Kilims rugs home page

    THE hard, smooth coverings known as kilims (double-faced) are exported in large quantities from different parts of the East, and are of such thoroughly Oriental character as to entitle them to a prominent place in consideration; but their scope in the matter of execution is so limited, they follow type so closely, that there is no call, and indeed no latitude, for exhaustive discussion of them. In many respects there are no rugs made in the East which are more attractive than genuinely good kilims. There they have been employed as floor-coverings from the very earliest times; in America they are used for portieres and covers. The artistic skill shown in them consists in the novel adjustment of colors. So deft are the Eastern weavers in this that two rugs of the selfsame design, but with colors differently distributed, look utterly unlike, and will pass for altogether dissimilar conceits. The hues are broad and in some degree crude. The treatment is wholly rectilinear, but harmony and softness of effect are secured in most of the kilims by projecting a series of rectangular extensions from one body of color upon that adjoining, as in Daghestan, Soumak and other Caucasian piled rugs. This peculiar but most effective edging does not interfere in the least with the design. It is as complete as though its outlines were smooth and direct instead of being broken by such numberless serrations and indentations. Indeed, when it is considered how confusing these irregularities are, the skill of the designer and weaver seem magnified fourfold. To one unfamiliar with the fabrics the serration and diversification seem paramount. It is only when viewed from a distance, where the unity of the design may be seen and the softening effect of these notched edges understood, that the comprehensive beauty of the kilims is apparent. This singular factor, which rather engrosses attention at first, is only the skilful means to an end; but it accomplishes its mission so well that it seems to be the ruling motive of the fabric, and it creates in the kilims some subtle force of fascination which precludes their ever becoming wearisome.

    And to heighten even further the efficacy of the square-notched edges, the weaver puts in at the end of each of the reciprocal projections a tiny patch or line of some third color, often woven into ornamental shapes. At first inspection this escapes the eye; it is only when one wonders how these uncomplimentary colors can join in such a restful ensemble that this fine device is discovered. The small patterns are usually outlined all about, in the same fashion and with the same purpose. It is doubtful if such an array of startling colors, in such large areas, could be combined in any other way without palling. The necessity for some such trick as this, in working out the kilims design and color scheme, suggests itself at once. In the first place, they are smooth-surface rugs, and so devoid of all the softening effects which naturally come from the use of pile. The yarn of which they are woven is twisted so that it is harder and more linen-like than any wool yarns used in the pile rugs, and makes, where entirely different colors are brought close to one another, the most severe line of demarcation. The method, or stitch, is calculated to emphasize this harshness.

    It is probable, from the general character of the stuffs, that the kilims present more nearly the primitive fashion of weaving — working out with weft-threads of different colors, by passing them around the warp, the patterns which in most Eastern fabrics are produced by knotting.

    Sellers of rugs rarely go to the pains of distinguishing between the several varieties of kilims, and indeed it may be difficult to do so, save in the case of the Sehnas, which differ radically from all the rest. In everything except the difference of method they are exact reproductions of the Sehna piled rugs, and can be identified by the description given of the Sehnas under the head of Persian Fabrics. The designs and colors are the same, and in point of fineness they as far excel the other kilims as the Sehna piled products do the rugs of Karabagh or Shirvan.

    Aside from them, nearly all the kilims offered for sale in America are comprised in four classes — Kurdish, Shirvan, Merv, and Tekke or Karamanian. The Karamanian and sometimes the Kurdish are made in two sections and sewed together afterward. The discrepancy between the two sides, where parts of the pattern are supposed to unite at the seam, is greater or less, but rather adds to the interest in the fabric than detracts from it. The Kurdish kilims are made all through Kurdistan, but those from the Persian side of the border show more of finish. The Karamanians are mostly woven by Yuruks and Turkomans in the Sanjak of Tekke in old Cappadocia, along the plateaus of the Taurus. The population is mixed, but Turkomans predominate. Some kilims which bear the name Karamanian are also woven by Christian women in the towns.

