In Kyrgyzstan, the nomadic past is evident in the quantity of collapsible, portable textile furnishings. Textile objects found in Kyrgyz homes include patchwork, embroidered, or appliquéd quilts, saddle bags, pot holders, rugs, clothing, room dividers, and in the case of yurts, tent flaps. These garments and housewares are often made as part of a bride’s dowry; they are later displayed to show wealth and status as well as the talent and skill of the women who have made them. Even urban dwellers often place bedding in a pile covered with large silk textiles, and the walls and doors are draped with a variety of textiles, the most beautiful pieces displayed in a room for receiving guests.

Among the dowry items might be a pair of bags like this embroidered set. Called a mirror bag (oina khalta) and a hairbrush bag (shona khalta), they might also be used to hold soap, needles, thread, thimbles, or other personal items.[i] Much like wall pockets in the European tradition, they would be hung from the lattice framework of the nomadic tent, or the wall of an urban home, as both decorative and functional storage.

Susan Brown is Associate Curator in the Textiles department at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

[i] Christine Martens, Sacred Scraps: Quilt and Patchwork Traditions of Central Asia (Lincoln, Nebraska: International Quilt Study Center & Museum, 2017), 39.

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