Georgia has been rich in textile techniques for centuries. Different technological and artistic methods were developed over time, including knitting and weaving, felting, needlework, and block printing amongst others.
Craft making was the indispensible part of women work; hence they were skilled in knitting, sewing, embroidery and other textile techniques from the very childhood. Use of natural dyes for coloring wool, silk and other products was very typical.
The origins of felting techniques can be traced back to ancient times. It was especially popular in the highland regions of the country (Tusheti, Khevsureti, Pshavi, Svaneti, Mountainous Racha and Javakheti). Felt products from Tusheti, where the special type of wool with healing qualities is produced, are famous for their simple, though elaborate ornaments.
Georgian needlework employs dozens of techniques. It was applied to decorate both religious objects and secular costumes and interior utensils. Embroidery, especially with gold and silver, was used to adorn ecclesiastic textiles, liturgical objects and garments. The donator inscriptions on the number of textiles attest to the fact that the majority of textiles were created in monasteries or noble families. High quality of execution and elaborate color combinations make the ecclesiastic embroidery an important achievement of Georgian Medieval art.
Needlework was very important for the adornment of the folk dress and household articles as well (bed covers, table-cloths, curtains, etc.) be it a classical Georgian female costume consisting of a shirt (perangi), long trousers (sheidishi), long dress with a breast plate (gulispiri), a long fabric belt (sartkeli) and the head gear consists of a veil (lechaki) and a carton ring covered with velvet (chikhta), or other costumes typical for the mountainous regions of the country. The most remarkable examples of Georgian national costume are the colorful female and male clothing from Khevsureti, which are usually decorated with extraordinarily stunning embroidery. Talavari - the traditional dressing of Khevsurs, sewn of dark blue or black fabric usually decorated with extraordinary stunning embroider, perfectly reflects the features of Georgian folk art aesthetic. The women dress – sadiatso and koklo, were usually covered with sophisticated geometric patchwork, embroidery, fine breads, coins and bone buttons, which had their sacred meaning. The colorful embroidery with crosses and astral symbols was the part for the male costume - samkhedroni as well. Both males and females in the mountains wore knitted socks pachichi or tati - socks with the leather sole, or chitebi mainly decorated with geometric ornaments.
Textile and rug production has an important place in the Georgian cultural heritage. Precious rugs, kilims and other textiles were manufactured in Georgia from the Neolithic time. This is demonstrated through the finds of Ilto dwellings, dated third millennium BC, where a vertical weaving loom and a comb for weaving were discovered. So too, at the burials in Bedeni (19th c. BC) different types of textiles - felt and rug fragments were found.
There were numerous folk rug weaving centers in Georgia, amongst these in Kakheti, Tusheti, Khevsureti, South Georgia (Akhaltsikhe). The rugs and carpets from eastern highlands are marked by dark, restrained palette, contrary to carpets from Khakheti. The latter marked by oriental influences.
When speaking bout textiles, the rich traditions of silk production in Georgia are worth of special mentioning. Its traces go back to 5th century AD. In medieval times Georgian silk was traded on Persian markets. Silk production was further enhanced in 19th-20th centuries, when its export had a significant share in country’s economy.
Amongst the widespread types of textiles in 19th century Georgia was the traditional table-cloths executed in the indigo blue dyeing “negative” block printing technique. The imagery of the tablecloth: the zoomorphic (dears, stags, lions, fish, birds) and anthropomorphic images juxtaposed with ornamental patters often draw on ancient folk imagery with symbolic and sacred meaning maintained for centuries. This type of tablecloth was used only for special occasions.
Marked by the restraint palette and delicate color combinations Georgian textiles are an indispensible part of country’s cultural heritage.