The Meaning of Kilim:
Kilim, a word of Turkish origin, denotes a pileless textile of many uses produced by one of several flat weaving techniques that have a common or closely related heritage and are practiced in the geographical area that includes parts of North Africa, the Balkans, Turkey (Anatolia and Thrace), the Caucasus, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia and China. Kilims are commonly known as Turkish rugs or Turkish carpets.
The Origins of Kilims:
The lack of convincing evidence tying the origins of the generic kilim or Turkish rug, i.e. flat weave, to a specific place and time leads to the conclusion that the technique itself was probably invented independently be various groups in several locations and at different times in the prehistoric era. However, it is widely believed that the kilim or Turkish Rug, as we define it today, has its origins in the tribal flat weaves of Central Asia.
The first kilim is estimated to emerge six-seven thousand years ago. It seems reasonable to suppose that the kilim evolved from purely utilitarian, non-decorative, non-symbolic applications of weaving in some remote period of prehistory when the human spirit began to express itself through various forms of arts and crafts. It also appears likely that the first weaves were merely a technological advance over animal skins which were probably already decorated with dyes or beads when weaving was discovered, so it is probable that some patterns of color were incorporated into some of the early products of the weaver's loom. But when and where did the technological and artistic strands come together to result in what we know today as a kilim remains unknown. As cultures developed and civilizations emerged, these wool clothing began to tell the story and the cultural behaviors and values of the people who made them. They were also used to tell stories and legends and were used as a way of communication. The essence of a kilim is love, peace and understanding; as these are the virtues that make it possible for civilizations to get along and understand each other.
Construction and the Materials Used:
Wool is the primary material used to make kilims. Many kilims are made totally from wool where it is used for both warps and wefts, and wool is the primary weft material used with cotton warps, which accounts for the great majority of all kilims. This popularity of wool is due to its inherent qualities. It is supple, durable, handles easily when spun or woven, readily takes on dyes and, most important, is in plentiful supply in kilim-making regions. There are certain breeds of sheep, like the merino, whose fleece is especially sought-after for its special luster and length of fiber, but actually it's the domestic fat-tailed sheep bred is favourable climatic and grazing conditions that provides much of the excellent fleece used in Turkish rugs. Whatever the source, however, it behoves the kilim maker to use the best wool available to ensure high quality of a kilim if it is to be competitive in world markets. It is generally acknowledged by experts that good quality wool is used today in the production of kilims of repute, thus ensuring them long life - provided they are properly treated.
PARTS OF A KILIM
Wefts run across the width of the rug, over and under the warp strings and between rows of knots. Most often wefts are made of cotton, wool, or silk . Wefts help hold rows of knots in place and strengthen the structure of the rug.
Knots are tied by looping yarn around pairs of warps and cutting off the standing end. The ends of the "knot" become the pile or nap of the rug.
Edge bindings are made by wrapping several warps at the edge of the rug with yarn to reinforce this part of the rug.
End finishes hold knots and wefts from working off the rug's warp strings. Many rug types have a flat-woven kilim selvedge at both ends.
Fringes are formed by gathering and knotting together bundles of warp strings at both ends of the rug after the rug has been cut from the loom. The knots in these bundles of warp strings keep pile knots and end finishes tight at the rug's ends.
The use of vegetables, barks, roots and other natural items to make dyes has been a well known art for many thousands of years. Madder root, indigo, St. John's wart, onion, saffron, sumac, camomile, rhubarb, turmeric, sage, poppy, buckthorn, quince, almond, walnut, chestnut and henna are just a few of the long list of natural dye sources, with madder and indigo perhaps the most commonly used. But what makes dyeing with natural pigment sources approach the esoteric is the fact that in order to achieve a particular hue of color the elements of the "brew" must be just right or the resulting shade will be "off" from what was intended. This means that at least three fundamental variables - the quality and amount of the dyeing agent, the quality and temperature of the water and the time allotted to soaking - must be correctly proportioned in a particular application to the wool, a material with a set of variable properties of its own. To this already complicated brew yet another ingredient is usually added, namely a fixative, a bonding agent known as "mordant". It is applied to the wool before, often during, and occasionally after dyeing. Known as mordanting, this process has its ancient roots in China and India, reportedly passing to Europe via Persia and Turkey. Mordant include the metal compounds potassium aluminium sulphate (alum), copper sulphate, potassium dichromate (chrome), ferrous sulphate (copperas) and stannous chloride (tin); tannin and urine are also used. Below is a list of the major Anatolian dyes used to make kilims:
Woad Blue : From this plant dark or light blue tones are produced by the length of time which the plant is boiled. It is found along the edges of fields groving wild in Central and Western Anatolia. Dyers Woad and some other plants are used to yield indigo which is the oldest and most important blue dye.
Madder Red: The roots of this plant are known as madder. It grows wild in Central and Western Anatolia. A two year old plant will be about one and a half meters height . "Rose madder" was a standard colour on the plates of the old masters of the Renaissance and today, many expensive Italian and English neckties are known as madder ties because of the rich deep toned red colour.
