Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Camel Pannier

An Unexpected Gift

The other day my neighbor brought an unexpected gift for me. During a garage cleaning he came across a textile he had stored there.  He and his wife have traveled extensively and had worked for some time in Saudi Arabia.  Therefore, their home is a mini museum of the most remarkable objects of folk art . Knowing, of course, my great interest in all things textile,  he asked if I would want this package, which, when unwrapped revealed a camel blanket, more specifically a saddle pannier.

Pannier is a word from old French meaning a basket ( a pair of baskets) hung across the back of a pack animal for carrying goods.  In this case my pannier is a woven blanket not a wicker basket as nomadic people had little contact with vegetable fibers and used woven bags (kep) to transport their possessions.  Pannier-bags (khurjin) are common to every group.  Woven as one long textile, the ends are drawn up to the center and sewn creating pouches.  The size of the woven pannier depends upon the
animal : camel, horse, mule and the goods to be transported.  The underside, which is not seen, is usually plain in pattern, while the folded sides are decorated with traditional patterns.

                   Traditional Textiles of Central Asia, Janet Harvey, Thames and Hudson, 1996

My new possession is very colorful and embellished with dozens of colorful tassels and long dark tassels at the ends. This method of embellishment is widely used on animal trappings, which sway with movement.  Tassels may be simple or very elaborate made from wool, horse or camel hair or even silk.  The use of tassels as embellishments dates back to Egyptian times ( and probably much, much older).

                      Tassels: The Fanciful Embellishment, Nancy Welch, Lark Books, 1992

                    Two loose tassels found in the textile bundle, needing repair.

My textile is in need of a cleaning and some minor repairs, so I thought I would share with you the process, taking pictures of my progress over the next few weeks.  And I have to find a suitable place for display away from my two cats, who would love, love, love those tassels!!

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