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Kurak (patchwork) is the name given to various types of articles made from patchwork – sewing together several textile fragments. The name comes from the work “kura” which means “to piece together – to assemble from separate scraps” and can refer to either the finished products or the method used to manufacture them.

This type of handicraft is found throughout Central Asia. It was practiced throughout Kyrgyzstan – but especially in the south.

It is seen as a way “to make something out of nothing”. The articles made out patchwork include such things as head-dresses, children clothes, cradle blankets and covers, wedding curtains, mattresses, cushions, saddle cloths and bags – even large, quilted, carpets and blankets.


A large set of patchwork items was provided in a girl’s dowry. The material patches would be collected at various family functions. Black and white cotton patches were thought to be especially effective. Other colours were also used – especially red – but the exact combination depended on the available supply of scraps of material.

Kurak also allowed for a wide variety of individual expression – although many of the designs involve geometric forms and regularity, proportion and symmetry – the use of colour, shape and intricacy gave each seamstress the chance to demonstrate their skills.

There are two basic forms of patchwork – the first made from squares and triangular pieces, the second from long strips of coloured material. There are many examples of standard patterns with names such as boto coz – “camel’s eye”, turna-kurak – “crane”, and jyldyz – “star”. Amongst the most popular patterns was a black triangle placed on a white background.


Quite often, patchwork and embroidery would be combined in a single item – and even with crochet. In Bishkek, there is an organization which specialises in embroidery and patchwork and won awards for some of its pieces, called Kyrgyz Heritage, and it is possible to arrange a visit for interested parties.