Koshma, or Ancient Felt Carpet

Koshma, or Ancient Felt Carpet

Koshma – a carpet made of felt – is very common in Turkmenistan since ancient times. The nomads were the first to appreciate the amazing properties of the koshma, and this is probably why it is considered their invention.

In fact, the felting technique appeared only after the domestication of sheep. Both the koshma and the classical carpet are made of sheep’s wool, the same ancient patterns are “painted” on them, they are created by the hands of the same craftswomen. Koshma to this day has retained its original appearance. This is a work of art combining ancient traditions, centuries-old experience, skill and artistic imagination.

I remember when I was still a girl and often visited my grandmother, I liked to watch how women felted a keche. It was very informative and interesting. It takes less time to make it than for a carpet, and the patterns on the koshma are not so clear, but it has a number of advantages.

Before, koshma was always more accessible to ordinary people, therefore it was widely used in everyday life. It was used in wagons, yurts (“Gar Oy”), it was laid on the floor. It is koshma that was used for relaxation in the shade, it served as horse blankets for horses, capes for shepherds. It was even used to make amulets that hang over the entrance to the house. Previously, infants were born on the koshma, and it was on it that the gray-bearded old men left this world …

Koshma not only has a thermal effect, thanks to its hard pile, it prevents the penetration of dangerous insects – poisonous karakurt and scorpions – into the home. A soft rug made of lambswool was often used to treat sick.

A koshma is made in several stages. First, the sheared wool is broken with rods, cleaned of dirt and dust. After washing and drying, clean wool is dyed. Surprisingly, all the work is done manually. For painting only natural dyes – oak bark, St. John’s wort, onion peel – are used. Then the wool is washed again, dried, sorted, combed with a special comb – as a result, it becomes soft and weightless, like fluff.

After such preparation, the monochromatic basis of the koshma is laid out on a reed mat. The base, as a rule, should be black or dark gray. Then, with quick movements over the base, experienced craftswomen lay out a pattern of multi-colored wool. It happens that it is laid out simply by eye. To prevent the wool pattern from moving, the workpiece is sprayed with hot water and wrapped in a mat.

Kneeling, the craftswomen roll a tight roll of reed mat back and forth using a tight rope. Then the roll is expanded, watered again, a drawing is corrected, if necessary, uneven edges are cut. Carefully removing the workpiece from the mat, it is again rolled up, and now they are already beginning to roll it with their hands, for about 3-4 hours, sometimes earning corns on their fingers and elbows. As a result, the canvas is even more compacted and its contours become smoother.

A medium-sized koshma is usually woven by three women. Not only strength is invested in its manufacture, but also the souls of the craftswomen, on whom the aura in the house where they use the koshma depends.

And finally, I’ll give you one interesting custom that speaks eloquently about the place in the life of a Turkmen occupied by a felt carpet. The white felt koshma has long been called the “Prophetic”. Elders who reached the age of 63, were put on a white cloth during the celebration of their birthday, and all the people made wishes, saying, “God willing, we also live to see these days.”