Çatma (Silk Brocades)

Çatmas was first woven in Istanbul in 1550 in silk fabric workshops in an attempt to meet the cloth demands from the Ottoman imperial palace. The collection lists of the fabrics and dresses in the Topkapı Palace Museum record many kaftans (outer gown or robe) made of fabric called “çatma” woven from silk and linen yarn.

1- Çatma kind fabric (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Museum)

Çatma, a special type of velvet, is a tufted fabric that is firmly woven with silk and linen yarns. There were three types of çatma namely Üsküdar, Bilecik and Bursa çatmas according to the town it was woven in. Those that were woven during the period of Ahmed III (1673-1736) were called as “ahmediye”. The çatma is a heavy, embossed and embroidered fabric with golden weaving, and what makes it different from velvet is that the flock of flowers or embroideries on the former is much higher compared to its background. Generally, the background is woven with velvet and the embroidery is of gold thread or the other way around, the background is of gold thread while the pattern is woven with velvet. There are two main çatma patterns: The first one is the monotonous main scheme that is repeated on the broad surface. The other one is a detailed composition embellishing the interior. In the details, various compositions are created with the same and limited number of ornamental motifs. Vertical wavy branch system, the elliptic-medallion pattern, and different variations of the elliptic scheme are the basic schemes. Flowers in naturalistic style in accordance with the technical capabilities of the time have been applied in unique shapes and features. The most common ornaments are the motifs of grape bunch, garlands1 and bouquets. There are also some other motifs such as stars and crescents that are used in small and large dimensions. They are more often aligned on the slide axis but sometimes they constitute the border. There are also patterns with no figure at all.

2- Selimiye kind fabric (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Museum)

Following the 16th century, çatma patterns with their idiosyncratic ornamental motifs influenced the patterns of clothing in other countries. It is a fact that the most precious dress fabrics were made of çatma fabrics during the Tulip Period (1718-1730).

3- Çatma kind fabric (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Museum)

Since the second half of the 18th century ornamental motifs, as in other fields of art, carry the influence of Western culture. Çatma cushions of the 19th century, however, albeit produced with a new understanding in patterns, still had traditional features. This situation continued into the 18th and 19th century and granted the Istanbul-Üsküdar çatmas an international reputation. In 1855, Üsküdar çatmas and Selimiye fabrics were bought to be sent to the Paris Exhibition.

4- Çatma kind fabric (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Museum)

The lively and diverse colors used in the çatmas are remarkable and eye-catching; but at most the purplish red colour called “güvezi”, three colours of ivory, green colour and two kinds of gold thread were used. Generally, the cream and straw yellow are applied to the background of the çatmas and the pattern is woven with yellow-green or red-green velvet. Red and green velvet is also used for the details.

The same weaving techniques were being used for centuries and are known to be advanced and complicated. There is sating background used on the çatmas but the ones of the latest fabrics used for furnishings and wefts are of cotton or linen. The piles of the çatmas were always made of silk; besides, it is seen that cotton yarn was used for both the wefts and warps.

The çatma weavings are used not only for clothes and furnishings but also for pillowcases.

It is seen that the pillowcases woven in certain sizes in the workshops in Istanbul-Üsküdar were patterned in an ornamental style called “Turkish Rococo” and some differences are detected in the traditional motif schemes. Along with the specific covered pattern feature, quite remarkable is the geometrical order seen in the patterns.

The major signs of the European influence are the border set apart with a symmetrical smooth line and the flowers stacked in moulds within a scheme akin to an equilateral quadrangle with no contours in the center. Generally, botanical motifs are used in the pattern designs. In other words, what attract attention on the fabrics is the medallion generally used on the main surface, the crescent-shaped central motif, the clover tulip covering in the main surface, the plane leaf, “salbekli şemse” (extended rosetta) and flower patterns.

Selimiye Fabrics

Selimiye, the warp and weft of which is silk, is a kind of fabric patterned with different kinds of colourful little flowers along the line and between the lines. It is sometimes woven as colourful and little patterned fabric that follows an infinite line along the slide axis. It looks like they are not woven flowers but the fabric is decorated with colourful embroidery. Gold thread is also used on the Selimiye fabrics. Some samples survived with stamps on them.

The slide floral pattern on the chickpea coloured background is the characteristic feature of the Selimiye fabrics.

5- Selimiye kind fabric (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Museum, the one on the right is in Topkapı Palace Museum)

6- Selimiye kind fabric (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Museum, the one on the right is in Topkapı Palace Museum)

It is known that Selimiye fabrics began to be woven, firstly, on the looms in the weaving workshops built as a foundation in the courtyard of Ayazma Mosque, Üsküdar. Since Sultan Selim III made the fabric looms set up around the Selimiye Mosque-Üsküdar in 1805 and endowed them all to the mosque, so many fabrics have been woven in the looms. In honour of the ‘father’ of these looms, these woven fabrics began to be called as “selimiye”. They became known and popular with this name. Besides, it is possible that the fabric took its name from the Selimiye Barracks that Sultan Selim III ordered to be built during the same period.

The Selimiye fabrics, which reflect the pleasure and fancy of the period they were woven in, were generally used for dresses and kaftans. Though women’s dresses were commonly sewed from Selimiye fabrics, they were often used for men’s costumes.

As clearly seen in the picture of Sultan Selim III by Kapıdağlı, the inner dress of the sultan is made of Selimiye fabric. This painting is a crucial document as it dates the Selimiye fabric and suggests where it was used.

The samples of çatma and Selimiye fabrics, very few of which survived till present days, are peculiar to Istanbul and can be found in the collections of the Topkapı Palace Museum, the Istanbul City Museum, Sadberk Hanım Museum along with other private collections. In short, historical documents and examples in the museum point out that previously çatmas were mainly used for costumes and dresses, but recently they have been used for pillowcases and quilt furnishings.


1 A decorative wreath or cord especially used at festives. (translator’s note)

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.

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