From the south to the north of Iran I met women who were designing and sewing beautiful designs on their clothing, putting me to shame as I can barely sew a button on a shirt! I saw amazing carpets everywhere & traditional things used for spinning, dying and weaving wool.
This post is for my Mum & my Aunty Carolyn and anyone else out there that enjoys spinning, weaving, fabrics, handicrafts etc…
On the boat to Qeshm I had a conversation with the woman beside me, thanks to my Persian English app which helped with lots of translation! She had made her trousers which I thought were just beautiful. Under the chador the only part you can see is what’s below the knees… but this is most likely the most decorated bit anyway.
This style of colourful, decorated trousers is distinct for the Persian Gulf area and its Bandari people. One artist on the island of Hormoz has a project where he collects trousers that would otherwise be thrown away and saves the below the knee parts and displays them. Many are hand made and all are very beautiful.
On Qeshm island there is a small shop near Stars Valley which sells locally produced handicrafts for the benefit of the women who make them and also to the benefit of local environmental projects. Given we were at the beginning of a year long trip when we visited, it was not the time to be buying souvenirs. I just got a few small things to send to my niece for her birthday. They had bags, jewellery, the traditional face masks, clothing, dolls etc.
When we were in the North of Iran, I needed to get a few repairs done on my clothes. I thought this would be possible at the market but our host said her relative could easily fix them. When we went to the relatives house that night a teenage girl was able to fix them for me – sitting at her sewing machine on the floor. While she worked, we talked and her mother also sewed- adding some decoration to one of her outfits.
The cave city of Meymand in central Iran has a museum which had spinning wheels and other objects related to spinning and weaving on display. I thought of my Mum and my Aunty when here and took a few photos for their benefit. They don’t mean a lot to me although I did photograph some explanations in English with the objects so I’d know what they were.
Selma is a resident of Meymand who rented out a cave to us and also provided us with meals while we were there. When we visited her cave home she was always busy with something. She had various felt souvenirs for sale and was working on her loom creating some kind of carpet or mat.
The old school building in Meymand is now used as wool storage and for some wool related equipment. Outside it sat two young guys rubbing wool with their hands.
Not too far away in Rafsanjan we visited a museum which had among other things, a lot of pictures that were not painted but rather woven. This seems to be a popular thing around Iran. Art shops were mostly filled with these carpet like pictures. The largest one below was 2 x3 metres ish.. it was really big!
It goes without saying that carpets were everywhere. They were beautiful, both the old handmade and the new machine produced carpets. They served more than a pretty purpose as Iranians sit on the floor a lot, many eat on the floor also (with a cloth laid out to put food on), so carpets are sat on and enjoyed. Many people prefer to sleep on the floor (usually on mattresses) rather than in beds as we know them. Carpets are taken with families when they go for picnics and laid out wherever they hang out for a bit.
Just before the New Year celebration of Noruz- the biggest holiday in Iran, it seems the whole country has a big spring clean in preparation for the new year and before all the visitors join them to celebrate. Carpets could be seen hanging from balconies and in the desert we saw one lady and her son cleaning their carpets thanks to the channel of water nearby and laying them out to dry…
In towns and markets and on streets throughout Iran, it seemed most places oozed with colourful fabrics for all sorts of purposes- scarves and other clothing, decoration, cloths, etc. In a market in Shiraz I saw a young child helping sell scarves in what must have been his family’s shop – very cute but also surprisingly professional looking!
In Yazd we saw a guy in his shop busy working on the latest design of fabric. He had his weaving machine sunk into the ground and operated it with his feet on pedals and his hand pulling down on the wooden thing attached to a string.
In Kerman we stumbled across the former Hayeti School of Kerman, located in part of the Vakil Bazaar. The building was built in the 19th century and was used firstly as the Imperial Bank of Persia and Britain in Kerman, then the Department of Culture & Fine Arts, then as the Department of Education before being used as a girls school- open until 1978. It had only recently reopened as a museum (in the weeks preceding our visit). It was free to enter and was like a working museum where you could see artists at work and buy their products, whether it was copper or wood work, scarves, carpets or other hand made products. Was very interesting seeing how they made things actually.
One guy had a weaving machine- used for shawls and scarves. The information board explained that this was the most important industry in Kerman before carpet making became popular – at some stage two thirds of the population of Kerman made a living from the art of weaving scarves and shawls. The high point of this industry was the Qajar era (1785-1925).
One display here showed the natural plants and their products that were used to colour the wool for carpet making.
It was in Kerman we purchased our only Iranian souvenir- a clock that had beautiful handstitched decorations on it. We got it taken out of its frame and later sent it back to New Zealand. When we return home we’ll put the clock part back in it and get it framed.
In Tehran I visited Niavaran House, built for the Royal family during the 1960s. In the room displaying the former Empress’s retro outfits were huge wool and silk tapestries on the walls, made in France in 1780 and both showing the story of Esther.
On the floors in other parts of the palace were incredible carpets. One showed the history of all Iranian kings, going back to the beginning of the Persian Empire and other carpets told other stories.
These were just the handicraft related things we stumbled across in Iran. I think if you had this as a real interest you could really see a lot more.