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Handwoven Kilim Rugs: Turkish Weaving with a Storied History
Kilim rugs are a handmade, flat-woven carpet with no piles or knotted fluff. Although the word kilim is of Turkish origin, kilim rugs have been made in Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Morocco, the Balkans and Scandinavia, proving the flat-weaving technique spread far. Because these antique rugs are found across the globe, each region has a different pronunciation and spelling of the name Kilim.
Most experts believe kilims originated in the Anatolia region of modern day Turkey. The earliest examples of kilim rugs date back as far as the 4th century AD, although there is evidence the flat-weave technique probably began at about 1,000 BC in Egypt.
Qashgahii kilims from the Zagros region, along with Turkoman and baluch kilims from eastern Iran and central Asia, are among the styles now highly coveted by those who buy kilim rugs.
The techniques used to make vintage kilim rugs have changed little over the centuries. Whereas a pile rug is made by knotting short strands of different color onto warps and held together by pressing the wefts tightly against each other, the design of a Kilim rug is made by interweaving the variously colored wefts and warps.
The simple interlocking strands of wool, hair or fiber requires no backing, so Kilim carpets are thinner than traditional Persian rugs and Oriental rugs, making them popular as tapestries or use as bed coverlets.
The Distinctive Motifs and Colors of Kilim Carpets
Common motifs found in Kilim carpets include serrated leaf elements, zig-zag crenellations, shield medallions, diamond borders, and geometric designs. Many of the geometric motifs in kilims – “ramshorn” motifs and serrated medallions or “ashiks” – traveled with nomads as they spread to the Middle East. Elements such as perennials, pomegranates and fronds are popular in modern kilim carpets and vintage kilims alike.
The wide-ranging palette of reds, greens, oranges, and browns in antique Kilim carpets demonstrate the quality of dyes early Anatolian weavers had at their disposal. Many traditional kilim rugs feature warm, muted colors as the primary hues, with cooler tones used to create points of contrast.
The flat-weaving technique used to make Kilim rugs makes it difficult to produce continuous separations of color, so Kilims often have a stepped or crenelated appearance.
A Traditional Kilim Was Practical Before It Was Decorative
Woolen kilims are known for their strength and versatility. Long before Kilims became decorative pieces, tribal communities used them as floor coverings; as bedding or clothing; as horse blankets; for storage of grains; or draped as a shelter against the weather.
Lightweight and easy to transport, Kilims are especially popular in rug-weaving centers with warm climates, where shaggy rugs were not needed to keep warm.
Buying Antique Kilim Rugs and Contemporary Kilims
For many decades, antique Kilim rugs were considered artifacts of primordial tribal design unaffected by the influence of high art or foreign culture. Once overlooked as low status items, antique Kilims are now cherished as examples of the authentic weaving tradition of the Middle East.
We pride ourselves on a distinctive collection of Kilims. For those interested in buying vintage Kilim rugs, our collection of antique carpets offers an extraordinary range of designs and colors. We also carry a vast selection of more modern Kilims for the contemporary home. Shop online or contact us at our Charlotte, North Carolina location to shop for kilim carpets that reflect your style.