I have a long time crush on colorful kilims and even used some in our own home, a few houses back. They are pretty as rugs but they also come as fun throw pillows, wall hangings, sometimes even upholstery. The word ¨kilim¨ originates from the Persian term ¨gelim¨, meaning ¨to spread roughly¨. According to Wiki, kilims are flat-woven rugs with a thin, soft texture that resembles tapestries. Although they are woven in many different parts of the world, from the Balkans, Turkey to Persia and the Caucasus, the loveliest and most highly regarded ones are the Turkish.
Original Turkish kilims were hand-made using wool and natural dyes and were an important part of Anatolian folk art. The smaller sized kilims were used as prayer rugs, while the larger pieces were used more as floor coverings. Because of the cultural aspects involved in producing these rugs, each geographic region has its own traditions, its own preference of style, colors and symbolism. Some of the most common motifs interwoven in kilims are hand-on-hip females (symbols of fertility), the eye ( thought to ward of the evil eye), the amulet (for protection and good luck), the wolf’s mouth (to protect flocks against wolves) and the scorpion (protection against scorpion bite).
As kilims became very popular in Western household decor, there are still many Turkish centers today that produce contemporary kilims. There is a high demand and a serious market for vintage kilims as well as new ones. The well preserved antique kilims are a pleasure to come by, thought they might cost you a pretty penny.
Here are a few of my favorite kilim styles, distinguished by the areas they are produced in:
BALIKESIR: ¨Located in the north-west part of Turkey, Balıkesir is home of many tribes who wove glorious kilims. One of these tribes called Aydınlı uses ancient and totemic patterns that can be traced back to polished stone age. ¨
YUNCU: ¨Located in Balıkesir region, Yuncu has been home of reputed kilims, woven with large and powerful ornaments since the 16th century. The most prominent features of these kilims are the tree of life or a pole with ram horns emerging from it. Red, blue, dark green are dominant colors for Yuncu kilims which are woven mostly in square form and made smaller than Anatolian kilims. Yuncu kilims are dyed with madder roots (red color) and blue (indigo). ¨
AYDIN: ¨Aydın, located in western Anatolia, is noted for prayer kilims as well as large kilims with two halves. With many infill motifs, these kilims look busier then than the usual flat-woven rug. Small squarish emblems repeated vertically, hooked motifs and large central medallions are typical for Aydin kilims. ¨
GAZIANTEP: ¨Situated in the south-eastern part of Turkey, near the Syrian border, Gaziantep was once the home of very fine kilims. Although Gaziantep doesn’t produce a great number of Turkish kilim rugs today, old Anteps still appear on the market. Woven in the slit weave technique, Gaziantep kilims feature diamond designs (central diamond flanked by two smaller ones) and six pointed stars. Gaziantep kilims have horizontal bands with various colors. The ying-yang design (symbolizing harmony) and the scorpion appear often on the these kilims. The patterns are often highlighted with a white cotton surround for a special effect.¨
KARS: ¨Kars, which is a major town on the Turkish Armenian border, produces kilims with Kurdish and Caucasian influence. Turkish kilim rugs made in the Kars region feature a great variety of praying arches, repeating medallions and geometric compositions. The quality of these kilims and their patters change from very simple tribal designs to sophisticated and complex motifs. Though antique Kars kilims feature dark colors, the ones produced more recently tend to use a softer palette, such as light browns, pinks, orange and white.¨
For more info about Turkish kilims or oriental rugs in general, this site is a great source.