Turkish carpets and rugs, whether hand knotted or flat woven (kilim, soumak, cicim, zili), are among the most well known and established hand crafted art works in the world. Historically: religious, cultural, environmental, sociopolitical and socioeconomic conditions created widespread utilitarian need and have provided artistic inspiration among the many tribal peoples and ethnic groups in Central Asia and Turkey. The term tends to cover not just the products of the modern territory of Turkey, but also those of Turkish peoples living elsewhere, mostly to the east of Anatolia.
Apparently originating in the traditions of largely nomadic Turkic peoples, the Turkish carpet, like the Persian carpet, developed during the medieval Seljuk period a more sophisticated urban aspect, produced in large workshops for commissions by the court and for export. The many styles of design reached maturity during the early Ottoman Empire, and most modern production, especially for export, looks back to the styles of that period. Turkish (also known as Anatolian) rugs and carpets are made in a wide range of distinct styles originating from various regions in Anatolia. Important differentiators between these styles may include: the materials, construction method, patterns and motif, geography, cultural identity and intended use.
Only natural fibers are used in handmade rugs. The most common materials used for the pile are wool, silk and cotton. Sometimes, goat and camel hair are also used by nomadic and village weavers.
Wool is the most frequently used pile material in a handmade rug because it is soft, durable, easy to work with and not too expensive. This combination of characteristics is not found in other natural fibers. Wool comes from the coats of sheep. Natural wool comes in colors of white, brown, fawn, yellow and gray, which are sometimes used directly without going through a dyeing process. The many colors of Turkish carpets are mostly derived from natural local materials.
BLACK SHEEP’S WOOL
WHITE SHEEP’S WOOL
Natural White (Ivory)
LICORICE – ONION SKINS
Cotton is used primarily in the foundation of rugs. However, some weaving groups such as Turkomans also use cotton for weaving small white details into the rug in order to create contrast.
Wool on wool (wool pile on wool warp and weft): This is the most traditional and often the most “authentic” (if such a word can be used) type of Anatolian rug. Wool on wool carpet weaving dates back further and utilizes more traditional design motifs than it’s counterparts. Because wool cannot be spun extra finely, the knot count is often not as high as a “wool on cotton” or “silk on silk” rug. Wool on wool carpets tend to be more tribal or nomadic using traditional geometric designs or otherwise non-intricate patterns.
Wool on cotton (wool pile on cotton warp and weft): This particular combination facilitates a more intricate design pattern than a “wool on wool carpet”, as cotton can be finely spun which allows for a higher knot count. A “wool on cotton” rug is often indicative of a so-called, “city rug”. Wool on cotton rugs feature floral designs and flourishes in addition to traditional geometric patterns.
Silk on silk (silk pile on silk warp and weft): This is perhaps the most intricate type of carpet; featuring a very fine weave. Knot counts on some superior quality “silk on silk” rugs can be as high as 28×28 knots/cm2. Knot counts for silk carpets intended for floor coverings should be no greater than 100 knots per square cm, or 10×10 knots/cm2. Carpets woven with a knot count greater than 10×10 knots/cm2 should only be used as a wall or pillow tapestry. These very fine, intricately woven rugs and carpets are usually no larger than 3×3 m.