Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Beauty of Khivan Carpets

Drawing on the designs of Khiva's wood-carved doors and the tile and ceiling patterns of the ancient city's monuments, Khiva Silk Workshop produces the most original and beautiful carpets I have ever seen. Begun in 2001 as a joint project between Operation Mercy and UNESCO, the workshop is located in a converted madrassah in the Ichan Qala (old city).
Silk thread skeins in Khiva Silk Carpet workshop courtyard
Skeins of silk thread hanging in the workshop's courtyard

Only natural dyes from plants, minerals and insects are used to dye the silk threads. 'Barkh' is a blend of onion skins, vine and quince leaves that produces a vibrant mustard yellow. Pomegranate skins yield rich golds, the powdered root of the madder plant produces the reds, walnut husks the browns, and indigo, from India or Afghanistan, the blues.

In 2004 a suzani (embroidery) workshop was opened around the corner. Here the traditional tile and door designs are hand stitched with silk thread on cushion covers, wall hangings, napkins and table mats.

Hand-embroidered cushion cover
This is a a small enterprise well worth supporting: the work is high quality, staff training is ongoing, staff work a 40-hour week and are paid fair wages on time. The workshop does not offer online sales, so a visit to Khiva is needed to purchase one of these beauties.  You can also order in advance: a 2 x 1 metre carpet will take three weavers 3-4 months to complete. I usually order a carpet, about that size, every year. It can be skilfully tied up into a 6-7kg bundle that fits neatly into my suitcase.

Update June 2012: The workshop can now arrange postage via Express Mail Service from Khiva. For documentation and postage the average cost to most destinations is US$120. It takes around 3 weeks. My carpet arrived safely using this convenient method. It arrived in a cotton bag sealed in old-fashioned wax!

uzbekistan carpets, silk carpets khiva, uzbekistan art craft tours
How my carpet arrived, complete with wax seals!
You can view the designs and learn more about the carpet and embroidery pieces at the Khiva Silk Workshop website.  Below is a slide show of the carpets that were available when I was there.

Related posts: Symbols in Stitches: Uzbek Suzanis 
Khiva's Sunday Markets
A Glimpse of Khivan Woodcarving 1937