On most visits to Istanbul, guests stay at the luxurious Four Seasons Sultanhamet Hotel in the heart of what was old Byzantine Constantinople. Now known as the Fatih district, it is home to many of Istanbul's most famous sites and attractions.
Just down the street from the hotel lies the Arasta Bazaar, where among the many shops, you'll find Jennifer's Hamam, a shop dedicated to preserving the art of hand-weaving.
Among the many unique and beautifully hand-woven products are Pestamels and traditional looped towels.
A pestamel is the traditional flat-weave towel associated with hamams or Turkish baths. These ultra-absorbent towels come in a variety of colors with hand knotted fringe. Because they are fast drying and light weight, they are ideal for traveling, the gym, or at home as regular bath towels.
The thick looped towel we know today also originated in Turkey, and has its origins in the palaces of the Ottoman Empire. Prior to the Ottomans, towels were strictly flat-woven pieces of cloth. Because bathing had a ceremonial role within the palace, the ladies of the court would often demand more intricate and elegant designs from the weavers. After a century of ever increasing intricacy, weavers introduced a new technique by looping a second thread along the length of the loom. These loops gradually were used to create patterns or designs, and in some cases, covered the entire towel.
Jennifer's Hamam works directly with the last families of weavers and beyond these artisans and except for a few scattered individuals, there is nothing left of weaving in Turkey.
All of the textile products are made from natural materials on old-style shuttled looms. Anything with cotton threads is GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic Turkish cotton, which certifies that the cotton threads are organic grown, processed and dyed.
Jennifer's Hamam personally buys all the threads for all the weavers except for the silk weavers. The silk weavers are the last family in Turkey who still do the entire process of silk (for textiles) themselves by hand; including, raising of the silk worms, spinning, reeling and dying the silk threads and weaving. All of the weavers are Turkish and all materials are sourced in Turkey.
If you would like to visit Jennifer's Hamam and purchase one of the exquisite limited edition hand-woven items, you'll be helping preserve this fast-disappearing art, and supporting these artisan craftsmen. Please give us a call, and we will direct you.