carpets and kilims are unique products carrying valuable traditional
messages from the depths of history to the present, from Central Asia
to Anatolia. Thus, every single Turkish carpet and kilim has a general
and rich message it carries through meaningful and colourful patterns.
The carpet is
a gift from the Turkish people to world civilisation. The knotted
rug, the earliest samples of which have been found in Central Asia
where the Turks used to live is an art form discovered, developed
and presented to the world by the Turks. In order to protect themselves
from the cold of the Central Asian steppes where they used to live,
the Turks invented the carpet using lamb's wool which was abundant,
and findings encountered in Central Asia prove this. Turks have taken
this art form with them and spread it wherever they have travelled.
In the 1940s, when the Russian archaeologist Rudenko was excavating
burial mounds at Pazyryk in the foothills of the Altai Mountains in
Siberia where Turkish people used to live, he discovered the earliest
surviving carpet in the world in the fifth of the mounds. Dating from
between the 3rd and 2nd Centuries BC, this carpet was woven using
the Turkish knot and it is generally accepted that this carpet is
attributed to the Asian Khuns.
The carpet is a woven textile which is produced by knotting coloured
threads on the warp, compressed by the weft. Two types of knots are
used in producing carpets: The Turkish (Gördes-symmetrical) knot is
wrapped around two warps and the Persian (Sine-asymmetric) knot around
a single warp. The Gördes knot makes a carpet stronger, firmer and
more durable, while the Sine knot allows the weaving of different
patterns. The tighter the knots, the finer and stronger is the carpet.
The richness of Turkish culture shows itself in the world of wool
weaving ranging from carpets to kilims (kelims), keçes, cecims, palas,
kiviz, kidiz, sergis and yaygis. They serve several functions in terms
of aesthetic sensitivity, of ground coverings, of protecting from
the cold and of the family's and public's viewpoint of life and nature.
Turkish carpets and kilims are among the most valuable pieces of the
collections of museums and collectors in the world. Today, world museums
exhibit the carpets woven in Anatolia, beginning from the Seljuq period
and continuing with the Ottoman Empire as their most important and
valuable works of art.
have had a vast influence on an extensive zone ranging from Central
Asia to Europe. From the middle of the 15th century, carpets exported
from Turkey were highly appreciated in Europe and Turkish carpets
played a great role in the social life of Europe. These carpets are
reflected widely in the paintings of the time and they are illustrated
precisely. This interest, which grew and continued in the 16th and
17th centuries, especially during Renaissance period, is shown the
existence of at least one or more Anatolian carpets in portraits of
aristocrats, religious figures or other illustrations. Turkish carpets
were so highly prized in Europe that they more often graced the table
than the floor. Because Turkish carpets were highly esteemed, possession
of a Turkish carpet was regarded as a status symbol. Hans Holbein,
Lorenzo Lotto, Carlo Crivelli, Hans Memling, and Gentile Bellini are
some of painters who used Turkish carpets in their paintings. Anatolian
carpets and kilims with their lively colours, motifs, patterns and
superior quality, have a universal reputation. Natural dyes are used,
and many families have kept their knowledge of which leaves, flowers,
roots and vegetables would yield the most radiant colours.
WHAT IS A KILIM?
Rugs are flat (pileless), un-knotted hand-woven textiles used as floor
and wall coverings. In this context, knotted textiles are called carpets,
and as is known, they may be hand-woven or machine-made.
Kilim, a word
of Turkish origin, is often applied in common usage both in Turkey
and the world to all flatwoven (pileless) rugs, but actually it denotes
only those flatwoven rugs which are made by a technique peculiar to
kilims. In other words, rugs are classified according to the weaving
technique and in Turkey, called as kilims, cicim, sumak, zili or sili,
palaz and others. Unlike carpets, rugs are woven on a loom using vertical
warps and horizontal wefts to weave the threads together much as any
handmade fabric is woven. Neverthless, throughout the brochure, the
word "kilim (kelim) is used to denote all rugs.
Usually the warp
(the length of kilim) is made of wool, and the weft (the width of
kilim) of wool or cotton. The coloured threads are completely woven
into the kilim like a basket, making it reversible. Although the face
may be distinguished from the reverse, the difference is so slight
that either side may be used.
