Posted by R. John Howe on 03-24-2002 08:44 AM:

"Mafrash" not a "Chanteh"

Hi Patrick -

Good topic, excellent initial essay, mustard and all.

You've answered my first question without raising it specifically.

I have wondered how one distinguishes the "chanteh" format from the small (Turkmen) version of the "mafrash."

The answer seems to be shape. A chanteh will be approximately square, while the small "mafrash" format used by the Turkmen is rectangular. Here is the Tekke mafrash that Steve recently presented in a previous salon.

I was also interested to see that there are complete khorjin sets woven that are the same size as the chanteh, although I wonder if former might be woven for their "cuteness" rather than for any real function.

It is also useful to hear that the line between "khorjin" and "chanteh" may not ultimately be size but rather whether there are signs of connection to a second half.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 03-24-2002 11:38 AM:

Cute subject, Patrick!

I have no chanteh, only a miniature khorjin to submit:

Width is 22 cm. (8 ¾ in), length is 52 cm. (20 ½ in). All wool. Age: NEW!
Bought from the Hajj so I guess it should be Caucasian, but do not bother: I put it here just as a curiosity. Perhaps a child’s toy or a child’s work. By the way, the yellow is what I call a dark mustard-yellow! There are some French brands with the same color.

I’m glad that John brings the question of the Turkmen mafrash: some authors (like Joyce Ware, Hull and Luczyc-Wyhowska) claim the mafrash is not woven by central Asian nomads.
My question: is the so called Turkmen mafrash a chest-type container like the Caucasian/Anatolian one or it is just a big pouch? If the answer is, as I think, "a pouch", is the definition appropriate?


Posted by Steve Price on 03-24-2002 01:23 PM:

Hi Filiberto,

The mafrash the Turkmen make is a small, landscape format bag. The mafrash the NW Persian/Caucasian tribes make is a big box. My understanding is that the word is theirs, not something we invented. It is confusing.

I once proposed (in HALI) calling the Turkmen version "small landscape format bags", but it didn't catch on. I wonder why.


Steve Price

Posted by Yon Bard on 03-24-2002 01:34 PM:

Filiberto, the Tutrkmen 'mafrash' is unquestionably a small pouch, a miniature chuval if you'd like, and has absolutely nothing to do with the Shafsavan etc. storage boxes of the same name. Why they have the same name I cannot tell you.

The Turkmen do have some small squarish storage bags as well, usually referred to as 'kaps.' I have several about 20" in size, but the smallest one (11 inches across) is an Ersari that I have shown before, but here it is again.

Regards, Yon

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 03-24-2002 01:39 PM:


I assume your "first question" was "What is the history of mustard?"

The rule I use when differentiating a chanteh from a khorjin is first of all the size, second is the form.

If it is too big, it is not a chanteh, even if it is a single bag. The larger single bags we know of are usually in the "landscape" format and are Anatolian yastiks, Turkmen jollar, Baluch balisht, the Anatolian chuval and the interesting Bakhtiari tascheh. (Hull/Luczyk-Wyhowska say "Cuval are larger in size than yastiks, although they can serve the same purpose")
Jenny Housego shows an interesting single bag in Tribal Rugs, plate 105. It is a landscape-format single bag, but it is divided into two separate sides, left and right, to form two separate compartments. It has the opening on one of the long edges. The other single bags noted above have their opening on one of the short edges, except for the Turkmen jollar.

If it is a double, or set, of bags, it is a khorjin, or saddlebag. Or was until the faces became separated for sale as "mats", which is the condition we usually find them in today.

The turkmen mafrash follows a different rule, the rule of common usage. The small, usually landscape format, pouch-type bags of the Turkmen are commonly called mafrash, even though that term is used to describe a box-shaped container common to Shahsavan and SW Persian tribes in Iran.
I am unaware of the torturous etymological trail these weavings of differing formats followed to end up with the confusing same name in the Western marketplace. The Uzbek chanteh I show in the Salon is also known as a Kap. This may be the term that differentiates between the landscape and portrait formats of the Turkmen small single bags.

As for whether these small weavings were made for their cuteness, take a look at this little cutie:

I have seen weavings of this type attributed to everyone from Shahsavan to Kurd to Bakhtiari and more. This piece is a WHOPPING 8" x 10" and has a cotton ground with sumak patterns and some fuchsine, placing it at about the turn of the 19th/20th century. I have seen several of these in the full khorjin double saddlebag format. I spoke with an Iranian rug dealer who had a complete set and he said they were carried in Tabriz by Jewish Rabbi's.