Ox-Eye Camomile Bright Yellow: During the spring, one finds this plant all over Anatolia. It's large, golden yellow flowers a top long stems last throughout the summer. It grows along roadsides and in dry meadows. The flowers, fresh or dried, used along with an alum mordant, produce a bright yellow.
Walnut Tree, Brown: The beautiful walnut tree can be found in the forested country of Eastern Turkey. It is a profusely branched tree which has a height of up to 25 meters and bears peanut leaves. The fruit is covered with a thick green rind which along with the leaves, is often used by villagers for a green or blackish-brown dye. The walnut tree is native in Turkey and is absent only in the regions with several meters. Turkey produces 15-20 percent of the world's walnut crop. The effective colouring agent is the brown dye, juglone, which adheres directly to wool fibres without a mordant (mordant means a fixing agent). In ancient times the walnut pods were used in medicine and for the dyeing of hair.
Pomegranate Tree Yellow to brownish yellow and brown to black: This tree grows in the mild regions of Western, South-western, and North-eastern Anatolia. It's a tall tree with a height of up to 40 meters, with branches that are spiny with very shiny, lance-shaped, dark green leaves. It's easily distinguished by it's beautiful pinkish-violet flowers. During autumn, the tree bears a fruit with many seeds which is the yellow-red skinned pomegranate. The fresh or dried skin of the fruit is used for dyeing. If an alum mordant is used, along with the skin, a yellow brownish shade will result. If an iron mordant is used, a brownish-black shade will result. In Oriental carpets and kilims, the pomegranate is a symbol of fertility and abundance because of it's many seeds.
Buckthorne Deep Yellow: This plant grows only in Turkey on slopes with altitude up to 3000 meters (9843 feet). Before the 20th. century, it was mainly cutivated in Central Anatolia (Konya, Kirsehir, Sivas, Ankara and Kayseri). To day only wild shrubs grow along roadsides, in fields and vineyards at Urgup, Corum and Kahramanmaras, which are areas of farmer cultivation. The unripe fruits, fresh or dried are used to create the dyes. When an alum mordant is used, a deep yellow will result. This deep yellow from the dried fruits is mainly used for dyeing silk. This colour dye is often used to obtain secondary and tertiary colours.
Bast Hemp Brilliant Yellow: This dye is not used as often as other yellow dyes. This plant grows on the mountains of Central and Eastern Anatolia. The brilliant yellow colour is common in older flat weaves. The strong colour is often mistaken for a chemical dye and for this reason it's not popular in Western Anatolia Workshops where weavers cater to foreign market. In Eastern Anatolia, Lake Van area, the kilims are produced for local consumers who prefer bright colours and are less concerned about the distinctions between chemical and natural dyes.
Wild Camomile Yellow: During March, in Western and Southern Anatolia, this camomile plant will cover entire fields with fresh blossoms. With alum mordant, a clear yellow dye will be obtained.
Tree-Leaved Sage Yellow: This herb can be found in most Mediterranean regions. It blooms on the dry hill sides from March up Until August. It is distinctive its tall flowering spikes of mauve or pinkish two-lipped flowers. The leaves and stems, either fresh or dried, are suitable for dyeing. Plants are just one of many sources from which to obtain natural dyes. To obtain a natural dye the plant is boiled to extract the colour. Next, to ensure the absorption of the colour in to the wool a second plant or natural salt is mixed with the dye. This second plant or salt is known as the mordant.
The Difference Between Kilim and Carpet:
The difference between a Turkish rug (kilim) and a regular carpet or pile rug is that whereas the design visible on the kilim is made by interweaving the variously colored wefts and warps, thus creating what is known as a flatweave, in a pile rug individual short strands of different color, usually of wool, are knotted onto the warps and held together by pressing the wefts tightly against each other.
HandMade Kilim Rugs & Kilim Carpets
Handmade rugs have a certain built-in value that ranks them above machine-made products. Hand-made labor is more costly and carries with it a certain expectation of care and quality. Hand-made carpets involve an endless series of choices and decisions, minor twists and turns, that collectively give the piece it's personality and presence, something that the finest machine made carpet lacks. For those who can distinguish such qualities, only hand-made carpets will do, and that involves a certain minimal cost level. Handmade rugs, even a small one, can take many months to produce. A room sized carpet may take the same time, but only because it is produced by multiple weavers working in concert.
Wool is the most common material used in making rugs, at least in regards to the pile or the flat woven facing of the rug. Rug wool comes primarily from sheep, although goat wool can be used as well. Wool quality can vary enormously. Some wool is soft and lustrous, with a silk sheen that is enlivened by proper illumination. Some wools are dull and unreflective. Lustrous wool is moist or lanolin-rich, far healthier and more durable than dry wool. One of the most important choices that weavers make is the quality of their wool. It affects the cost and the value of the rug. As well as it's ability to stand up to use. Some wools, however, are chosen for their fineness, softness, and textural delicacy. these wools come from the neck and the belly of the sheep, like angora wool, or, in the case of the Nepalese pashmina wool, from the downy layer close to the skin of the animal. Wool may be used for the foundation on the rug as well as for the pile or facing. Wool foundations are particularly typical of nomadic and village weavering.