Saye Gosha or Segusha Embroidery
One of the first embroideries I saw from Afghanistan were these wildly embroidered v-shaped strips that were intensely stitched. I was intrigued by the shape and at that time, was told that these were used to decorate bedding rolls when they were not in use. Later, I learned that they were actually stitched on to quilts and bed rolls as an identifier. Flip over the edge and see if it’s the one you want to pull out of the stack. I believe this is one of those language issues which got lost in translation…
The Library of Congress has a great collection of old images that give us an idea of how Central Asian textiles were used one hundred years ago.
These photos were taken as part of a “visual survey of Central Asia from the perspective of the Russian imperial government that took control of the area in the 1850s and 1860s.” As you can see, textiles are used as flooring, on the walls, stacked up, and as wraps. Nowadays, we refer to the large flowery embroidery of the region as “suzanis”, which actually means needlework, but we think of them as coming mostly from Uzbekistan as they continue to produce them in great quantities to this day. This is a suzani that we have currently listed in our shop:
It’s often hard to identify where the saye gosha or other Central Asian textiles come from as the different cultural groups have similar designs. Here are a couple more old photos:
That’s the outside of a Bukhara tent. You can see a suzani hanging on the door.
This one is at a Tajik wedding. I assume the bride is the one peeking through her shawl. There are a bunch of suzanis tossed up above them and my guess would be that they are part of her dowry.
This next one is interesting as I think I just learned about another saye gosha style that we carry. This is a rider from Turkmenistan with his horse.
I have a couple of embroideries like this one in my Etsy shop:
I thought it was strange to have that blank area, like it was not finished. Now, I see that if it sticking out under the saddle, it makes sense to not embroider the whole thing. This one is from the 1980’s and you can see what a huge difference there is in the old workmanship and new.
Here are a couple more Saye Goshas:
Here is a close-up, all cross stitched in silk:
Whenever I want to research provenance or learn more about these textiles, I do a few searches on Turkotek. Even they are not always sure about where things are from and they have studied these textiles for decades! According to them, this one is Lakai Uzbek. The bold geometric designs are their signature.
Floral designs like this one are also attributed to the Lakai Uzbek:
So, what do we do with these textiles? Well, I have several and I love them! I have one draped over an old, upright chair and another one covers a trunk in my living room. You can pin them to the wall or frame them. I made a stole for a pastor friend of mine a long time ago and it came out beautifully! They would look great stitched to the back of a coat or jean jacket.
Here are a couple of links where you can learn a bit more:
Turkotek embroidery discussion (mostly about Saye Gosha)
R. John Howe search results for Uzbek Embroidery If you are interested in Central Asian textiles and rugs, sign up to receive his blog by email. He hosts talks given by experts and then posts detailed images of what was shown and discussed. It doesn’t happen often, but when the post comes in, it’s always fascinating!