If China is considered the homeland of silk, then Turkmenistan is the birthplace of silk homespun fabric called Keteni. The unique technology of this weaving cannot be found among other peoples. It is made by hand. It is for this work that Turkmen craftswomen still use “tara” machines (30-40 cm wide, a boat-shaped device), the same as in the distant past.
Ogulnar, a resident of the Baharden district, having learnt this art from her mother, now works at “tara” weaving loom almost every day. In her skillful hands, multi-colored threads stretched on a loom turn into a durable fabric that radiates shine.
Both Turkmen men and women have been wearing keteni garments since ancient times. If men’s fashion was limited to keteni robe, a don, only, women collected a whole wardrobe of kerchiefs, scarves and dresses.
“The main raw material for the fabric is tough silk fiber, which we divide into six fine threads. We boil this yarn in hot soapy water to soften. Then you need to untangle it and, after painting, wind it on spools,” Ogulnar says.
“In accordance with ancient technologies the fabrics are dyed only by vegetable colors like John’s wort, madder, nil, pomegranate peels, walnut leaves and shells, onion husks. We also use chemical dyes, but this is undesirable. And to fix the colors, alum is needed,” the craftswoman continues.
After the long-term preparation of fibers, the finished long silk threads are pulled onto the machine, and then the warp is attached. The rest of the work depends on the artful fingers of the craftswoman, who should quickly throw the shuttle with the thread from side to side, tightly fixing it on the base.
“This is the way how the keteni made. It may even be 10 meters length. But that’s not the end. After taking the fabric off the roller, we starch it to give a nice appearance. Thuus, the keteni acquires its gloss and its particular strength. Now you can sew any outfit from it,” says the weaver.
Having reached our days without changes, the techniques for creating the keteni have now been enriched with new textures and colors. The golden fringe along its edges adds a special appeal to the item when sewing. And the uniqueness of silk fabric adds a unique “sculptural” effect to clothes and accessories, which are often used by fashion designers in their collections – beautiful dresses, shawls with elegant hand embroidery, handbags, etc.