Confidently yours,

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Yon Bard on 03-24-2002 01:45 PM:

Patrick, could you specify a numeric limit on the size of a chanteh, at least for the purposes of this discussion? After all, you are the boss!

Regards, Yon

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 03-24-2002 01:57 PM:

Back to Mafrash again


This little Turkmen, probably Yomud, mafrash, is the one I posted inquiring about "smoked" weavings:

This view of the back shows that it was woven as a single "pouch", although there is no reason to believe it was made for any purpose different than a chanteh would have been woven for.

We could drag modern mathematics into the equation with a definition of Chaos Theory: The ultimate result is a function of initial conditions.
In other words, a considerate Turkmen girl wove a small pouch of landscape format so it could be used for a particular purpose which is now entombed in the mists of time past. From then on, proper Turkmen women continued to weave small pouches in this same format.

This bag is 14"w X 9"h, with remnants of tassles and one corner, the top right, deformed/pulled apart where a carrying device may have been attached at one time. It is, interestingly, asymmetric, open left knotted.

You can compare the size with that of my previous posting of the now-forever-named Rabbi-Bag:

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 03-24-2002 02:01 PM:

Size IS important


From deep in the bowels of the Salon is this sentence:

The size of a chanteh is generally accepted to be anywhere from approximately 6" x 6" up to just over 12" x 12". They were used to carry tea leaves, money, jewelry, even makeup or other small valuables.

These dimensional limitations are somewhat fluid.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-24-2002 03:22 PM:

Chanteh with Flap?

Dear folks -

Here is an image of an odd, little, complete, flatwoven and embroidered bag.

I think this may be a not terribly old Central Asian piece, despite the fact that its colors are way off the usual Central Asian palette.

It is 13 inches wide and almost 14 inches tall.

It has a flap at the top that is 4 1/2 inches tall. This flap is sewn into the back (that is the plain natural color flatwoven back does not continue into the flap). But the flap gives no sign of having been a connecting piece for a khorjin, since it is finished with a border only on the top side. The flap also has two loops at the top corners indicating that the bag may have been hung.

So what do we call it?


R. John Howe

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 03-24-2002 03:42 PM:

What to call it?



It has the field appearance similar to that shown above in Yon's post, the "baklava" design. Maybe it was a Baklava carrier!

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Yon Bard on 03-24-2002 03:49 PM:

John, you say that your piece is flatwoven. Can you be more specific structure-wise? Surely it's not slit tapestry, as it has long verticals.

Regards, Yon

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-24-2002 04:24 PM:

Yon -

The basic fabric is natural colored plain weave with the front side fully embroidered, including the borders which are continuous not added.


R. John Howe

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 03-25-2002 12:36 PM:

The Delegation from Baluchistan

Hi Patrick,

The most notable thing I sense from the pieces shown so far is the degree of departure from the norm that weavers are willing to go to on their small pieces. I suppose it's got a lot to do with being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, on your way into the tunnel. So putting some extra effort into unusual, unfamiliar, or detailed work is not so daunting a commitment that the idea gets trashed before starting.

I have a couple Baluchi pieces to contribute to your nicely illustrated salon. The smaller is about 8" by 10". The body of the larger is 10" x 10.5". The larger fits with my initial comment: somewhat more colorful than the average Baluchi bag, with more fine work and several different finish details packed into a small bag.

The images:

I will note that the smaller bag does not appear to have ever had a carrying strap of any sort attached to it.

Regards, Chuck
Chuck Wagner

Posted by Sophia Gates on 03-25-2002 06:31 PM:

Books & Tobacco

A couple of things: first, here's a link to a site about tobacco:

I found it searching for "history of tobacco". Apparently it's been known in the "New World" for ages and used to be smoked by Mayan priests, among others. Early Spanish explorers took it home & voila, it soon became a fashion at home.

So, I think we can assume that 19th century people would have carried tobacco bags. Turkey of course grows excellent tobacco. Among other things

Secondly, I think John's little bag might be a book bag, possibly a Koran cover.

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 03-25-2002 09:25 PM:

Baluch Briefcase


The larger bag you show has many of the same construction features as the back of the Baluch bag in the Salon. The "chevron" design is seen in the end-panels of some Baluch rugs, too.

With the jaunty tassles and strident stripes, your bag looks equivalent to the trendy briefcase of a modern executive. These weavers and the owners of the bags took a lot of pride in the handiwork and appearance of them.

