Embroidery to Embroidered Carpets
The Hunza Carpet Innovative Initiative
of Hunza Carpet sparked off in 1995, when the Aga Khan Rural Support
Programme generously provided the services of an international specialist on
natural dyes. Traditional weaving in Hunza has historically been very basic
- limited to a few senior citizens making coarse goat and yak hair rugs.
This new initiative transformed the carpet landscape of Hunza by training
young people, and giving them the opportunity to share the benefits of
year, a nucleus of 15 young trainees - under the tutelage of Turkmen master
weavers - themselves became master trainers. Since 1996, more than 250 women
have been trained in Carpet and Soumak rug weaving. A team of
qualified designers and dyers ensures a consistently high product quality.
It is a tribute to the dignity of Hunza people that no child labour is used
during production, wages remain fair, and the training of weavers continues.
These exemplary pieces of textile art are being exclusively marketed at the
Hunza Carpet Show Room in Hunza Karimabad and through an intimate network of
friends and family members in Europe and North America.
making in Hunza is powered by a secret weapon - embroidery. Without this
traditional knowledge, carpet-making would perhaps never have taken off.
Embroidery is an ancient tradition in Hunza, where women originally made
pillbox caps for their personal use. These caps were embroidered with
Chinese silk brought to Hunza through the Silk Route on caravans, double
hump Bactrian camels, alpine yaks and horses over the Mintaka and Kilik
passes from Chinese Turkestan. Women also fashioned silk wedding veils with
the skills of fine embroidery and crochet work. In the 1970s, the
construction of the Karakorum Highway through Hunza brought with it the easy
availability of acrylic threads from the urban centres of Pakistan coupled
with a burgeoning demand from the nascent local tourist market.
Unfortunately, the increased volume of demand resulted in a marked
deterioration in the quality of work.
to stem this decline and to revive the quality of the original workmanship,
the Hunza Carpet team set out to re-introduce natural dyes and real silk
thread, coupling this approach with authentic and sensitive guidance. This
helped create a friendly family-type environment and ensured a respectable
source of income for women while simultaneously presenting them with the
opportunity to express their artistic skills. The resulting creations grace
the homes of visitors just like you to Hunza from all across the world.
order to promote sales and create further avenues and markets, educated
women artisans are being trained to embroider and weave with new
perspectives that diverge significantly from their traditional motifs, but
address their high level of skill. The work is more challenging, as the
departure from tradition requires increased rigour. Hunza women have risen
to the occasion and now produce a wide variety of non-traditional work,
ranging from artistic Islamic and Anatolian kilim designs to
completely avant-garde works of modern artists. Through this innovative
practice, the women are exposed to design, art, and culture from various
regions of the world. At the same time, they continue to recreate old and
previously forgotten local designs found on women's caps, wedding veils and
other decorative embroideries.
and Stitching Types in Hunza
embroidery with silk thread is traditionally known as erāghi, and is
composed of the cross or roll stitch, or a combination of the two. A more
rustic form with thicker woolen thread also uses similar stitching, and is
known as charsuta chuk. Qalmi is yet another form of silk
thread embroidery which employs long and short stitches to create floral
designs. Finally, silver or golden threads (collectively called qalabātu)
are used in a form of metal thread embroidery known as zardōzi.
Most of the
designs in erāghi represent wild animals and their paw prints, birds,
leaves and body parts of insects. Examples of the traditional motifs include
turangkish (Ibex horns), tamuts (Snow leopard) urki itsu
(wolf's foot) kishtimuts (boat), herimani chuk (millipede).
Some of these motifs can be seen in older (more than a hundred years)
carpets and textiles from Khotan and Yarkand, and in embroidered wedding
veils from Central Asia.
to revive, experiment, and innovate will continue at Hunza Carpet. Their
endeavours have been possible with the support and encouragement of friends
from around the world, which include artists, museum directors, scholars,
dignitaries, and other professionals. It has also provided a valuable source
of income for hundreds of artisans in the Hunza valley who are dependent on
this craft for their livelihood.
object you buy, you take a piece of Hunza with you, secure in the knowledge
that you have helped bring prosperity to the women of Hunza, while
encouraging their creativity, skill and work.
ask for a guided tour to the dyeing pits and weaving halls, so you can see
authentic creativity in action.