Posted by Danny Mehra on 12-06-2003 04:38 PM:

Kashmiri felts; Central Asian (e.g., Uzbek) felts

Dear Melina,

Thanks for an absolutely fascinating salon on felts. I really enjoyed reading it.

You may already know this - the Kashmiris (from the state of Kashmir in the northern Indo-Pak region) also have a tradition of making felts. They are typically an undyed creamy white, and are often embroidered with bright floral patterns using wool, cotton and silk threads. I believe they are typically used as bench covers or sometimes as linings for beds in cold climates.

The Kashmiris call these "numdah" or "namda", which may likely be the Urdu derivative of the Persian "namad".

I don't have a picture of one of these but if anyone else does, it would be nice to see some examples.

I own a felt from the Uzbek Lakai, I believe. If I can locate a picture, I'll send it on to Steve for posting. This one has applique and thread embroidery work in bright colors on a brown felt ground.

Best wishes and thanks again for a terrific article.


PS - I was able to locate the picture and Steve will hopefully be able to post it soon.

Posted by Steve Price on 12-07-2003 09:59 AM:

Hi People

Danny sent me this image of his felt rug, which he believes is not Kirghyz, but Uzbek Lakai.

Thanks, Danny.


Steve Price

Posted by Danny Mehra on 12-07-2003 10:25 AM:


Thanks, Steve.

Right, I was told that this is an Uzbek Lakai felt. My recollection of it being Kyrgyz was inaccurate. Also, this one has both brown and red strips of felt that have been sown together - the brown forms the border and the red pieces have been used to create the lattice like grid. Brown felt has also been used as the ground fabric on which the applique and embroidery work is done.

Sorry about the inaccurate description earlier.


Posted by R. John Howe on 12-12-2003 07:09 PM:

Hali Article on Kirghiz Felts

Dear folks -

As a number of readers here will know, there is an article by Stephanie Bunn on "Kirghiz Felt Carpets," pp. 84-89 in Hali, issue 93.

It includes a number of color images of Kirghiz felts, some of which show a nice range of color.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 12-24-2003 08:23 PM:

Dear folks -

Here is a link to a photo of some Kyrgyz women embroidering a large felt.

If you back up on this site, there are lots of pictures of Kyrgyz yurts and furnishings.


R. John Howe

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 12-25-2003 01:13 PM:

Hi All,

I have to admit that I own no Persian felt pieces, but since we've moved a little to the northeast, I can contribute a little. Here are some images of a felt okbash that I found several years ago. Sorry about the image quality; these pics predate my new camera:

The whole thing. It's about 30 inches long. The tassles are made of horse hair:

The curvilinear motif is also hair, outlined with cotton yarn. There's quite a bit of variability in the color:

The interior is lined with a cloth that literally screams USSR:

My first guess for source is Kyrgyzistan, but that's adjacent to Uzbekistan and it could just as easily from there as well. But my personal experience is that every Uzbek felt piece I've encountered smelled like unscoured wool, and THIS piece doesn't. Yet.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Melina Raissnia on 12-31-2003 03:14 PM:


There seems to be a lot more on felts online than there was even a few months ago. A couple of items I thought were worth sharing. One is an anecdote by James Opie that takes place in Aghanistan. The other is an article on Kyrgistani felt makers, all women. I included the portion that I found most interesting.

This is a segment I thought interesting as a "Westerner".

In the “West” it is emphasised in many quarters that the genuine and authentic among other ethnic groups must be preserved. Several paradoxes can be seen in this. The market,
consisting of tourists from the “West”, buys small, naturally dyed carpets at the same time as it wants to cultivate the “authentic”, which turns out to be large carpets with strong artificial
colours. Perhaps it can be said that the genuine and authentic have thus become a modern construct and that the western buyers are promoting the production of non-authentic goods in
order to preserve the authentic.

Melina Raissnia

Posted by R. John Howe on 12-31-2003 04:47 PM:

Hi Melina -

Interesting point about the "authentic" and the "non-authentic" and how Western pressures to produce in "traditional" modes often ignore the fact that what is "traditional" has evolved.

I think most collectors who value natural dyes would be unimpressed with this argument.

First, it is clear that "synthetic" dyes didn't exist before about 1860 and so the "tradition" at that point (during the period that interest most rug collectors today) was that only natural dyes were available. Many rug collectors are utterly uninterested in pieces estimated to be younger than say 1930, in much the same that the some who collect American antique furniture say that they are not interested in pieces made after 1830 (about the time that machine construction took hold).

There is some snob appeal as well, since one of the lines most collectors would like to be able to say about the pieces they own is "Possibly before 1850." Synthetic dyes in one's piece make that claim unavailable.

Further, many collectors feel that the colors produced by natural dyes are simply more attractive than most synthetics, especially when used on hand-spun wool. (There is disagreement about this even among many textile artists, some of whom love brilliant, even day-glo colors.)

But the entire argument is very tricky. Murray Eiland has claimed for some time that there is no reliable way to determine the "authentic," and this entire distinction should simply be given up.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 01-01-2004 12:52 PM:

Felts in Kashmir

Dear folks –

Danny Mehra started this thread mentioning “Kashmiri Felts” at the outset.

Today I encountered a book I’ve had for awhile with the likely sounding title “World Crafts,” by Jacqueline Herald, 1993. It briefly treats the Kashmiri felts called a “namkhas” and provides a few pictures outlining the process through which these are made. These felts are natural white with colored designs embroidered on them.

First there is the “sorting out and fluffing up (ed. of the) ivory fleece below.

Next, the damp fleece is spread out on a mat in preparation for rolling.

Once the ivory felt has been made, the “namdha” design is traced on it.

Then the design is embroidered on the felt ground.

Here is a detail of “namdha” embroidered with animals.

After, embroidering is complete, the felt is washed, here in a Kashmir lake.

The author indicates that such felts are made from “shorter-stapled, lower quality wool left over from shawl weaving.


R. John Howe

Posted by Danny Mehra on 01-01-2004 06:07 PM:

Melina, Chuck and John,

Thanks for your interesting inputs to this thread. I enjoyed them all.

Chuck's points about felt smells is an interesting one, I should test his theory!

Melina's observations about what's authentic in a changing world are interesting. If you have read an author by the name of Pico Iyer, he mentions something very similiar in one of his books.

Thanks, John, for the research on Kashmiri felts. I now know much more about them than I did before. I believe these felts are still produced - maybe not prolific production - but in sufficient quantities. Their embroidery work is quite colorful and attractive, the felt quality is potentially inferior to those from the other regions discussed in this Salon.