Hand weaving

Since ancient times, domestic weaving from cotton and wool, and less frequently from silk fibre, was widely spread in Karakalpak culture. Hand weaving was a woman’s craft. They made the yarn using a spindle (urshik) or a hand spinning wheel (sharik) and wove on a narrow beam weaving machine (ormek) or machine with footboards (kozak).

Notably, all weaving yarn was dyed with vegetable dyes – boyau. Yellow was obtained from elaeagnus bark (zhide), licorice roots (boyan), mulberry or apricot tree and tamarisk flowers (zhingil). Yellow and orange were extracted from mulberry leaves (tut), and red from glasswort plant (tomar). Nil (indigo) was imported from Bukhara, Samarkand, Western Asia and India to dye the yarn blue.

In order to ensure the long-term service, smoothness and colour of handicrafts as well as to decrease the dust and grease absorption, white cotton cloth was boiled in a mixture of water and groats (white durra), whereas the colourful ones were glazed with starch (more-basiu).

Female weavers produced various kinds of cotton fabrics – one-colour coarse calico, striped alasha, chequered shatirash, expensive woven felts (shal) from fine camel wool, as well as goat and sheep's wool cloths.

The population of the Karakalpakstan southern regions produced a small number of silk fabrics (zhipek). Zhipek – a dark crimson silk with narrow white strips – was used for sewing female oriental cape robes, zhegde for young women, and elegant oriental robes, shapan, for men and women.

Finally, Karakalpak women produced patterned carpet cloths and rugs. Today the tradition of weaving on an ormek loom has been revived. Women and girls use it for weaving patterned carpet cloths and rugs for yurtas.