Glitter that shimmers down the ages, or Austria admires the Turkmen silk

Glitter that shimmers down the ages, or Austria admires the Turkmen silk

Today I would like to tell you about another phenomenon of traditional Turkmen art – silk homespun fabric called “keteni” and a number of items made from it.

Keteni, a silk from the cocoon of the silkworm, admires not only the Turkmen, but also the Austrian lovers of national art, who highly appreciate the items made from this amazing fabric while seeing at Turkmen presentations and exhibitions held in Austria, and who express a constant interest in arts and crafts and culture of the people of Turkmenistan.

Many guests, including from Austria, who come to Turkmenistan, always take along with them sewing articles from keteni, like scarves, shawls, handbags, keteni dress goods, etc.

Today, in the age of technological progress, national traditions are continued in the life of the Turkmen people. Just like many years ago, jewelry, fine craftsmanship of carpet weaving, embroidery are passed from father to son, from mother to daughter, forming professional dynasties. And the demand for ancient folk traditions today is a reflection of the continuous connection of the past with the present and future.

Keteni production is more than one hundred years old. Nowadays, just like in the old times, the keteni fabric items remain trendy. Paying tribute to traditions, Turkmen fashion designers create fantastic silk collections of wedding and evening dresses, children’s clothing, ethnic motifs in which have a new sound, while still solemn and noble as they used to be in the ancient times.

Silk thread has a triangular cross-section and, like a prism, the flat surfaces of the fibrils reflect light at many angles, giving silk a natural sheen and colors. Once, silk fabric was extra expensive, and only very wealthy people could buy it.

Until now, this “transparent as an ice” and “light as a cloud” material is considered an attribute of excellent taste and elegance. The possibilities of modern production make it possible to produce fabrics of various density and texture from silk yarn – from thin chiffon and silk organza to heavy dupont, taffeta and silk brocade.

And if China is a home of silk, then Turkmenistan is a home of the homespun “keteni” silk fabric. Since ancient times, the clothes made from “keteni” have been worn by both men and women. But if men’s fashion was limited mainly to keteni robe, a don, women collected a whole wardrobe of dresses, kerchiefs and scarves.

Usually the edges of the keteni are framed with golden stripes, which, when sewn, remain on the front side of the product, emphasizing the constructive lines of the dress. Originally, “keteni” was of two colors: green and red. The latter was considered the most luxurious fabric – festive and wedding clothes were sewn from it.

Dresses made from “keteni” still remain a traditional bride’s outfit. Until now, a Turkmen bride should have 2-3 dresses made of red keteni in her dowry. Today, like long time ago, “keteni” making remains a cottage craft. This work as well as any other manual craft is an extremely laborious and labor-consuming and requires patience and certain skills of a craftswoman.

Turkmen craftswomen until now have been using ancient weaving looms called “tara” which were used in the faraway past thus achieving high quality. Its width is 30-40 cm, which previously determined the cut of the dress. Like hundreds of years ago, craftswomen “sit down in a tara loom”, which looks like a small boat, only instead of sails, on its “deck”, the multi-colored silk threads are stretched, which in deft hands of the “captain” turn into a durable fabric that radiates shine.

The primary basis for the fabric is a tough, ivory-colored silk fiber, each thread of which is divided by craftswomen into 6 more fine threads. Then, this yarn is boiled in hot soapy water to soften.

Can you imagine how much patience it takes to unravel all the threads, dye and wind them on spools? In accordance with ancient technologies, the fabrics were dyed with natural vegetable dyes.

In Turkmenistan, since ancient times, preference was given to the red color. One of the sources of red color is madder. Nil plant paint was used to get blue and light blue colors. In addition, pomegranate skin, leaves and shells of walnut, onion skin, and tea were used to get warm brown and yellow tones. Of course, chemical dyes are also used now, but priority is still given to natural ones.

Embroidery takes a special place in the national Turkmen dress. Beautiful hand-made articles of clothing with a complex silk pattern have been created over many centuries and fully correspond to the territory, climate and way of life of the Turkmen people.

It would take a lot and long time to write about it, as it is a part of the Turkmen culture, which carries the history of the people and their traditions. Each region of the country uses its own special patterns and colors, this craft is passed down from generation to generation, and many ancient patterns are still used on Turkmen embroidery.

The color palette is taken from nature, autumn yellow, poppy red or aqua color of the Caspian Sea. The dyes are natural and do not fade and the colors remain just as bright for many, many years.

The embroidery itself is performed according to a special technique that cannot be found anywhere else in the world; it admires the art lovers all over the world. The embroidered pattern is distinguished by its complex and harmonious pattern, strength and durability.

And today embroidery in clothing is popular, both for men and women, as well as for children. I myself wear keteni dresses and handbags with beautiful hand-made embroidery with great pleasure, which of great admire among the Austrians, who certainly ask where and how they can buy these beautiful products of Turkmen masters of folk applied art.

Handbags with hand-embroidery of various sizes, shawls of various colors, wallets and cosmetic bags are very popular among Austrian women.

Glitter that shimmers down the ages! These words fully deescribe all the beauty of the keteni silk homespun fabric – the great cultural heritage of the Turkmen people that will live forever!

Neda Berger,
ORIENT correspondent
in the press service of the Chancellor of Austria