I was very pleased to find this piece of vintage silk velour which was just enough for two pillow cases (20x20 inches).
As a girl, I did not appreciate this fabric which was so much loved and treasured by my Uzbek relatives. They had pillows, bed covers, throws, decorative cushions and floor seating made of this ikat velour fabric, and I used to think snobbishly that it was too bright and 'too Uzbek'. It was in the same category as heavy handmade furniture made of walnut wood, hand cut lead glass vases and thick Aubusson carpets. All those things seemed very old fashioned, heavy, bulky, awkward and even ugly.
I am still indifferent to lead glass; however I like that old fashioned furniture, even if sometimes it looks somewhat primitive and naive in its attempts to imitate European style thus creating a new 'European Asian style', in my view. In addition to that, I bought a wonderful Aubusson rug last Sunday (you will see it when I get if from the dry clean). I have learned to appreciate the coziness of traditional Uzbek houses where everything is covered in rugs and carpets, throws, blankets and bedspreads, with lots of throw pillows and other soft things to lean and recline on. And this ikat silk velour (called 'bakhmal') is particularly treasured.
It is easy to see why Uzbek silk velour (or is it velvet?) is so much loved. It is lovely to the touch, smooth and cool, like grass in the shade or running water; it is a pleasure to hug a cushion covered with bakhmal. I can virtually touch it with my hand for hours while sitting at someone's house and talking, and I will keep enjoying the sensation.
This silk velvet is traditionally produced in Samarkand, in a rather primitive way, and it has a cotton foundation and a silk pile. Very easy to care for, and durable, and looks good even worn out, like a good rug.
My pillow cases are especially nice, to my taste, because of the unusual color combination; I was fascinated by the slate blue background with greenish yellow vine, leaves and flowers contoured in magenta. This one is definitely not over the top, and it seems to have a certain Chinese influence. I would say that is is Uzbek fabric imitating Chinese designs imitating European art nouveau - is not it a nice example of cultural penetration and exchange?
I love how it looks in the afternoon sun, with spots of light here and there. It reminds me of grapevine in the autumn, when heavy grapes are hanging like crystal chandelier, and sun falling through the rusty colored leaves. Pity that this autumn I did not make it to Ferghana Valley, to take pictures of their amazing grapes; next year, maybe... In the meantime, I still have these velour cushion covers to look at and to touch.