THE LANGUAGE OF
Carpets and kilims since their beginning, were not created just for
meeting man's physical needs but also for his psychological wishes.
Religious beliefs and ritual life enrich and develop philosophical
thoughts and the soul of man. This influences both the artist and
his work in various ways. Just looking at the motifs and compositions
in the carpets and kilims makes this evident.
and kilims are unique products carrying valuable traditional messages
from the depths of history to the present, from Central Asia to Anatolia.
In other words, Turkish carpets and kilims had a function as a "communication
device" in the contemporary sense of the work. Thus, every single
Turkish carpet and kilim has a general and rich message it carries
through meaningful and colourful patterns.
The meanings of the motifs in Turkish carpets are different depending
on the region. However, generally the motives symbolize religious
beliefs, nobility, power and the other themes described below briefly.
The language of carpets and kilims not only indicates the skill of
the weaver but also (whether they are understood or not) transmits
THE MAJOR MOTIFS USED IN TURKISH CARPETS & KILIMS
Amulet and Evil Eye (Muska ve Nazarlik): It is believed that some
people possess a power in their glance which causes harm, injury,
misfortune and even death. Evil eyes are various objects that reduce
the effect of the evil glance, thus protecting the ones who carry
them. "Muska" is a written charm which is believed to have
magical and religious power to protect the possessor from dangerous
Bird (Kus): The bird motifs seen in Turkish carpets have various meanings.
While birds like owls and ravens imply bad luck, doves, pigeons and
nightingales are used to symbolize good luck. The bird is the symbol
of happiness, joy and love. It stands for power and strength. It is
the imperial symbol of various states founded in Anatolia. The birds
also refers to divine messengers and long life. The Anka bird (Phoenix)
fighting with the dragon refers to spring.
Burdock is a plant with burrs which stick to the clothing of people
and the hair of animals. It is believed to be capable of warding off
the evil eye. On the other hand, the fact that the term "like
a burdock" means full of flowers, accounts for the use of this
motif on flour bags as a symbol of abundance.
Chest (Sandik): This motif in general, symbolizes the trousseau chest
of a young girl. Since the objects in this chest is to be used in
the husband's house, the expectations and hopes of the young girl
are reflected in the pieces she has woven, knitted and embroidered.
Cross and Hook
(Çengel ve Ha?: In Turkish carpets hooks and various cross types
are used frequently to protect from danger.
Dragon (Ejderha): The Dragon is a mythological creature whose feet
are like the lion's, whose tail is like a snake and who has wings.
The dragon is the master of the air and water. The flight of the dragon
and the Phoenix is believed to bring fertile rains of spring. The
Dragon, believed to be a great serpent, is the guardian of treasures
and secret objects as well as the tree of life.
Eagle figures symbolizing such elements as power, might, amulets,
government heraldry and charm originating from old religious traditions
can be observed as totems in carpet-weaving.
They are indispensable as a wedding present in Anatolia. A girl using
this motif is trying to inform her family that she wants to get married.
Eye (Göz): It is believed that some people possess a power in their
glance which causes harm, injury, misfortune and even death. The eye
motifs were produced because of the belief that the human eye is the
best protection against evil gazes. A triangle is the simplest example
of the eye motif.
Fertility (Bereket) : Hands on hips and ram's horn motifs used together
denote a man and a woman. The fertility pattern is composed of two
'elibelinde' motifs indicating the female and two 'koçboynuzu' motifs
indicating the male. The eye motif in the middle of composition is
used to protect the family against the evil eye.
Fetter (Bukagi): It symbolizes the continuity of the family union,
the devotion of the lovers and the hope that they should always stay
Hand, Finger and
Comb (El, Parmak ve Tarak): Hand, finger comb motifs including five
points and five lines represent the belief that fingers are protection
from the evil eye. Hand motifs combining productivity and good fortune
also are a holy motif because it symbolizes the hand of the prophet
Mohammed's sister. The comb motif is largely related with marriage
and birth. It is used to express the desire for getting married and
to protect birth and marriage against the evil eye.
Hands on hips
(Elibelinde): This is the symbol of femininity, motherhood and fertility.
