Antique Caucasian Konaghend Soumak Rug
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Soumak (also spelled Soumakh, Sumak, Sumac, or Soumac) is a tapestry technique of weaving strong and decorative textiles used as rugs and domestic bags. Soumak is a type of flat-weave, somewhat resembling but stronger and thicker than Kilim, with a smooth front face and a ragged back, where Kilim is smooth both sides. Soumak lacks the slits characteristic of Kilim, as it is usually woven with supplementary weft threads as continuous supports.
The technique involves wrapping colored weft threads over and under the warp threads, adding strength and embroidery-like pattern.
The technique of making a Soumak involves wrapping wefts over a certain number of warps (usually four) before drawing them back under the last two warps. The process is repeated from selvedge to selvedge. The wefts are discontinuous; the weaver selects colored threads in turn, and wraps each within the area which is to have that particular color. Unlike Kilim, the back is left ragged, with all the loose ends of the differently-colored weft threads visible, sometimes several inches long, providing extra thickness and warmth. Also unlike Kilim, there are no slits where colors meet, as there is a supplementary or structural weft which supports the colored pattern weft.
Soumaks tend to be finely woven, and although not as durable as piled carpets, they are stronger than Kilims. The Soumak wrapping often covers the whole surface of a bag or rug, but it can equally be applied in decorative strips, contrasting with the plainer and thinner flat-weave areas. For example, camel bags from Malatya in Eastern Turkey could be woven in simple flat-weave stripes of red and blue, with broad strips of soumak weft-wrapping with motifs for fertility and protection.
Bags were sometimes woven with a face of Soumak, with a tapestry-woven Kilim-like top creating slits between blocks of color: a rope was threaded in and out of the series of slits to fasten and close the bag. Sizes vary, from carpet format through bags for bedding or for use on pack animals, to tiny tribal domestic bags.
Soumak products are made in the Caucasus (especially the Shirvan region), Southern and Western Eastern including Luristan, Turkish Anatolia, by the Shahsavan tribe and the Kurds in north-western Eastern, and by the Baloch people on the Afghanistan border.