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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What is a Kilim?

What is a Kilim?
Patricia L. Cummings

Before a day or so ago, I would not have been able to inform anyone as to what Kilims are, where they are made, or how they are used. Luckily, I was given a Kilim as a gift that came with some loose magazine pages saved from Inspired House magazine, Nov/Dec 2003 issue.The short but informative article was written by freelance writer Martha Riedel of Middlebury, Connecticul.


Fringed kilim, a type of wool rug made and collected in Turkey


I looked up further information. Kilims always have repeat designs. Today, they are mainly made in China, India, and Turkey.
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Kilims are rugs that are flat woven on simple horizontal frames. They look identical on the front and the back.First made about 5 B.C., they continue to be made today.

Symbols are included on rugs of this type made in Persia, China, and other countries.  One way to identify whether or not one has a true kilim is to hold it up to the light. If open slits appear between colors in the woven designs, then it is an authentic kilim. Camel hair and silk are also used in addition to wool to make this type of traditional rug.

The person who gave me this extraordinary gift was traveling through Turkey more than 20 years ago and at first, being familiar with Navajo rug weavings, mistook the rug for a contemporary one of the American southwest.

A book titled titled World Textiles by John Gillow and Bryan Sentence (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1999) shows a kilim from Uzbekistan made with wool in natural earthtone colors. That particular rug features “distinctive hooked-weave motifs sometimes called “running dog".” 

Today’s kilims are made with much brighter colors based on chemical dye methods. The one given to me has bright colors. If one were to base an assessment on that, one could believe it to be contemporary, not antique.

An online site shows some of the symbols often woven into kilims. Find more information here: http://www.kilim.com/about_kilims/motifs

For fun, I looked up the word "kilim" in the The New Oxford American Dictionary to check its pronunciation. It is not what one would think. The term dates from the late 19th century is from Turkish (from Persian). A kilim, according to that same entry is "a flat-woven carpet or rug made in Turkey, Kurdistan and neighboring areas."

The rug pictured above has me intrigued. I am sure it will provide an opportunity for more study of the designs present on it. For now, it has been added to the decor of my guest room where it will get very little wear or traffic!

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