Hair Band (Saçbagi):
This motif indicates the desire of getting married. And if the woman
uses some of her hair in weaving, she is trying to express her desire
Ram's Horn (Koçboynuzu):
Ram's horn represents productivity, heroism, power and masculinity
in Turkish carpets.
Running water: It emphasizes the importance of water in human life.
Scorpion (Akrep): Due to the fear of its venom, people used to carry
jewellery in the form of a scorpion or decorated with the tail of
a scorpion in order to protect themselves against this animal. The
scorpion motif is used for the same purpose.
Star (Yildiz): The star motif in Turkish carpets expresses productivity.
Tree of life (Hayat agaci): It is the symbol of eternity. The life
tree represents the search for immortality and the hope of life after
Wolf's mouth, wolf's track and monster's feet: People use these motifs
as a means of protection against wolves and monsters. Since ancient
times men have believed that they could control and protect themselves
from dangerous animal by imitating them or by creating a similar form.
The purpose of using them on the carpets is the same.
TYPES OF CARPETS
AND KILIMS IN TURKEY
The carpets derive their names from the localities in which they were
produced, as well as from the techniques of their manufacture, the
characteristic patterns of their ornamentation, the layout of the
design, and the colour scheme.
Anatolia has a very rich weaving culture. Every single city, town
and village is a weaving centre. Understanding the structure of Turkish
carpets and flat woven coverings can only be possible through a detailed
research of those centres.
Anatolia is a synonym for that part of Turkey which is in Asia, traditionally
called Asia Minor. In all carpets described as "Anatolian"
the Turkish or Gördes Knot is used.
Bergama - Bergama is one of the most famous ancient carpet weaving
centres. In Bergama carpets, black, red, green, blue, yellow and pink
colours are dominant. The material used for Bergama carpets is wool
just as the rest in all Anatolia. Obtaining the wool and creating
yarns is done through traditional ways. The motifs of Bergama carpets
have mostly plant-like, herbal characteristics.
Çanakkale - Carpet making is widespread in small towns and villages
in the vicinity of Çanakkale, Ezine, Ayvacik and Bayrami? It has
a very long history in this region. Originally, flat-woven weaving
took place. The main material is wool; the proportion of wool in most
of the carpets is 100%, and all the carpets are produced in traditional
dimensions. Green, red, blue and yellow are the main colours. Due
to migrations from Caucasus, the carpets of Canakkale region offer
great similarities with the Caucasus carpets.
Dösemealti - These
carpets are knotted with naturally dyed 100% plateau wool yarn, by
Dösemealti nomads (Yörüks) living on the plateaus around Antalya.
They produce handmade carpets called Dösemealti, by using the pure
wool and vegetal dyes that they make on their own. The design reflects
the nomadic taste, which is expressed in geometric patterns and a
colour harmony of blue, dark green and red.
Gördes - Gördes is a town in Western Turkey. It has been a center
of weaving since the eighteenth century. Gördes prayer rugs are amongst
the most sought-after of all oriental carpets and are distinictive
in design. The prayer rugs of Gördes are noted not only for giving
their name to the Turkish knot but also for being the group of rugs
that are mostly influenced by the Ottoman palace carpets. In general
these rugs can be distinguished by the following characteristics;
the high arch of the prayer niche is finely stepped and has undulating
contours; they exhibit an extremely high quality of weaving, using
shiny wool in tight knots; and they have a short pile. Vivid red with
various shades of green, yellow, blue and cream are the colours most
Hakkari Kilims - Hakkari Kilims which have peculiar designs and motifs
are produced of madder and wool. Hakkari kilims include thirty main
motifs. Herki, Sumarki, Samari, Halitbey, Gülhazar, Gülsarya, Gülgever
and Sine are the most commonly used designs. Five main colours are
used in Hakkari kilims; red or bordeaux, dark blue, brown, black and
Hereke - The most
famous and finest pure silk carpets in the world are produced in the
small town of Hereke, in 60 km east of Istanbul. Hereke carpets are
recognised by this name in the carpets literature and they have an
extraordinary place among the world carpets. These carpets which form
a special group in our carpet weaving art and which are known by the
name of "Palace carpets", were woven in workshops within
the Royal Palace or belonging to the court during Ottoman period and
they were made for the Sultans. The dominant colours in Hereke carpets
are dark blue, cream and cinnamon and occasionally yellow and green
are used. The traditional floral designs are common and each design
has its own name, such as : Seljuk Star, Seven Mountain Flowers, Ploneise,
101 Flowers, and Tulip. The flowers in the design and the harmony
of colours add warmth to the houses.
