The name Shahsavan means “protectors of the king” and refers to the fact that this nomadic tribe guarded one of Iran’s most remote and vulnerable frontiers, at Azerbaijan where Iran meets Russia and Turkey. They are based in Northeast Iran in Azarbijan province, in the foothills of Sabalan mountain. The tribe weaves pile carpets and is also famous for its Kilims.
The designs were very much influenced by the carpets that they saw through four centuries of migration through towns and villages on their way. Intermarriages meant that women that came in to their tribe continued weaving in the same way as they had in their own villages. As a result many patterns were added whose origins can be traced to Azarbaijan, Caucasian, Kurdish and Arak carpets. However, they never did any curvilinear patterns.
These carpets are very original and hard wearing. The women of tribe tended to spin yarn themselves and colour it with natural dyes of their own making. The warp and weft threads can be either wool or cotton.
The usual sizes for carpets are runners and rugs up to 220x150cm and bags. There are also kelims of similar sort of sizes. The new production in the region is mainly Soumak kelims. The effect is similar to embroidery with stitches in various colours going in a diagonal direction. The reverse of the piece is always shaggy.