The Tatars (descendants of Scythians and Volga Bulgars) optimized the decorative patterns of proto-Turks to fit and align with a leather medium. The Volga Tatars uniquely incorporated natural and spiritual beauty of turkic nomads in a manner and with a technique that has no analogy. Meticulously designed patterns of soft colorful leather are skilfully cut and sewn with a special stitch and colorful silk threads. The stitching creates illusion of embroidery or appliqué when looked at, but the technique requires a different and unique set of skills than leather embroidery, inlay or outlay. The exceptional technology that aligns colored leather patterns and twisted threads in intricate play of ornamental cutouts is called “Kayuly Kün” in Tatar, “Uzornaya Kozha” in Russian. In English, the best alternative is “Leather Mosaic”.
A so-called “Kazan” hand stitch (named after the place it was mastered and popularized) attaches the leather patterns together in a unique manner, which cannot be reproduced by a machine. The essence of the Kazan stitch is the three loops of twisted decorative thread circled around a sturdy connecting thread and squeezed between the two pieces of soft leather. This type of stitching that originated from ancient inward two-needle stitch can be found in the leather items created in areas of Central Asia, Middle East, Balkans, North Africa. It has a distinctive look: The performed-by-hand stitching with two types of threads (connecting and embroidery) attaches the parts of the item from the inside in such a way, that from the outside, the seam looks like a cord or embroidery.
The uniqueness of a Kazan stitch and the Tatar boots is in “optimised” perfection: Kayuly Shchiteqler (as boots are called in Tatar) merges utilitarian footwear durability with symbolic, spiritual ornamentation of Turkic people. A soft leather sock-like boot decorated with intricate cutouts allow the distinctive colourful seam to be a defining and active agent of the boot’s 360°-dimensional composition. This fun 3D image of the (labelled as Kazakh) boots created by BilgeBitig gives an excellent view of the similar to Tatar boots’ structure. Those virtual boots were most likely modelled either from a textile version of the Tatar boots created by Kazakh people or simply mislabelled (as it frequently happens to Tatar boots). This 3D image does not precisely detail the Kazan stitch but gives a great wholistic picture of a three-dimensional structure of the shchiteqler and their ornamentation.
Leatherwork designed with Tatar mosaic technique represents a rare combination of fine art that serves utilitarian function. Boots, bags, pillows, benches made from the softest leather and ornamented with vibrant and intricate Tatar designs bring purpose and beauty, peace and comfort to the individuals, homes and communities.