The Azerbaijani Environment

The environment of Azerbaijan is well suited for carpet production. The landscape provides fertile grazing for sheep, and most Azerbaijani carpets are made from wool, although silk is also found in abundance. Natural dyes are found in resources from madder root to cochineal (insect) to mineral ores. There are 15 different breeds of sheep in Azerbaijan. Each breed yields a unique type of wool, with a different color, texture, and quality of wool.

Community Cooperation

Carpet design and production are deeply entrenched traditions in Azerbaijani society. The production of complex designs on a large scale requires a great deal of cooperation, and the Azerbaijani spirit of social collaboration lends itself to the process. Many Azerbaijani households are equipped with a loom, and many women learn the craft and customs of design.

Azerbaijani women work together to create elaborate carpets.

Carding Wool

The process of making wool into yarn is labor intensive and involves the entire community. This practice is known as imajlik, or “mutual help.” Several times a year, community members shear the sheep. They then wash and dry the wool before carding it, separating the mass into strands. Finally, the weavers load the fibers onto spindles and spin the wool into yarn.

Azerbaijani women demonstrate imajlik while shearing sheep wool together.


Traditional Azerbaijani carpets feature vivid hues created from natural dyes. Azerbaijan’s diverse flora provides the main source of dye, but weavers may also use mineral ores, insects, and other natural resources. To satisfy the growing Russian demand for carpets that began in the 20th century, some Azerbaijani carpet makers used artificial dyes, which were introduced in the larger region in the 19th century. Sometimes less expensive and faster to incorporate, artificial dyes rarely match the vibrancy and stability of natural hues.

Two Azerbaijani women dye yarn amid one of Azerbaijan’s rich natural landscapes.


Azerbaijani weavers balance personal creative expression with unique regional motifs. Designers begin by drawing images from Nature, such as plants or animals, in a highly abstract manner. Weavers who produce carpets in workshops usually create drawings, or cartoons from which they can work. Home weavers generally skip the diagramming step, building the loom, stringing the warps, and immediately beginning to weave. A weaver who intends to keep her creation may put more time, thought, and creativity into a design than one who intends to sell.

Many elements serve as inspiration for Azerbaijani carpet design, including the country’s beautiful landscape.

Weaving Centers

Azerbaijani carpets were traditionally made in the home. Today, many are produced in “factories,” which are community carpet-making centers. Most weavers are women. Weaving a carpet can take six months from start to finish.

Azerbaijani women weave together in a local center.