Turkmenistan's Keteni

Turkmenistan’s Keteni

When you visit Turkmenistan, you’ll be captivated by the country’s unique charm, and one striking aspect is the enduring traditional clothing worn by women. Adapted perfectly to their lifestyle and climate, this style has remained remarkably unchanged for centuries. Turkmenistan’s rich textile heritage isn’t limited to clothing. It’s the birthplace of “Keteni”, a silk fabric that holds immense historical and cultural significance.

Silk production thrived here thanks to the abundant mulberry growth. The exceptional durability and vibrant designs of Turkmen keteni made it highly sought-after by merchants worldwide, dating back to the 10th century. This fabric is intricately woven on narrow looms, including the age-old homemade horizontal loom called tara. The loom’s width, usually 30-40 centimeters, defines the style. The keteni fabric features elegant gold stripes along its edges, enhancing the dress’s outline when stitched together. These dresses boast a low, round-cut neckline and sleeves fringed with delicate embroidery. Young married women and girls adhere to strict rules; sleeves must cover the wrists, and the hem should reach the ankles.

But what truly sets keteni apart is its breathtaking array of colors, achieved through meticulous natural dyeing techniques. Natural dyes, known for their vivid hues, longevity, and eco-friendliness, were expertly crafted, demanding precision and specialized scales. The result wasn’t just a change in color but also an enhancement in structural strength.

From youthful, vibrant attire to more subdued hues for the elderly, Turkmen artisans sourced dyes from various natural sources like madder, Indian blue nil, pomegranate peels, onion peels, and tea, offering a diverse color palette. Alum set the dyes, while potash and coal ash were essential for bleaching, ensuring an extraordinary whiteness. Starch, derived from wheat flour, added the final touch, transforming keteni into a fabric that exuded opulence, radiating luster and charm.

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