Your suggestion that they put a little more into these smaller weavings may also have been because they knew these small pieces would be more likely "shown off" to others than a household rug, or one woven for the market, might be. The men would gather with their friends and extended family, or stop in the nearest village or town with these items on their horse or donkey or carrying them in hand. Others would look with more respect upon someone carrying a very nicely finished bag, as much as we scrutinize the clothing and accessories of friends and strangers we meet during the day.

Your observation that the smaller bag appears to have not had a carrying device could indicate that it was a container for something that needed a bit more protection within another bag when traveling. Such as a cup or fine jewelry. The object would be packed in the small bag and kept in a larger bag when not in use. What kind of animals do you guess those are on that small bag? Pregnant goats? Chimerical camels with the hump on the bottom? Dangling dogs?

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 03-25-2002 09:39 PM:

Lending Library?


How common were books in Uzbekistan? How many people could even read in the 19th century Uzbekistan? I know many Americans had a bible in the 19th century. I suspect that people who could not even read would have a bible. I have read that the Koran was/is the most widely memorized book in the world. Would a Koran fit in a bag that size? The "Koran Bag" type of Yomud weavings are a lot larger than this smaller bag.
I am glad you volunteered to research this topic for us.


Patrick Weiler

Posted by Sophia Gates on 03-25-2002 10:04 PM:

Books where???

Thanks, Dude

Just what I need. Another research project, in Uzbekistan yet.

Well, I'll dial up the Midnight Dragon & see what I can find out

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-26-2002 06:31 AM:

Dear folks -

I am glad for Sophia's suggestion that the little bag that I put up might have been used to carry a book. It is slightly higher than wide and the flap might be seen as protective, but there are features that make one wonder if it was meant to be carried at all.

First, it has loops at the top corners of the flaps, suggesting that it was meant (at least sometimes) to be hung. Second, the embroidered side of the flap is the one that would be visible if it were hung but would not be visible if it were folded over and carried. The back of the flap is unadorned natural colored plain weave.

So I wonder about its use as a book bag.


R. John Howe

Posted by Sophia Gates on 03-26-2002 11:50 AM:

Mirror, Mirror. . . In The Bag!

John, and all:

A Friend Who Wishes To Remain Anonymous thinks the bag is for a mirror! She says women frequently made & owned such small bags specifically for this purpose. Also, as she points out, the design implies reflectivity.

That would account for its size: too big for tobacco or hash, probably too small for a Koran. And also, its plain back & the fact that it appears to have been made for hanging, not to be carried.

Makes sense to me!

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 03-26-2002 11:50 AM:


I found an interesting little (emphasis on little) photo of a few Uzbek gents that may be of some interest:

I've been unable to find a larger version of it, and it doesn't enlarge very well. But the bags across their chests look interesting. It's quite possible that they're made of leather, but it's the geometry of the bags, and "group-think" approach to wearing them, that makes me wonder if you're right about chantehs being an element of somewhat showy (or at least special) dress.

This is one of Dudin's photos, from a page on the Jacobsen site.

As for books in Uzbekistan, recall that John postulated that his bag may not be very old. I concur, my guess would be mid 20th century based on goods I've seen on the market here. Modern Uzbekistan in a weird mix of "Tribal Mindset" and "Hero of the Soviet Union"; one thing the Soviets did do was develop rudimentary educational systems throughout the 'Stans. So it's reasonable to think that notepads, sheafs of paper, or other flat media might have been the target contents. The Lakai Uzbeks make cross stitch bags of similar size, but different shape (tapered at the top) for holding womens mirrors. That would fit with a small flat bag purpose built for hanging as well, and may be closer to the true intended use.

The nomads of old often carried a page from the Koran, or other small bits of paper with religious or mystical significance in small (roughly 4"x6") belted flat leather packets (now called amulet holders). On Turkmen goods, there is typically tooled metalwork on the flap and belt. John's bag seems too big for that purpose, and looks too thin and too lightweight for a heavy Koran.

Regards, Chuck
Chuck Wagner

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 03-26-2002 01:13 PM:

Hi Chuck,
Here is a detail of that picture:



Posted by Chuck Wagner on 03-26-2002 01:26 PM:

Be careful what you ask for...

...because you might get it.

Hmmmmph... In the detail view those look more like waistbands. Oh well, maybe next time.

