Zazi Silk Embroidery

Abdul describes this style of embroidery as “Zazi”, but when I researched it on the web, I could not find others using this term to describe it. Traditional Textiles of Central Asia by Janet Harvey, a wonderful illustrated book on textiles from Afghanistan and the region has a similar embroidery pictured. Harvey describes it:

“Embroidered squares can be made up into a dress bodice or be used with the four corners folded to the centre as a small envelope-bag. Pashtun nomad tribeswomen of Hazarajat have formed these striking symmetrical unit-designs in very closely worked ladder-stitch…”

Another use might be as a doily.  This size, about 10 inches square, fits perfectly on the small tea tables that we have carried from Afghanistan.  Abdul also says that these smaller pieces were probably made by younger girls, training for larger works, and added to their dowries.  Here is a saddle embroidery that a bride would have sat on for her wedding:

It uses the same, tight embroidery stitching, silk on silk fabric.  We estimate that these pieces are probably from the 1950’s or even earlier. We also carry wallets made in the same technique, basically a doily folded over with a tie used as a closure and with pockets added on the inside.  These could carry jewelry, money, and other small, precious items.

Zazi wallet.

All of these pieces are decorated with glass seeds beads along the border, heavily clustered with twisted threads in a style often seen in many of the Afghan textiles.

The workmanship of these textiles is amazing.  I especially like how organic they feel, with uneven designs and haphazard choices in thread colors.

Wikipedia has an article on Hazarajat, if you would like to know more about the history of that area.  The area is mostly populated by the Hazara people who also make wonderful embroideries, but the ones that we are showing here are Pashtun.  The following video shows some beautiful images of what the territory looks like.  It is also Hazara made, so the dress would be different from that worn by the Pashtun nomads.

We are always learning more about these old textiles, so if you have more information that you would like to share, please do leave a comment.

Click this link to see what zazi embroideries we currently have listed in our Etsy shop.  We are always adding new things, so check back now and then to see what’s new!

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