Gabbeh Weavers

All About Weaving Gabbeh Rugs

In Iran almost all rugs are woven by women. As a father of three young children I always love to see the happy healthy smiling children like the one above watching her mother weave. In the old days before the revolution children wove rugs. Since the fall of the Shah child labor is no longer an issue. In Iran school attendance is mandatory until the children are in high school. A little girl growing up in Iran has more opportunity than any time in history. Over 60 percent of students in University are women. At that rate rugs like these may soon be a thing of the past.

Reports published by the US Department of Labor confirm that Child Labor is not an issue in most of the rug producing countries including Iran. The big problem areas for child labor and even child slave labor are India and Pakistan. In Iran woman weave and children study. Weaving becomes a way for women to get a better way of life while still living in her home village. Woman can balance the need to earn a living while still managing a family. Dr. Khosrow Sobhe tells a story of when he and one of his brothers visited a weaver who works with them. The woman’s high school age son was sporting a new chambray shirt which was all the rage in Iran at that time. When they left Khosrow pointed out to his brother that the weavers son was better dressed than either of them. Sometimes the woman’s income is all the family has and other times it is the way to a better life and a few luxuries for the children.

Better looms make it possible to produce better rugs. The metal looms that these Qashqai women use are a vast improvement over the old looms. Please note the thickness of the Gabbeh. These rugs are normally the thickest rug produced in Iran and are a joy to walk upon.

The large weavers comb is used to keep the wefts straight. The colors are all natural dyes. Many people claim this but I know it is true with Sobhe rugs because the wool is dyed by my friends at Sayahi Dye Works in Shiraz Abbas and Parham Sayahi.

Qashqai women are more casual in the dress that one might expect to see in the mosques of Qum. Directly after the revolution things could get tense over veils for woman and the Khosrow Khan hats that the Qashqai men wear. Now things go easier.

Dr.Lois Beck of Washington University Saint Louis told me that after the revolution the men were forbidden to wear the Khosrow Khan hats. The women then began to weave into their rugs the image of the hats but they would disguise them so they could see them but the Revolutionary Guards could not. I noticed on a recent trip to Iran that the Khosrow Khan hats and the traditional Qashqai women’s clothes are welcomed everywhere even at official government functions.

I mentioned above that women do the weaving. Look in the background of this image. Men wash the rugs and shear them.