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 03-27-2002 12:45 AM:

Lunch Time


They look like bags to me. We need to get the CIA in on this one. They do great photo analysis. It looks like a little digital camera the fellow on the right is carrying.
I have been researching the embroidered bag thing and found that they were often used for, as Sophia says, mirrors, niche hangings, bread covers and lunch bags. The grooms family would embroider a bread cover for a ceremonial flatbread offering to the bride's family. The Koran bags of larger size, particularly the Yomud versions larger than this bag of John's, were also made for carrying flatbread AND a Koran or other paperwork. Double Duty.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Steve Price on 03-27-2002 07:56 AM:

Hi Patrick,

I don't think it's obvious whether these are belly bands or bags hanging from the narrow straps that seem to be coming down from their shoulders. They look about the right width for waist sashes, and my suspicion is that the strap is leading to a small bag, one corner of which is visible on each man.

The fact that a bag has straps or metal loops through which a strap could be fastened really has no bearing on whether the bag was meant to be hung from a wall, worn as a shoulder bag, or carried. Many women's purses in the US (and men's, in parts of Europe) have straps attached by metal loops, as do most camera bags.


Steve Price

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 03-27-2002 09:25 AM:



I was looking through The Rugs of The Wandering Baluchi yesterday.
One traveler noted the ugliness of the women, due among other things to their habit of carrying things such as embroidery needles and such in the cartilage of their nose where it had been pierced for jewelry.
And I thought contemporary fashion was absurd.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 03-27-2002 09:52 AM:

A High Coefficient of Cosmologicalocity

Greetings all,

I notice that through some phenomena of extraperceptual troposcattering, Sophia and I were putting our mirror bag replys together at exactly the same time. Go figure.

Anyway, here's a picture for Patrick & John of a recent Lakai Uzbek cross-stitched and embroidered mirror bag. There is a slit in the back that serves as the entry point for the mirror. Note the purpose built hanging geometry.

I wonder what Sevgi would think if she knew her bag was Internet enabled ?

Regarding the bag/belly band discussion, I'm undecided but still leaning toward bands. But I want them to be bags. Let's see what other votes show up.

Regards, Chuck
Chuck Wagner

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 03-27-2002 01:01 PM:

Nose Bags?


I see the date 1926 on that "recent" bag!?

The quote from the David Black book, Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi, is from a section by Francine York, who writes that G.P. Tate stated "The Baluch woman is rarely good looking." York goes on to say, "She aged and still ages rapidly. Married at fourteen, by thirty she is already an old woman. The nose like a sharp dagger and the scimitar like locks so prized by the poets have lost their glory. Their elaborate jewelry of armlets, earrings and nose rings were of little avail then, and the picture cannot have been enhanced by their habit of storing needles, bodkins etc in the perforated cartilage of the nose."

Earlier she says "It is the women who made the carpets. Young girls made the saddle bags, nose bags, pillow cases."

Does anyone have a collection of Nose Bags to post?

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 03-28-2002 03:09 PM:

Hi Patrick,

I agree that the date looks like 1926 in the photo, but when I look at it up close it's inconclusive. So, I have always assumed it's 1986 and a little fuzzy. The ascending serif at the lower right is the culprit; I just go conservative and call it recent.

Regards, Chuck
Chuck Wagner

Posted by Steve Price on 03-28-2002 03:32 PM:

Hi Pat,

I doubt that the nose bags mentioned by York were worn by people. Most likely, it's a reference to feedbags for animals. Also, I note that York refers to these things as being made by young women, in the same sentences with mention of who made rugs, saddlebags and pillowcases. My suspicion is that York was talking about woven, not embroidered items here.

I did a little article in HALI (No. 69, p. 79) awhile ago on the subject of small Turkmen bags. The number of published names of portrait format Turkmen bags is astonishing, and includes horse feedbags, spoon bags, spindle bags, mirror bags, and tent-strut covers, with multiple names and spellings for each of them. Unfortunately, there is little about how to tell which is which, although the tent strut covers (
uuk bash or ok bash, depending on whether you prefer the Turkmen or western marketplace name) seem to be the things with pointed rather than squared off bottoms. No portrait format bag that I've seen looks nearly large enough to accommodate the snout of a horse, so either feedbags are mighty rare birds or Turkmen horses have mighty narrow snouts.


Steve Price

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 03-28-2002 09:45 PM:

Greetings all- Acting upon a hunch, ran to the dictionary and found: cummerbund-n. A broad sash worn as a waistband; also a girdle,belt <Persian- kamer-band< kamer=loin+band=band. Obviously an example of central asian formal accouterment as modeled by shall we say a rather provincial band of dignitaries-no doubt fashioned from indigenous materials- and don't cummerbunds have a pouch for secreting whatever? Could well be a bag being used as a cummerbund-people are just as creative and innovative over there as here- and back when perhaps more adaptive- Who can say? Dave H.

