The historic city of Sheki on the Silk Road in Azerbaijan has long been a center of silk production. And it is especially famous for its head scarves, called kelaghayi. Its manufacture is a meticulous process that requires skill and a lot of raw material.
a meticulous process that requires skill and a lot of raw material.
“Our company has been operating since the beginning of the last century. We have a complete silk production cycle, from raw material to kelaghayi scarves. One cocoon produces about a thousand meters of silk thread, and it takes more than a thousand cocoons to make a kelaghayi scarf “, relates Zaur Yakubov, director of the AzerIpek factory.
The cocoons are placed in boiling water to soften and dissolve the protective gum that holds them together. This is a crucial step in the production process, as it ensures that the continuity of the yarns is not damaged. Each thread is then unwound from the cocoon into long individual strands, which are wound into a spool.
Although the process is fully automated, it is still supervised by one person. Dyeing the material by hand requires skill and finesse to carry out the process. Kelaghayi makers use natural color essences, such as barberry, wild apple, saffron, currant, and sumac.
The tissues are hung out to dry. And then they are decorated with ‘special’ motifs, the most important part of any kelaghayi. In the village of Baskal, Abbasali Talibov, a fourth-generation kelaghayi craftsman, is one of the few who still preserves this type of craft.
Kelaghayi motifs are made with wooden stamps called galib and are made with pears, walnuts, and wild apples. Although the fashions always change, the patterns have remained intact for centuries. The motifs are inspired by plants and geometric shapes, the ‘paisley’ design being especially popular.
In 2014, UNESCO recognized the importance of the beautiful and yet practical Kelaghayi by including them on its list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity.