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Stitched ⋮ Saami Quilts

Stitched ⋮ Saami Quilts


The most famous embroidered ralli quilts are from the pastoral nomadic Saami and Jogi (Snakecharmer) tribes from lower Sindh.

The Saami travel every year across Pakistan as they migrate with their animals from India to Iran, through a vast region of deserts.

The so called snakecharmer quilts made by the Saami are famous for their rows and rows of decorative embroidery stitches in multiple colors. Although saami quilts follow the same general pattern—row after row of embroidery in concentric squares—they appear very different because of the colours used. Saami quilt makers attempt to include so much embroidery in their rallis that none of the background material can be seen.

The cultural significance of these snakecharmer quilts runs deep as they are mostly made for wedding dowry and then used for bedcovers, furniture covers, floor rugs, wraps in cold weather and baby cradles. They are mentioned in old Urdu and Sufi poetry and are also gifted to the holy men of these areas.

On a solid fabric (usually black), they embroider a vast variety of beautiful and intricate designs using a thick thread that gives the impression of a printed pattern. The various embroidered patterns are  said to represent different types of snakes.

Since the patterns are executed entirely from memory, a running stitch is often sewn down the middle of the quilt as a reference point for the complex design. Quilting must occur during daylight hours because there is no bright light source after dark. No frames are used, and quilting is performed on reed mats while sitting on the ground in different crouching positions.

The stitches include running stitch, chain stitch, double chain cretan stitch, feather stitch, herringbone stitch, interlacing stitch and others. Sometimes the quilters will make a quilt using running stitches on a printed fabric called a lassi (simple) ralli.

Once completed, a quilt is never washed but simply shaken to dislodge the dirt and desert sands.

Reference sources:
RALLI QUILTS by Patrica Stoddard
Salim Wazir - Bhuj, Gujarat

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