Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 04-19-2004 08:31 PM:

The Chirpy

Greetings All- Find below a photo from the book The Arts and Crafts of Turkestan by Johannes Kalter, described as "Wife of a Tekke Khan,before 1890". Khalter goes on to say that urban denizens of the female persuasion wear a version, sans embroidery, which flows to the heels and accompanied by a veil.


Posted by Steve Price on 04-20-2004 05:54 AM:

Hi Dave

Kalter's little book is a great source of photos of Central Asian artifacts taken on location. It's easy to see on this one why the fringe on chyrpy are often replaced - that is almost the only part of the garment that is subject to abrasion when it's worn.

Too bad the book doesn't include a photo taken from behind, to show the false sleeves, the pattern and the density of the embroidery. If this is, in fact, a khan's wife, we might presume that her festive clothing is at what the Tekke considered to be the high end of such things.


Steve Price

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 04-23-2004 02:35 PM:

Clutter Factor

Hi Steve,

In your essay you were asking about the density of the embroidery as an indicator of age. I have only seen photos of antique pieces but I've seen several of what I consider "older" chyrpys and I note the following:

1) The older pieces had much denser coverage in the areas covered with embroidery.

2) The level of detail, REALLY fine work, is higher in the older pieces.

I have seen older chyrpys with substantial areas of open space, but the detail work in the embroidered area was amazing.

The first three images are of a "newer" piece, probably no older than 30-40 years (and maybe a lot newer, who knows ?). The workmanship is good but relatively coarse. The last piece is probably a little older (who knows how old ? ...not me, but still probably mid-20th century). You can see the difference in the detail work.

Janet Harvey (Traditional Textiles of Central Asia) notes that the older pieces had linings that were decorated with block print designs (sometimes using potatos, say my friends), instead of the machine made Russian cloth we generally see on new pieces.

The problem is that 1) Russian cloth has been available for a LONG time and 2) modern embroiderers are perfectly capable of doing extremely detailed work. So it doesn't look like there are a lot of hard rules one can use in the age determination process.

I'll put up some images of a piece that is a little older shortly.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 04-28-2004 10:10 AM:

Hi Dave & Steve,

Here's a piece that is interesting. It's unusual in that the designs in the field are rather similar to those in Tekke guls on piled pieces, a feature not usually seen on chyrpys.

I use the term chyrpy loosely in this case because this has the heft, and look, of a mans garment. It's been my understanding that chyrpys are usually worn on top of a jeweled headpiece in ceremonial or formal settings where traditional dress is appropriate, as opposed to being worn as mantles over the shoulders. I differentiate the two by the geometry of the vestigial sleeves: those on chyrpys taper to (sometimes) less than 2 inches across at the tip, whereas a mantle would have vestigial sleeves as wide as a normal sleeve. So, I guess I would call this a mantle rather than a chyrpy.

Either way, I like it a lot: Attractive dark green field and some really good embroidery work. Nicely finished sleeve cuffs as well.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 04-29-2004 01:31 AM:

Professional embroiderers?


Is there any speculation that many of these embroideries were done professionally? The patterns, as has been pointed out, are usually quite unlike the rug patterns. And we know that many of the rugs and trappings were family made. But would the embroideries be so specialized that they were made for sale by professional embroiderers?
One might think that the ground cloth was not made in a yurt, certainly not on a rug loom. Why then would the embroidery not be done professionally?
I have read about suzani patterns being drawn by professionals onto the cloth and then the stitching was done by the buyer.
Are there any signs of a similar technique on chirpy's or other garments?
Like a label sewn in to the back of a chirpy, "Chirpy's "R" Us"? Or signs of patterns having been put on the garment before embroidering?
I do not happen to have one in my closet, so I am unable to check.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Steve Price on 04-29-2004 05:52 AM:

Hi Pat

I'm sure that the silk ground cloth that the embroidery was done on is not tribal. It must have been bought at urban centers.

As for whether the designs were inked onto the ground cloth before embroidering, it doesn't seem like it would be practical on the dark color cloths, and that's what most chyrpy are. I've not seen traces of ink markings on the few yellow or white ones that I've handled, although I wasn't really looking for them and might have just not noticed.


Steve Price

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 05-04-2004 10:00 PM:

19 th Century Chyrpy?

All- The Following images are from Khalter as described above and labeled as possibly late 19th century.

"Women's mantles which are pulled over the head and serve as veils. Cotton with silk embroidery. The mantles form part of the costume of married women. The mantles of young women have a black ground,of middle aged women a yellow ground and women over sixty a white ground. The rear side shows the dummy sleves which are typical of Turkestan women's costume. Teke Turkmen."

The following image is described as "Teke woman's mantle. A mixture of cotton and silk, with partially fire gilded silver ornaments set with cornelians. Lining of Russian printed cotton. End of 19th century?"

