

As you stated John, in reference to the one on page 121 of Wertime's book, the 'birds' piece is most definitely breathtaking - this is the particular type of design which I have formerly identified with 'soumac', and this one perhaps the best so far I have seen. I really didnt have the faintest idea that there was such a vast realm of pieces in this rather peculiar weft wrapping craft.

Apparently soumac is a particularly robust form of weaving when compared to the more ordinary slit tapestry that I am more familiar with, although I am not quite sure just why this is so, perhaps there being more wool, with all those long threads remaining on the back.

The designs and colours of the items you show John are really quite spectacular, and I am grateful to you for having brought them here to show us. My time spent exploring the stacks will be increased with knowledge there are other fascinating weavings to look out for.

Many thanks,

Posted by R. John Howe on 10-09-2007 02:11 PM:

Hi Marty -

You wrote in part:

"...Apparently soumac is a particularly robust form of weaving when compared to the more ordinary slit tapestry..."


The usual distinction made between slit tapestry and soumak is that slit tapestry is a somewhat more restrictive weave, while soumak has great flexibility, some forms of it can do anything that can be done in pile weaving.

Slit weave tapestry has some advantages of its own. Despite the restrictions that are involved with avoiding long slits that could weaken the structure of the fabric at vertical color changes, slit weave tapstery can be "built up" in sections independent of one another and then subsequently joined together horizontally. This provides multiple workers working on a large kilim, for example, with considerable occasion for independent work and progress.

Yes, these soumak pieces are very beautiful material.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 10-10-2007 07:33 AM:

Marty -

Just one small correction concerning your indication that this piece below is from Wertime's book.

Most of the images in my mini-salon were taken from Wertime's "Sumak" book, but the last two images I present are from an earlier volume entitled "Mafrash" (a reference to the rectangular cargo bags that many of these sumak pieces are, or are from). This earlier volume is by Azadi and Andrews. It has very good pieces and glorious color, but the attributions are more general. Things have, apparently, been learned since.

Just in case anyone should go looking for the bag face above in the Wertime book.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 10-10-2007 08:43 AM:

Powerful pieces, gentlemen!

Rich Larkin

Posted by Wendel Swan on 10-10-2007 03:02 PM:

Hello all,

Among the items brought in to the Wertime program was a Shahsavan sumak salt bag, which is on the right, while the one on the left is an illustration in the Sumak book and was not presented at the program.

The salt bag on the right is not bound around the edges, so one can clearly see that it was originally woven as a salt bag. Often, mafrash are cut down in such a manner as to look like salt bags.

This intact sumak weaving below has been described as a rump band, but there are some kinds of bags with similarly shaped sumak weavings affixed to them.

These two items illustrate again what wonderful learning opportunities the TM RTAMs can be.


Posted by Marty Grove on 10-11-2007 08:13 AM:

Quality, quality

G'day Wendell,

Another thing about these sumak/soumak (still unsure how to write) pieces is that they mostly seem to be done very expertly - there seems to be a particular care taken with the weaving and colour, unless we are only looking at the best which could be found for display - realising of course that this is indeed part of the reason; still there seems to be a very definite intent to make something special - or are these people considered to be the epitome of soumac weavers?

The actual patterning tends to draw me right in, into something mystical and mysterious and seemingly elemental - they are really masterful works, thats for sure!