Chuval, torba and mafrash were types of trappings we would now refer to as storage bags. Produced by all Turkmen weaving groups, these terms are the names used to describe their different sizes. Generally the chuval were the largest and it seems the oldest and most important but a cluster of torbas were even larger than the biggest chuval. The mafrash were always small and most of them were made in the pre-conquest and colonial periods, older ones being much less common than chuval and torba.
The chuval are usually slightly larger than two feet by four feet and were always made in pairs. Originally all three sizes had an integrally flat-woven back panel which was sewn up at the sides to create a top opening. Invariably they all have major and minor göls layouts but occasionally torba and mafrash have non-göl and all-over pattern designs, whereas chuval even more rarely depart from that format.
Surprisingly most archaic and later examples of chuval use the same rather nondescript major göl shape(fig.26 ) but of course the archaic examples exhibit a higher level of design delineation, articulation, and color combination. The use of any other major göl is uncommon but it does occur and likewise the appearance of tertiary elements is also occasionally seen. It is, however, the minor göls that exhibit the most amount of variation and are often the focal point of these weavings.
Their differences, as well as those in the designs of the interiors of the chuval major göls, raises the question as to whether they were done as emblematic identification for specific weaving groups. Several of the descriptions accompanying the eight chuval chosen for exhibition address this topic and suggest new ways of looking at these minor göls as well as the interior designs of the major ones. This and the publication of these chuval are both presented here for the first time.
Fig.26 Typical chuval göl