Posted by Steve Price on 03-29-2002 08:54 AM:

Hi David,

I believe that both of these guys are wearing wide waist sashes (= cummerbunds = bellybands). They also each have a narrow strap that appears to go around their necks and one arm, with what may be a bag hanging from it (a corner of the bag looks like it is peeking out beneath the outer garment).

Waist bands are sometimes made in double widths, the space between each width forming a flat pocket that holds money rather conveniently. I have a Kurdish sash of this type. The Japanese use the sash as a place from which to hang pouches and containers of various types. My guess is that Batman's utility belt is inspired by waist sashes from the orient.


Steve Price

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 03-29-2002 09:40 AM:



Do you wear your Kurdish sash to formal outings?
You mention Batman getting his utility belt idea from the orient. Do you think that even his name was inspired by the town his ancestors came from in Eastern Turkey? Is Batman really KURDISH???


Posted by Steve Price on 03-29-2002 10:07 AM:

Hi Pat,

My Kurdish belt is modern, and best suited for the formal dinner run by the local organization of colorblind orientalists (LOCO).

There is no doubt that Batman is from western or central Asia - just look at the iconography on his stuff.


Steve Price

Posted by Kenneth Thompson on 04-03-2002 10:54 PM:

Dear All.

In common usage in Turkey, the difference between a kap, chanta, torba, chuval and mafrash is roughly the difference between a cloth case, a handbag, a flour sack, a grain sack and a duffle bag in the West. The sizes are all relative, but ascend in that order. With the exception of mafrash, which is Arabic, I think all the others are Turkic words. You can find most of these terms in the Nasrettin Hoca stories, since the Hoca was often up to some chicanery involving goods and a bag of some sort.

A kap (or kab) is any bag that encloses or protects something. [An ayak kabi—literally foot holder—is the modern word for “shoe.”] I think the Turkoman kap was often used to keep precious porcelain cups in.

A chanta can be anything from a woman’s purse to a small valise or even the kit bag that Ottoman soldiers carried personal belongings in. Chantas have handles, or else they are probably not chantas. (I don’t think that in Turkey a true chanta was ever like a small khorjin or heybe, but I could be wrong. Or there may be some other term I don’t know.) A torba is an elongated, narrow sack, while a chuval is a large mouthed sack used to hold grain, fruit, etc. No handles, but usually a warp-faced band along the side to carry it. A mafrash is a bedding or blanket bag, usually the kind with leather trim in the shape of a duffle bag. The Turks tend to call the open box-like ones "besik" or cradle, though that may just be a dealer's term. Or maybe they were also used as cradles. Hope that helps confuse the issue.

Best regards, Ken

Posted by Steve Price on 04-04-2002 05:26 AM:

Hi Ken,

Regarding the use of bedding bags as cradles: there are a number of sources that say that they were ever used this way, and that the claim that they were cradles is simply a marketplace myth. I said this during a talk in Toronto a few years ago, and a very knowledgable dealer there said that he had seen them used as cradles
in situ. Now, he didn't see it during the 19th century, but he did see it, and I suspect that it was used as a cradle before the day he arrived on the scene.

Also, it is so obvious that it would work as a cradle that it is easy to believe that this was one of the ways it was used.


Steve Price

Posted by Kenneth Thompson on 04-04-2002 04:09 PM:

Dear Steve

Many thanks for the additional information on the possible use of bedding boxes as cradles. There is a Turkish lady who sells out of Izmir who also says she had seen these in use as cradles among the local yuruk dwellers many years ago. I was skeptical because I hadn't seen any wear at the corners, as one would expect if it were suspended, but she felt that the hanging cords could have been removed without any obvious trace.

I did see a baby in a suspended woven cradle twenty five years ago in a worker's house in the heart of Ankara's citadel, but I didn't know enough then to try to examine the cradle. It was also rare to be invited into someone's home that way, so I didn't want to commit any cultural gaffes, especially since when you go anywhere near Turkish babies, you have to interlard your comments with "Mashaallah"s to reassure the parents that you are not carrying the evil eye.

The family lived in one large room, which was organized like an urban replication of a village house. The woven cradle, which I didn't examine, was hung in a far corner of the room and was rocked by a long cord that the mother could reach from across the room while she prepared tea for visitors.

Thanks again,

Best regards,


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