What are Turkish Kilim Rugs?
There are two categories in the rug world - pile rugs and kilims. Let’s start with Turkish Kilim Rugs, which the origin of the word ‘kilim’ is Turkish. As the word origin also suggests, kilims have a long history in the Turkish culture. Kilim is the simplest flat weave with no knots, thus no pile.
They are made by the strands of weft being woven through strands of warp and then compressing the woven structure down. The history of kilims is older than pile rugs and its use is more versatile. Before becoming sedentary, nomadic Turkic tribes that lived in Central Asia have developed this textile and used it extensively. As nomadic tribes were on the move all the time they had to develop and use items that could be produced in their nomadic lives and carried with them easily. Flat weaving technique gave them items they can use - their tents, floor covers and all kinds of textiles - that can be made and transported easily. Their tents were also made by the flat weaving technique. Kilims also came to being within this flat weaving tradition. Kilims covered the living spaces and added beauty to nomadic peoples’ tents as well as isolation due to the materials used in their production - wool and goat hair. Thanks to their materials they balanced the humidity and heat of the environment it was used in. Since everything was carried in the nomadic lifestyle, looms that kilims were woven on were also carried. It is for this reason that looms were not very wide - for ease of transport and as a result kilims woven on these looms were narrow and long. If a wide kilim was needed two or more kilims would be stitched together to create a broader kilim. In our present day even though nearly all peoples have become sedentary, traditional weavers still use narrow looms.
Nomadic lifestyle helped producers of kilims attain high quality wool and natural dyes. Quality wool was as a result of their flocks and natural dyes was the result of moving around all the time gaining access to minerals and plant roots in different regions. Classic kilim motifs on Anatolian kilims have been an ongoing tradition since the kilim weaving tradition in Central Asia and motifs have evolved until the 13th century Seljuk Empire. Aside from flower tree and animal motifs abstract motifs were also used on Anatolian kilims. Feelings such as fear were symbolised with wolf’s paws and scorpion while masculinity and power was represented by ram’s horn. Tree of life was a representation of immortality and eternity.
Turkish kilims are named according to the region they were woven in, people who wove them and motifs used on them. Kilims offer a different style than pile rugs as they are lighter, with no pile and more of a tribal style. They are a cornerstone design element in modern homes decorated minimally. They match well with most furniture with their classic design.