In a small house in a Turkish village, a young girl sits in front of a loom weaving woolen threads to create a kilim rug. Her mother taught her to use the loom. Her grandmother taught her the secret language of the symbols and meaning of the colors. The girl makes this rug as part of her wedding dowry. In each rug she weaves her hopes for the future, as well as stories from her past. A fellow weaver could look at the rug and see the story she is telling in the symbols and colors.
Each kilim rug is a unique reflection of the woman who made it. A rug that only one person could have created. At the same time mothers have passed this tradition to their daughters so faithfully, that rugs made today strongly resemble Egyptian rugs dating to the 11th century B.C.
This connection with our past is why we love kilim rugs. These beautiful tapestries are just as relevant to today’s homeowner as they were to our ancestors millennia ago.
What is a Kilim Rug?
Kilim rugs are a pileless hand-woven textile made by one of several flat weaving techniques usually involving a loom. Typically made of wool, the weaver will occasionally incorporate other animal hair, such as camel, goat or horse, into the weave, as well as cotton, silk or even gold threads. Kilim rugs are recognizable by their geometric designs.
The exact origins of kilim rugs are a hotly debated topic. Depending on the speakers nationality a scholar would argue kilim rugs originated in Turkey, Persia or China, and as recently as the 11th century B.C. or as far back as the beginning of sheep domestication. Whatever the kilim rugs origin this folk-art is still a large part of many cultures. Kilim rugs are currently made in Iran, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Persia, Central Asia, China and Northern Africa. Most vintage kilim rugs available for sale come from Turkey.
The Secret Language of Kilim Rugs
Just like traditional written languages the secret language of kilim rugs relies on symbols to impart meaning. Every geometric design represents a word (like bird or wolf) or an idea such as fertility or the goddess of fertility. Even the colors of the rugs represent words, feelings and regions. Unfortunately, many of the symbols meanings have been lost to time.
How to Use Kilim Rugs in Your Home
Since kilim rugs are a flat woven textile they are pliable and thus can be used in a variety of ways. Use a kilim rug as a tablecloth for an instant Bohemian feel. Not only will your guests feel transported to an exotic dining local, but also the busy pattern will help mask stains and spills.
Have an all white bedroom? Replace your bedspread with a kilim rug for a pop of color. Don’t want all of that pattern; use a kilim runner at the foot of the bed to add a little zing. For boring upholstered headboards, drape a small kilim prayer rug in the middle of the bed to break up the vast fabric expanse. The rug provides a custom look with minimal effort!
Upholstery and Pillows
Have an old stained ottoman, don’t replace it reupholster it in kilim. Not only does it look like a professional designed your ottoman, but also the durable kilim will withstand years of abuse, while the rich colors and busy pattern hide stains. Use the leftover material from reupholstering to make matching throw pillows for the sofa to pull the room together.
Rugs of course…
Last of all, use your kilim rug as a rug. Find a large rug to fill an entire room or use several rugs side by side for that Bohemian look. Found a rug you absolutely love, but feel it is dwarfed in your large room. There is a simple solution, purchase a sisal rug (a brown natural fiber rug) the size you need, lay the kilim rug in the middle of the sisal. The sisal will act as a backdrop or a gigantic border for your beloved kilim.
Where to Find Vintage Kilim Rugs… Cheap
The internet has allowed small rug dealers in Turkey to sell their product to you from the comfort of your living room. These rug dealers travel into the surrounding villages and purchase the vintage rugs directly from the families of the weavers. Because of the small supply chain and exchange rate with Turkey you can purchase authentic vintage kilims for a fraction of what American stores might charge.
Etsy and Ebay are wonderful places to find Turkish shops. Some of our favorite rug dealers include Vintagekilim and Istanbul Art and Craft on Etsy.
For more information on kilim rugs check out these websites:
http://www.rugs-oriental.net/turkish-kilim-rug.html (A great site to see the different styles of Turkish kilims and their meaning)
www.kilim.com (This site gives an overview of how kilims are made, where they are from and what the symbols mean)