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In Iraq the blankets are called Izar-as-Samawa, Samawa, or Sumawa, being a town in the South of Iraq. The embroideries are, however, not the work of city dwellers but were made in the villages. They are tribal art. Izar means blanket.

Their average size is 160x220 cm, some being shorter or longer than others. The width does not vary considerably. Each one is composed of two lengths of hand-woven cloth which were sewn together after the embroidery was done.

This stitching  ground is a so called twill. To weave a twill you need a four harness loom. Only professional weavers had such looms. When a girl or a woman planned to embroider, she went to the local weaver or to the local market to buy or barter the length of woollen cloth she needed.

This cloth was very probably plant dyed.

As for the stitching yarn it was spun and dyed by the girls and women themselves. Many families had sheep and those who did not could buy or barter wool in the neighbourhood.

Only the oldest blankets are embroidered with plant dyed wool. Industrial dyes were available on the local markets before 1960 and are, of course, much easier to handle than vegetable dyes.

The technique is not embroidering with a needle but with a sort of little hook similar to the one that is used for crochet, only that it is pointed, to go more easily through the stitching ground. A stitching frame is used. The girl holds a thread or a little ball of the embroidery yarn on the underside of the cloth, digs down with the hook to get a little loop of yarn up to the surface of the cloth, digs down again… It is a technique that is also used in North India and Kashmir, and maybe in other parts of the world.

Use.- Every girl embroidered a blanket for her wedding and later went on embroidering for special occasions, e.g. for a male relative who had to leave the village to seek work in the cities.

According to a carpet dealer in Damascus, Syria, some blankets were made for townspeople who could not afford a pile carpet but wanted a nice floor covering. Those blankets are very closely and heavily stitched and less lively in their expression than the ones made for personal use.

The blankets were articles of everyday use and that could be the reason why there are practically no antique ones. They were used until they were finished.