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An early Birthday gift

October 18, 2010


The owner of this bag came from Russia as a Doukabour at  approximately 30 yrs. of age in about 1899.    I estimate that it might be from the  mid to late 1800’s.   It is entirely wool (goat?) including the warp.

The bottom plain weave section  is very similar in colouring and structure  to a large carpet I have brought by my  own great-grandparents  also from Russia.   Before their emigration from Russia to Canada,  the Doukabours were settled in Georgia  close to the borders of Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The piece had been currently used  as a covering for a trunk, but is a type of bedding bag called a Mafrash (I think).  I am looking for more information.  After studying it inside and out, I  can see it was woven and made up for the purpose it served.  When I first saw it  I thought it might have been something that had been cut up and sewn into this bag.    It is quite large measuring  approximately 17″ deep x 40″ long on the large side and   17″ x 20″ long on the ends.

The patterning is Soumak I think  and the bottom striped section is weft-faced plain weave.  The entire  piece was woven on one 40″ (approx.) wide warp.    The two long sides and bottom were woven as one long piece, the decorative pattern woven at either end with the striped section between.  Then two patterned sections were woven side by side to form the two ends.

The seams all finished with a decorative  overstitching.

The inside which shows the bright colours and the uncut looped warp ends.  The yarn is very tightly spun and twisting back on itself.  The yarn is brittle with age, but the whole bag feels very strong still.  There are a few condition issues including  small holes and some very worn areas, but overall it looks lovely.  I think the yarns must have been dyed with indigo and cochineal and  woven using the natural coloured yarn as well.

There are a total of 16 looped handles arranged around the bag.  One at each corner, 2 on each end, and 4 on each side.

This is a very special gift for me and I feel lucky indeed to have found this piece.   Not only is it a beautiful piece of weaving, it is a piece from my own history.

Click photos to enlarge.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2010 2:12 am

    That’s a fantastic piece of folk art! What is a Doukabour? It is very inspiring to see such beautiful textile work, thank you for sharing this.


    • Evelyn Oldroyd permalink
      October 19, 2010 6:34 am

      It is an amazing piece – I feel very lucky to have found it. It was probably made by a nomadic people and bought/traded for. Doukabours are a religous sect that were came from and were shuffled all over Russia and surroundings and eventually made their way to Canada to escape more persecution when they refused to bear arms. Tolstoy was a supporter and enabler of their move.


  2. October 19, 2010 3:35 am

    What a beautiful piece of weaving. How exciting and for it’s age it looks in amazing condition. So, would a rope have gone through all the handles to snug it up? Would it have carried a roll out mattress sort of item? I love how for every day items that might have been quite modest they chose to make lovely bags and such to hold them. Congrats on such a great find and also an early HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


    • Evelyn Oldroyd permalink
      October 19, 2010 6:36 am

      Yes, I think a rope would have criss-crossed through the loops to close it and I read also there would have been a pair to be strapped across a pack animal for balance. It really is beautiful and the work in such a utilitarian piece is amazing, but makes it so strong too. And Thank You!


  3. October 24, 2010 2:21 pm

    Ian and I saw a display at the Textile Museum in DC quite a few years ago of bags that nomads used to carry things on their camels. I don’t suppose they had camels in Russia though. It’s gorgeous – happy birthday!! Are our birthdays only a week apart????


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