Persian Rugs: Tribal Saddle Bags

Among the tribal, flat-woven Persian rugs, the vast number of containers made by the Lor and Bakhtiari tribes are some of the most attractive fabrics ever produced. Saddle bags, flour bags, bedding bags, and salt bags are the most common textiles of this group. It is the intention of this article to take a closer look at the characteristics of saddle bags.

Old Persian Saddle Bag

Old Persian Saddle Bag

A saddle bag (called Khorjeen in Farsi) consists of two identical pouches or side compartments opposite one another with one continuous back that is shared by both. Saddle bags range in size from tiny to very big, the largest of which are woven by the Lors of Lorestan, known in that area as “Talis”. They can measure up to about 50 inches in width by over 70 inches all the way around. Flat-woven bags have certain common qualities: Around the bottom and a short way up the front and back faces, a straight strip of pile can be found, the function of which is to give the bags additional strength at the place of greatest stress and wear, and an added aesthetic quality which is best seen when these bags are full and placed, as they often are, on top of each other in the tent, the pile part alone meeting the eye. Another characteristic feature is their black, wire-like, goat hair selvedge bindings. They are closed by means of a series of black goat hair loops put through slits at the top of each face and then interlocked to form a chain-like progression across the mouths of the bag. Normally there is only one row of these loops for two sets of slits which overlap each other. In view of the considerable volume and weight that can be taken by saddle bags, a combination of flat-weave and pile is probably the best solution to the problem of strength versus weight. After being filled with the tribes’ possessions, they are thrown over the backs of pack animals, where they also serve as padding for a rider who usually sits on top of a cover of some kind.

In comparison to the enormous saddle bags of Lorestan, those from the tribes of Fars and the Bakhtiaris, while reaching sizeable proportions, tend to seem somewhat small. They have either straight pile bottoms or, as is often the case in the larger ones, bottoms that appear to be reinforced in the corners and indented in the middle. Their selvedges are usually of black goat hair, and their loops of the same material or occasionally of multicolored, braided wool or narrow, tablet-woven bands. A feature which distinguishes these bags from those of Lorestan is the use of a double row of loops instead of a single one, each row serving to close one of the two pouches. The Lori saddle bags from the Varamin area can also reach large dimensions, though rarely of the “Talis” range. Like those produced in Lorestan, they have straight pile strips along the bottom and only one row of loops. Selvedges are usually missing in the older bags. In the case of one which still has this intact, it is done in alternating white and brown stripes of hard goat hair. In terms of the quality of weave and decoration of the backs, these differ from those of their counterparts to the Southwest.

Generally speaking, no particular function or use can be attributed to saddle bags, being as they are multipurpose in nature. Only their sizes and the tasks for which they are needed usually determine how they are utilized. Today, old pieces of saddle bags come with relatively large price tags not because of their use or function, but due to their originality as antique pieces of artwork.

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