“Varni Bafi” or making Varni, is a traditional and popular weave of Azerbaijan region. Today it is produced in an area called Dasht-e Moghan that is located in the territory of Ardabil province. Varni is a nomadic hand-weave and belongs to an ancient tribe that was known as Shahsavan in the past. The Shahsavan, which was formed by merging of fifty tribes into each other, was named so by Shah Abbas Safavid who ordered them to settle in Azerbaijan as a defense against the advances of Ottoman Empire. Today the name of Shahsavan has changed to Ilsavan. Varni is a delicate Kelim also known as Sumak. According to many specialists, Varni, that is double sided, is an intermediate between carpets and Kelims. It is considered among the complex weaves and it takes a skillful weaver with years of experience to make a Varni.
Varni is weaved using “Pudpichi”. It is a method in which in addition to wrap and weft yarns, an extra thin weft is added to the body of Kelim. After inserting the weft yarns, the thin weft is inserted too and then they are packed together by the comb. The extra weft enhances the interconnection of yarns and adds to the durability of the weave. This is considered as the last upgrade in the craft of Kelims. Another weave, very similar to Varni, is “Shirikipich” that is a product of Kerman. They also differ in motifs and patterns.
According to legends of Azerbaijan, Noah’s ark had landed in this area and this is a reason why animal motifs are very popular. Varani is made more often in the winter season, because that is when the tribe has settled in one place and have the necessary time. The yarn is a mixture of silk and wool. Cotton, wool or silk yarns are used as wraps, and hand spun wool or silk yarn as wefts. Azerbijan nomads use Varni to make saddlebags and horse covers that, in terms of style, motifs (birds and animals) and color palettes, are among the best horse covers of Iran. The big saddlebags that are used to carry the utensils of nomads are ornated by motifs that are inspired by prehistoric potteries of this area.