    The Kurdish and Karamanian kilims differ chiefly in point of coarseness. The Kurdish are finer. There are noticeable in both, and also, in a lesser measure, in the Sehnas, small open spaces at the edges of some figures, where one figure ends on a certain warpthread, and the adjoining one begins on the. next. The uniting stitches of a third color referred to above are omitted, and the multitude of open spaces thus left makes the design seem like a loose insertion. In the heavy pieces known as kis kilims, or winter spreads, these gaps are less frequent, the aim being to make the fabric as compact as possible.

    The patterns are chiefly the geometrical ones of Turkestan and the Caucasus, but though some of the Persian and Arabic ornamental forms appear, all are worked out in a manner peculiar to themselves. Many seemingly intentional irregularities are found. Where, for example, some figure is to be repeated several times in white, it is woven once or twice in cotton, while all the rest are in wool; or where two or more small variegated patterns balance each other, and seem at first to be alike, examination shows that the weaver, evidently out of sheer caprice, has made some curious difference between them.

    The border stripes are not, as a rule, the same all the way around the fabric, as is customary in most of the piled rugs. The stripe patterns across the ends are different from those along the sides, like those of most Turkoman rugs, and the rotation of colors is by no means regular. There is much latitude for the exercise of individual whim in the kilims, and the weavers avail themselves of it to the full.

    In the Merv fabric the number of open spaces is reduced to a minimum. Instead of making the patterns rectangular, and ending on the perpendicular line of the warp, where a gap must be left or the additional labor of joining be incurred, the defining lines of the figure run diagonally, the projections are more pointed, the gap in the web is avoided, and the rug gains greatly in compactness.

    In design these Merv kilims, some of which are of great size are not so startling as the Kurdish and Karamanian. The garish colors are few; the white is more sparingly applied. The field is usually divided transversely into three or four parts, by ornate line patterns. The designs strongly suggest the Beluchistan rugs in this regard. The high lights, as in the Beluchistan, are found in the border — white lines, serrated, very pronounced, running sometimes the entire length of the fabric, with small geometrical devices worked in the angles.

    The methods of weaving are much alike in all the kilims thus far named. The work is done with shuttles, on which the weftthreads are wound. By passing them the colors are carried in and out across the warp, making an even, corded surface, the "grain" of which is the warp itself. Whole figures of the pattern are woven separately. It is this that causes the open spaces between them. The Shirvan kilims follow in general the Daghestan idea of design.

    The Persians have a kilim known as doru, woven in simple stripes all the way across the field. It is made in manner similar to that of the Kurdish and Karamanian. In Turkestan there is made what is known as the Bokhara kilim, which is an altogether different thing. A web is woven in the deep Bokhara red color; upon this is embroidered with thread and needle the characteristic Bokhara design. In Shirvan the same thing is done; all through Turkey, in fact, are made these djijims, following the rug patterns in vogue in their respective localities. They resemble the kilims but little, and should properly be classed with the Baghdad portieres. Among the Kurds and Karamanians, but rarely among the Persians or the people of Merv" the kilims are woven in the form of prayer rugs. The niche in the Karamanian and Kurdish prayer kilims is patterned after the Ghiordes.

    Kilims have of late been extensively made in Serbia, Bosnia, Bulgaria and other parts of Turkey in Europe.

    In many parts of the Orient a fabric called tzoul or tzul is made of coarse wool or goat's-hair and in the kilim stitch, but with no effort at design, except in some cases stripes of the several natural shades of the hair. It is strong, durable and sometimes waterproof. It is the burlaps, the tent-canvas, the horse-blanket, the grain-sack, the traveling-bag — in short, the universal handy wrapping material of the East. It is also used as a filling on floors, and the gay-colored rugs are placed upon it, gaining in brightness by contrast with its dull shades. Among the Karamanians in eastern Anatolia it is customary to work some lively designs upon these tzouls with the needle. home page


Fabrics are produced by knotting:
"As velvet probably originated in Central Asia, and certainly felt, I think it very likely that there also the Turkish tribes first developed the art of sewing tufts of wool on the strings of the warp of the rugs they had learned to make from the Persians, and that the manufacture of these piled rugs was thus introduced by the Saracens into Europe from Turkestan through Persia. The Turks were driven to the invention by the greater coldness of their climate". — Birdtvood: "Industrial Arts of India".

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