Isparta - The
city of Isparta is located in southwest Turkey in an area that is
also known as the "Region of Lakes". Today Isparta is considered
as one of the major rug-producing centres of the country. Threads
used for weft and warp are also manufactured in this city. The warp
and weft on Isparta rugs are made of cotton, knots are wool, and both
Gördes and Shena knots are used. Apart from general Turkish designs,
floral designs are also used in Isparta carpets.
Karabag Kilims - These are very colourful carpets that are generally
produced in the eastern Anatolia region. Flowers, leaves and boughs
of nature is in a way the reflection of the spirit of eastern people
who are yearning for those beauties in their weavings. These kilims
with big flowers are influenced by Karabag kilims of Caucasus.
Kars - This city
is located near the Russian border of Turkey, produces carpets designed
in the Caucasian style. Natural dyed wool is used with the dominate
colours navy blue, red and cream. The extremely valuable hand-spun
mountain wool is used in the hand weaving. The traditional patterns
are large geometrical designs. The brown on Kars carpets is the natural
colour of the sheep fleece.
Kayseri - The carpets woven in Kayseri and its surroundings make up
the major part of Turkish carpet art. Kayseri carpets can be set in
two groups: Bünyan carpets and Yahyali carpets. The wrap of Bunyan
carpets is cotton and the weaving thread is wool and floss silk. Commonly
used colours are natural ones, white black, grey and purple. The grounds
are usually red, blue and deep blue. The most important feature that
differs Yahyali carpets from Bunyan carpets is both use wool threads
in wrapping and weaving. Another characteristic of Yahyali carpets
is that they use geometric shapes and floral motifs and the threads
used are coloured in madder. The dominance of navy blue, red, brown
and grey is very clearly seen on these carpets.
Konya - The tradition
of carpet weaving in Konya, former capital of the Seljuqs, goes back
to the 13th century. Konya is a producer of carpets of pure wool including
the famous Ladik carpets. The dominance of pastel colours in Konya
carpets is noticeable. Red yellow and green are frequently seen.
Kula - Kula is the name of a town in western Anatolia where wool carpets
are made. In the villages of Kula, carpets are woven on a woollen
warp. Most of its parts have strong geometric designs. The colours
are rich but soft consisting of earth tones of rust, green, gold,
and blue. However, the dominant colours are pastel. They are mostly
blended with pastel colours.
Ladik - In Ladik carpets, one can find the richness of form and design,
harmony of colour of the utmost brightness and liveliness. In Ladik
carpets the richness of colour demonstrates the optimism. Ladik carpets
generally have a mihrab on them, which shows that the love of worship
and pious belief is widespread in Ladik.
Milas - Milas
is the centre of a weaving area in Western Turkey near Izmir. It gives
its name to all the carpets produced in the region. Milas carpets
are knotted with naturally dyed 100% wool. These carpets are woven
frequently in different shades of brown, gray, brick-red and various
other colours. The dominance of light brown and yellow can be seen
in Milas carpets. Geometric designs are dominant in the pattern.
Sivas - These carpets are made in and around the city of Sivas in
Turkey. The most important features of Sivas carpets are its wool,
dense weaving and thick appearance. The thread is folded and thick.
The carpets are mostly woven with the Persian knot. We can see the
Iran and the Seljuq embroideries in Sivas carpets. Another feature
of Sivas carpets is the soft colors used in them. Dark blue, red and
its tones are common.
Taspinar - Taspinar is a small town within the carpet weaving area
of Aksaray. Taspinar produces excellent carpets of a thick pile, knotted
in high quality wool. They have a predominantly blue and red field
enlivened by delicate motifs in lighter shades. The yarn is dyed with
natural vegetable dyes by the Caucasian methods. In the old Taspinar
carpets the Persian influences such as plant figures and geometric
designs can be seen. New carpets are woven in the same rich colours
as the old ones, but the designs are varied. They are woven with 100%
pure wool yarn. The dominant colours are red and navy blue.
Usak - Usak carpets
were originally a status symbol found only in homes of princes and
rich merchants. These carpets were frequently used in Christian cathedrals
and churches in the west. Usak carpets indicates the beginning of
the rise of a new and brilliant period in Turkish carpet weaving corresponding
to the classical period in Ottoman architecture and other art, with
an extraordinary diversity of floral motifs and compositions . Usak
carpets can be divided into two main types: those with medallions
and those with the design of stars.
Van Kilims - Colours used on Van kilims are mainly dark blue, red
black, natural brown and white with yellow shades. We can describe
the main features of the Van kilims by the shortness of loop stitches,
dark coluors, diversity of motifs, single borders, the stylized floral
and animal figures alongside with the geometrical and symmetrical
Yagcibedir - Yagci
Bedir carpets produced in the mountain villages of the Balikesir and
known as one of the best quality of their kind. The dominant colours
of these very soft carpets are dark blue and red. The deep blue of
the Aegean gives the basic colour. They are patterned with geometric
forms, stylised birds and numerous stars of Solomon, and framed in
a border of five or seven bands .
Yuntdagi - These carpets are knotted with 100% wool. The dominance
of green and white can be clearly seen on these carpets. The colours
are mainly pastel. These carpets are knotted mainly in mihrap and
medallion designs and there is a dominance of geometric figures.
Acquiring exact figures of production is very difficult since hand
made carpets and kilims are produced in every part of Turkey especially
in rural areas for non-commercial purposes. The estimated production
of hand-made carpets and kilims is 3.5 million sqm/year. The production
is mainly located in Antalya, Balikesir, Bergama, Bünyan, Çanakkale,
Erzurum, Esme, Gördes, Hakkari, Hereke, Isparta, Kars, Kayseri, Konya,
Kula, Laidk, Milas, Manisa, Sindirgi, Siirt, Sivas, Taspinar, Nigde,
Usak, Van and Yuntdagi.
Both private and public sector organizations produce hand woven carpets
and kilims in Turkey. Apart from these, production cooperations have
a important role producing hand woven carpets and kilims. Production
of carpets has been largely organized by Sumerhali A.S., which is
a public enterprise. It is estimated that 1,5 million people are working
in this sector.
The total value
of hand-made carpets and kilims exported in 2003 was about US $ 85
million. Turkish hand-made carpets and kilims are exported to a wide
range of countries in the world. Major export markets are: Germany,
the USA, Japan, Italy, Spain, England and Switzerland. In addition
to this, Turkish hand-made carpet and kilim producers enjoy big sales
to foreign tourists. Almost every foreigner visiting Turkey has the
idea of buying a kilim in his mind; most go back to their home country
with one or more.
Turkey not only has a strong position in the traditional Turkish hand-made
carpets but also in machine-made carpet production. Machine-made carpet
production in Turkey is located mainly in Gaziantep, Kayseri and Istanbul.
Machine-made carpets are produced both in workshops and industrial
scale manufacturing units. Raw materials used in the production of
machine-made carpets are supplied both from Turkey and from abroad.
Carpets and area rugs for both residential and commercial applications
are produced from wool, acrylic, polypropylene fiber.
machine-made carpet capacity is about 180 million sqm. The total value
of machine-made carpets exported in 2002 was about US $ 200 million.
Major export markets are Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Romania, the USA,
Kazakhstan, Greece, Germany, Israel and United Arap Emirates.
Today, Turkey with its strong competitiveness in quality, latest technology,
and high production capacity, is among the most important machine-made
carpet producers and suppliers in the world. Turkish machine-made
carpet producers continuously introduce new trends, a large variety
of different types of carpets, new designs and colours to world markets.
Quality aspects like durability, colour fastness, anti-soiling finish
and ease of cleaning are the important characteristics of the Turkish
machine made carpets industry.
As an important
carpet exporting country, many fairs are held in Turkey in the carpet
sector every year. Major fairs in the Turkish carpet industry in 2005
are as follows:
"Eurasia Floor" The Fifth Sector Fair of Floor Covering
Materials in Istanbul in March 10-13, 2005
(Export Promotion Center of Turkey) Prepared by Alpaslan Emek