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 05-08-2004 12:28 PM:

More From Kalter

All- More on the Chirpy- and Others

Then house dress of Turkestan women basically consists of trousers and a loose ankle length dress frastened at the neck with a stud among the Yamout (and also among the Tekke women) but otherwise with ribbons. The clothing consists of silk or semi-silk fabrics. The favorite color for Turkmen clothing is red with a yellow stripe, but violet is frequently used too. The front of the Turkmen dress may be set from the shoulder to waist with as many as a hundred silver pendants the size of five penny pieces. The ends of trouser legs of Turkmrn women may be completely covered with a wide piece of embroidery, especially typical of the Ersari of Afghanistan. Yomut embroidery on dresses ande trousers does not cover the whole background and has much less striking pattern.

Tekke family before 1890.

Trouser turnups from N. Afghanistan. Lower right mens, rest female.Removed when clothing worn, attached to new.

The favorite material for the shirts and trousers of urban women was ikat. Ikat clothes have become virtually the national costume of Uzbekistan, but are frequently worn by Turkmen women as well. Instead of ikat clothes, wealthy women wore dresses of imported brocade or Chinese damask; poorer women wore monocromatic cottom dresses. Dresses made of russian printed material with large flower patterns were and are worn by all Turkestan women.

Velvet ikat coat of Khivan dignitary with embroidered cuffs and printed Russian cotton lining End 19th cent..

Coat of dignitary, Russian gold brocade with silk ikat lining. End of 19 cent..

We have also mentioned the corresponding item of Turkmen clothing, the chyrpy of Teke women covering the head and reaching to the hips. Dark blue chyrpys are usually the most lavishly embroidered, white ones, the most sparsely. Favorite motifs are flowering shrubs in the form of trees of life. Individual flower stalks or shrubs -more rarely- rhomboid lattices with a floral or palm leaf-like filling also occur. Among the floral motifs tulips and compositae shapes predominate. In striking contrast to the otherwise floral ornamentation is the richly varied decor on the tapering ends of dummy sleeves and on the front yoke, like a shawl collar, which often terminates in a rhomboid motif enclosed by rams horns.

In other Turkmen groups the chyrpy was replaced by a headcloth, generally red, which can, but does not have to, be pulled over a foundation of leather, plaited plant fibers, felt, or recently,board, or a high cap.

Three tall caps from girls of N. Afghan groups. Small boys cap of the Yamout.

The unmarried girl, on the other hand, wears only a round cap, which may be topped by a domed shaped silver element and is usually set with smaller silver components stamped in matrices. Similar caps form parts of the dress of rural Uzbek girls.

Caps of marrigable girls of N Afghanistan. Style of embroidery of left cap is N. Afghan Turkmen,crown element is of Tekke style and plait of Ersari. Right, both embroidery and elements of Lakai Uzbek, fire guilded parts indicative of Khiva.

Turkmen women sometimes wore a coat over their dress. Our example (previous post) is from the Teke. It is lavishly adorned with jewellery and is closed with the typical rhomboid plates equipped with hooks and eyes. The Yomut prefered wine-red or green velvet coats. The museum possesses an Ersari coat of violet silk.

- Dave

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 05-08-2004 12:57 PM:

A Puzzler

Hi Dave, et all,

So, speaking of violet silk coats:

I'm unsure of the origin of this piece. The dealer, an old Afghani,
says it's a Turkoman coat (and I suppose it could very well be
Ersari). I've seen Uzbek embroideries with this look, but the
suzani stitches that I've seen are different from this:

I'd like to know if anyone else has seen Turkoman work like this.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 05-10-2004 10:26 PM:

Urban Manufacture

Patrick and All- still another quote from Kalter, just a short blurb from a discussion of embroidery techniques:

Section of veiling used by Turkmen,cotton. The decor of the fabric, made in an urban manufactory, is pierced and sewn.

- Dave

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 05-13-2004 04:28 PM:

Uzbek and Ikat

All- I found this image of a Uzbek woman and labeled as circa 1907-1915. Notice the simularities to the Turkmen.

This image was labeled simply, Fabric Merchant,1911.

Posted by Steve Price on 05-13-2004 08:55 PM:

Hi Dave

What is the source of those photos? I doubt that they were taken at the times indicated - color photos of that quality just couldn't be done around 1905-1915.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Farber on 05-13-2004 10:03 PM:

Dear Steve,

the colors have been computer added. Somebody has figured out from the infromation on the original black and white photos what the colors must have been . . . from the image of the Uzbeck girl by the yurt the colors while far from perfect do, is this case at least, give a good impression of what they must have been.

Somebody has written about this previously on the site if i am not mistaken.



Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 05-13-2004 10:11 PM:


Steve and All- I had assumed that this was some form of colorization process. I pulled up this list of images with a Google image search of the word "Turkmen", at The colors don't seem right I realize, and while I know that some early experimentation was done with color- early films such as the Phanton of the Opera contained painstakingly hand painted sequences- this seems to me more at electronically fiddled. But I really don't know- Dave

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 05-14-2004 03:37 AM:

Dear All,

If I remember well, those photos were already presented in Johnís salon on Engsi.
Anyway, I bookmarked them. The source is the Library of Congress, PROKUDIN-GORSKII Collection.

And, yes, those were indeed color photos, but what we see is a digital reconstruction. See link: