Macnon Miamin Co.
Iranian Handmade Woolean And Silk Kilimss Exporter Since 1993.

Structure and colour Of Kilim

IN ISLAM an art object is underestood without question as a blend of form, decoration and function in an integrated whole. The kilim is the perfect expression of this idea; the structure, pattern and purpose of a woven kilim, bag or saddle cover reflect the pastoral or nomadic lifestyle of the weaver perfectly.

Materials Of Kilim

Until the twentieth century many tribes were utterly self-sufficient in their weaving, a situation unknown in Europe since the Middle Ages. The source of the wool or animal hair, the streams to soak the fleeces, the plants and compounds for dyeing and the timber to make the frame for the loom were all found within their tribal boundaries, whether they were nomadic or semi-nomadic. Kilims from different geographical, and hence tribal, areas show startling variations in colour and texture, and this is in part due to the very specific localized sources of these basic raw materials.

Weaving is a craft of extraordinary antiquity. The weaving of blankets and mats using reeds and grasses can be charted back to the palaeolithic period and the use of animal wool or hair for weaving coincides with the domestication of sheep and goats, around 8000 B.C. Throughout Central Asia the dominant source of yarn has always been the domesticated sheep, of which there are three types, fat—tailed, long-tailed and fat—rumped. The fat—tailed sheep are found throughout Asia and their tails can develop to an enormous size — 30 or 40 pounds has been noted. This pendulous tail not only sustains the sheep throughout the dry season but also forms a platter-like source of food for the pastoralists. The quality of wool from all sheep depends entirely on climate and pasture, and the wool from the fat-tailed sheep is famous for its hard, coarse and long staple that gives a lustrous shine with excellent dye—taking qualities. Up in the mountains of Asia, the cool, dry climate gives rise to a fleece that is much finer and silkier than that from the hot, dusty plains.

Long-tailed sheep are found on the southern borders of Afghanistan and fat—rumped sheep in Turkestan, a tribal area that is now part of Central Asia. Unlike flocks in the more developed world, where breeding has produced fleeces of uniform colour, sheep are found throughout Asia which are brown, black, white and a misty red, all in one flock,T and sometimes all on one animal.

Camels, goats and horses also provide a source for yarn. Goat hair is trimmed next to the skin, from beneath the unkempt fleece, and is used for its strength and itsattractive, high sheen. The warps of saddle and donkey bags, animal covers and some of the kilims of Central Asia are made of goat hair, or of goat hair and sheep's wool combined. The sides. of the kilims, the selvedges, are often of goat hair, and those made by the desert tribespeople of Balouchistan are frequently seen with fine goat hair stitching down the centre to join two narrow strips together as one rug. The tents of the Balouch people are made from a bent-wood, barrel-vaulted frame, wrapped in sewn strips of woven goat hair — a tough, if aromatic, structure. .

There is a Persian proverb that says: ‘T he camel eats useless weeds, carries heavy burdens and does no one harm’, to which should be added — ‘and provides hair as fine as silk’. A better insulator than sheep's wool, camel hair is shorn from the neck, throat and chin, and plucked frome the coat during the spring moult. Camel hair is used for both the weft and warp in kilims, to rich and subtle effect, especially when it is left undyed. This is typical of the older kilims of Persia and Afghanistan, Although camel hair is still used today for twining ropes and bands.

Horse hair from the mane and tail is often tied in tassels on bags and, like goat hair, it gives added strength in binding and finishing a kilim. White cotton has always been used by certain tribes, and is becoming increasingly popular as a way of highlighting designs and patterns. Unlike white wool, cotton does not turn cream or ivory in colour with age. Its structural qualities are also much valued. Very fine kilims from Senna in north-west Persia, originally made for the court in a workshop environment, used cotton warps, as wool of an equivalent delicacy would have been very brittle. Since the turn of this century cotton has tended to replace wool in the warps of both Anatolian and Persian kilims. This is a good indication of how commerical zeal can influence traditional practice. Previously, there was no alternative to wool or local materials and a weaver would never have parted with cash for cotton to weave into a kilim that she was not intending to sell for profit. Cotton and wool mixtures are found in nineteenth-century kilims, and the spinning of the materials together results in a fine, strong yet supple yarn.

Silk is rarely woven into kilims and only the fine Safavid kilims of over two hundred years ago were woven in silk, interlaced with precious metals, for thefashions and ephemeral desires of the Persian court. Silk thread is used, however, as very fine brocade or decoration on storage bags of the Turkoman tribes of southern Central Asia, the Tekke and the Yomut. Precious metals and silks were coveted as the finest kilim decorations over many centuries, and it is amusing today to see their glitzy modern counterpart, lurex, in the most fluorescent colours, woven with pride into the contemporary, but traditionally functional, kilims of eastern Persia and west Afghanistan.

Shearing and Washing

Shearing of the wool takes place once a year in spring or early summer, although in eastern Anatolia, around the shores of Lake Van, lambs are shorn in autumn, yielding a first fleece of short, weak wool. If possible, the washing of the wool begins before shearing, when animals are driven through a river or stream to remove superficial grime and debris. The fleece is shorn from the sheep with hand scissors or clippers, then washed, dried and washed again in a repeated process until the wool is clean. Soft water is ideal for cleansing the wool, and good streams and pools are jealously guarded by families over generations, their rights of use being an important part of the dowry exchange. The Qashqai of southern Persia scour their wool in a boiling solution of » bicarbonate of soda or potash to remove excess natural fats and lanolin and in the Caucasus the fleece is pounded lightly with a thin board on stones to loosen the dirt. In the arid deserts of Balouchistan, eastern Persia and west Afghanistan the wool is left unwashed, merely shaken and exposed to the sun. In all cases, the cleaning and preparation of the fleece for spinning is complete after drying in the sun for a short time. Cardirzg

Cleaned wool and cotton is carded by drawing the fibres over and through pins set into a block of wood, or with the fingers alone. Throughout the Middle East and Asia an extraordinary technique has evolved at this stage for disentangling snags and clumps of cotton. After the debris has been drawn out of the cotton, a bow-like instrument is held over the fibres and plucked. The vibrations from this cause the fibres to become disentangled — an unusual, musical method of carding. . T


Among the tribes of Persia, the nomadic Qashqai look down on spinning as ‘women’s work’, but it is a very laborious and seemingly never-ending task. As with the lmvesting of the fleeces, it is a family pastime and with training becomes an-automatic task. Everyone in the tribe, male and female, young and old, whether watching over the sheep, engaged in lively conversation, or keeping an eye on the many children, will more often than not be spinning with small and light tools. The deft touch that rhythmically twirls the spindle twists the wool fibres to gether to create the yarn.

The very simplest spinning tools are used, from a stone weight, or a flat stick rotated horizontally, to various types of spindle. The drop spindle is a vertical wooden or metal shaft driven through a weight, known as a whorl. The whorl may take various shapes and forms according to family and tribal tadition —a notched disc, simple crossed splines, carved horn hooks, or a multiple notched square. Another form, the thigh spindle, is used by the Kirghiz, the Kurds around Lake Van in Anatolia and by the older members of the Balouch tribes. Here the spindle, with the whorl at the head or tail of the shaft, is rolled from thigh to knee or knee to thigh, depending on the direction of twist required. Throughout Afghanistan, the very much more complicated hand—turned spinning wheel is used, the spinning wheel itself being locally or family made using coarsely—carved wood and metal scrap. From a bundle of fibres, or rove, held under the left arm, wrapped around the left forearm and wrist, or tucked into a capacious sleeve, fibres are teased out and knotted onto the spindle by the right hand, then suspended in the air by the left hand; the spindle is given a slight twist and allowed to hang, continuing to spin because of the weight of the whorl and the spinning motion imparted by the teasing out of the wool from the rove with the right thumb and forefinger. As long as the teasing movement continues and until it

touches the ground, the spindle turns automatically, spinning and winding the wool into a strong, pliable and even thread. The lengthening yarn is then wound onto the spindle shaft, whorl or hooks and the process begins again.

The individual threads have a twist that corresponds to the direction in which the spindle has been spun, either clockwise in a ‘Z’ twist, or anticlockwise in an ‘S’ twist. For right—handed people the natural turn is clockwise, and so most hand-spun yarn has a ‘Z’ twist. Two or more threads plied together give a very much stronger yarn. The direction of the spin of the plied wool is always opposite to that of the threads, so the plied yarn is balanced and less likely to untwist or break. The combinations possible at this stage are infinite, with plies of goat, camel and horse hair, metal, lurex, cotton and silk, with or without sheep’s wool. Whatever the structure of the yarn, it is the process of hand spinning that gives so much character to the finished kilim. Hand-spun wool has a fairly loose twist with the fibres arranged nearly parallel to its length, and will give the surface of the kilim a smooth finish that soon acquires a supple sheen and lustre that enhance the colours used. Modern machine—spun wool, by contrast, is composed of fine, often frizzy and broken wool with intermeshed fibres that reflect the light less well.


‘The purest and most thoughtful minds are those that love colour the most. John Ruskin could almost have been describing the weavers of the gloriously colourful kilims of nineteenth-century Anatolia and the Caucasus. It is colour and the way that colour is shaped by pattern that give kilims their abstract beauty. Throughout all pre-industrial cultures the art of dyeing yarn was an elevated and often highly secretive profession. ‘- Different regions and peoples became famous throughout the known world for their ingredients and dyes —the phoenicians for their purple, the Indus valley for its reds and blues. Although we know exactly the ingredients used, the processes of manufacture are a mystery. Family and individual secrets were carried to the grave.

All natural dyes except indigo and some lichen and bark dyes, and all chemical dyes, need a mordant to penetrate the yarn and fix the colour. A term derived from the Latin m()I‘(/L’I‘L’ (to bite), the mordant attacks or bites the yarn so that the dye can take, and in so doing weakens the fibres to various degrees, depending on the type of mordant used. Yarn may be mordanted before, during or after the dyeing process, although the best results are achieved if it is mordanted before dyeing, and different mordants produce different colours from the same dyes. Mordants used in ancient times include compounds or solutions of wood ash, roots, urine, leaves and fruits. Today substances such as acetic acid, caustic soda, slaked lime, salt and the metallic salts of alum, chrome, iron and tin are used.

Until the mid-nineteenth century only coloured dyes from animal, vegetable and mineral sources were known and there were thriving industries associated with the cropping and mining of the raw materials throughout Asia. In towns and villages yarn would be taken to professional dyers, and naturally dyed yarn could be bought in the markets. All kilims made before the 1850s were, therefore, naturally dyed, a process that has continued until very recently. Nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples, making kilims for their own use, sometimes had access to natural dyestuffs —substances that grew wild amongst their grazing animals — and so the women would collect herbs, flowers and roots for their own special colour recipes. The migratory life only allowed for the carriage of small quantities of dyed wool, made up a batch at a time, and this is one explanation for the natural variations in colour found in the older kilims. People in desert areas, like the Balouch, were often unable to obtain dyestuffs from their barren environment and could not afford the pigments from traders and tinkers. Instead, they displayed an acute feeling for natural wool and hair colours. The Balouch are still the masters of this art, using camel hair that ranges from white and light yellow to dark brown, with sheep's wool in ivory and brown. Black and grey goat hair completes this subtle palette.

One of the oldest known dyes is a deep blue from the leaves of the delicate indigo shrub, recorded in use as early as the third millennium B.C. .

lndigo is a native plant of southern Asia and was traded throughout Asia in great quantities in powdered form. The crushed leaves are soaked overnight ‘or the powder dissolved in water to release a colourless agent. The yarn is dipped into this dye bath to soak, and as it is withdrawn from the vat, the colour develops on contact with the air. Each dipping, or a lengthy soak, will produce a darker colour and in this way every shade from sky-blue, through mid-blue, to almost black may be obtained. Indigo blue is pure and fast, resistant to sun, washing, acids and alkalines; but it is susceptible to friction as the less exposed or oxidized central fibres are revealed.

Madder root is the most common natural source of red dyes, and is known to have been in use in the Indus valley over 4500 years ago. Madder is a wild perennial, found from Asia Minor to China, With a deeply penetrating root structure; these roots are peeled before being ground into a powder ready for the dye bath. The intensity of the madder red varies with the age of the plant, from a terracotta red from three-year—old roots, to a deep purple at seven years. The mordants used must include a metallic salt and an alkali before the dye will bite and the final colour will also depend on the mix of mordants. Alum yields a red to orange shade, whereas iron gives a range of colours from violet to lemon yellow. Madder root dyes are light-fast and resistant to friction and alkalis but not to acids.

A whole spectrum of natural colours can be obtained from the flowers, fruit, vegetables and insects — even the earth — in the kilim-producing areas. The following list gives a good idea of the sheer range of materials used, and of the ingenuity of the dyers and weavers: Reds Madder root, poppy, cherry and pomegranate skins, the bark of rhamnus and jujuba trees, roots of roses, rhubarb and apricots, petals from tulips and various insects such as cochineal.

Blues Indigo and egg-plant (aubergine) skin.

Yellows Safflower petals and buds, lemon and pomegranate rinds, onion skin, saffron, turmeric and the flowers of yellow larkspur and sophora, fresh stems of artemisia, leaves of apricot, apple, willow and wild pistachio trees.

Orange Grass roots, bark of plum trees or madder-dyed yarn dipped into a boiled solution of pomegranate husks, or of poplar leaves, or willow leaves.

Greens Walnut and olive tree leaves, sweet violet, double dyeing of a yellow with indigo. ‘

Browns and blacks Tea, tobacco, mud and volcanic mud, iron oxide, and leaves of wild pistachio trees or walnut bark in combination with ferrous sulphate.

All of these natural dyes (with the exception of yellow) retain their colours extraordinarily well, but they do begin to fade naturally after about fifty years and will run if not well fixed. The positive aspect of this is that a kilim will mellow beautifully over the years if traditionally made with natural dyes. Chemical dyes were first developed in England, in the 18505, by one W. H. Perkin, a chemist who synthesized a mauve aniline dye from a coal tar solution. He began a colour revolution — the laborious and relatively expensive task of producing colours by natural .-,, means was superseded. The immediate results of the use of these new dyes in kilims and carpets were a reduction in the cost of dyes for the weavers, and a certain amount of disapproval among kilim connoisseurs in the West. For the first time, the weavers had a complete and relatively easy choice of colours, free from the limitations, and the natural aesthetic integrity, of the natural sources available to them in their homelands. Vivid oranges and yellows that had been so difficult to fix in the past were now readily available and easier to use. The use of chemical dyes spread rapidly, spawning village industries and reaching even the least accessible and most self-sufficient weavers of all, the nomadic tribeswomen. '

Kilims produced in the first flush of this new craze display a rather startling use of many different, not always harmonious colours, and until recently some chemical dyes, such as aniline and acid-based dyes, corroded the wool, faded quickly and would not withstand washing with detergents. But chemical dyes do not always result in clashing colour effects, or poor durability. In the last thirty years chrome-mordanted colours have been developed that are indistinguishable, when used well, from natural dyes. Ironically, it is in these same thirty years that the natural dye lobby among consumers and collectors in the West has met with some success. Classes of instruction in the art of natural dyeing and a price premium for kilims with vegetable dyes have ensured a contemporary revival in traditional techniques among the kilim producers of Anatolia.


The looms used throughout Asia for the making of kilims are extremely simple and yet, combined with the ancient skills of the weaver, they are an essential part of a process that results in the most intricately patterned and tightly structured flatweaves. There are two types of loom — the portable ground loom and the semi-permanent vertical loom used in towns and villages.

Nomads, such as the Balouch, Qashqai and some Kurds, use the ground loom because its simple structure allows it to be easily unpegged from the ground, rolled and packed on an animal for migration and re-erected at the summer or winter quarters. This movement of the loom — often while the weaving of a kilim is still in progress — and its horizontal structure, make it very difficult to maintain tension, so that many kilims produced on ground looms are slightly curved, or have naturally irregular edges. Large kilims may be made up on these portable looms by weaving either two matching halves that are sewn together lengthways, or a series of narrow tent-band like strips that may then be sewn together in horizontal bands.

Ground looms consist of two beams to which the warp threads are attached. The beams are pulled apart to keep the warps taut and held in place by large wooden pegs driven into the ground at each corner. Tension can be adjusted with additional pegs, ropes and twisting poles. A tripod arrangement straddles the loom, from which is suspended the harness stick or heddle rod. Alterenate warps are tied to this stick with string heddles and, when raised, these provide the shed — the space between the warp threads. Another pole, the shed stick, is inserted between the free warps, to create the countershed. The raising and lowering of the heddle rod and the movement of the shed stick create the shed and . countershed between the warps through which the weft (usually on a shuttle) may be

Ilorizontal ground loom. This type of loom is used by nomads for weaving kilims and textiles. It is usually crudely constructed and easily dismantled for transportation by camel to the next camp.

passed. The weaver will sit on the finished part of the kilim and move the tripod ahead of her as she works.

In villages and towns the vertical, framed loom is used for everything from prayer mats to floor coverings over nine feet wide. The warp beams are located in slots hewn into wooden vertical posts. The tension of the warps is adjusted and maintained with tension wedges. Balls of prepared yarn hang across the face of the loom, ready for use, and the weaver or weavers sit on a raised bench. Very large kilims, or more than one kilim at a time, can be made on vertical looms with continuous warps. The finished kilim or kilims are therefore wound onto the lower warp beam with the work remaining at the same height.

The number of warps strung on a loom determines the width of the finished kilim, and the length is determined by the kind of loom used. The texture of a kilim is determined by the thickness of the warps and how closely they are placed, and by the nature of the wefts and how closely they are packed. Some of the kilims from Central Anatolia are loosely woven and blanket-like; the cotton and wool kilims from Senna in north—west Persia are very fine, whereas the bags of the Balouch are so tightly woven that it is difficult to penetrate the weave with a needle. o

Once the loom is set up within the tent or house, or out in the open under a temporary canopy of old mats, blankets and branches, the weaving may begin. Traditionally, the weaving of kilims has been the preserve of women and girls, although where kilim production is an industry, as in Senna, men are often the weavers. Little girls begin to help their mother at the loom at about seven or eight years of age. Until recently a girl could be betrothed at five or six, and would have made at least three or four kilims to contribute to her own dowry. Not all tribeswomen were necessarily involved in weaving, and, as with all creative and utilitarian crafts, not all of the weavers were necessarily great craftswomen. The reputations of skilled and often elderly women weavers would spread far beyond the borders of their tribe and be converted to legend on their death. A young girl’s bride price could be influenced by her skill as a weaver. Family patterns and individual designs would be passed down from mother to daughter, daughter to grand-daughter. The young girl might favour and improve a particular colour scheme or design, so that over the years traditional patterns would develop and be slowly modified. T0015

Simple, home-made tools, such as combs and battens, are fashioned from wood and metal, and used to beat the wefts into place. The combs have very few teeth — usually less than five —and are sometimes carved and decorated with tribal symbols. The Balouch combs have very long teeth and handles which can be used as levers to force the wefts down very tightly.

Weaving techniques

A distinctive feature of kilim weaving is that individual colour sections are completed before the weaver moves on to other areas of the rug. This is in total contrast to knotted pile carpets, where the weaver works straight acrossthe carpet in horizontal lines of knots, using many different colours in close succession. The kilim weaver will work on one block of colour, laying perhaps twenty wefts before beating them down with a comb and moving onto the adjacent colour.

Traditional nomadic weavers were unable to carry large quantities of prepared wool with them, and so would use whatever colour and texture of wool came to hand, each time the portable loom was set up. Because of this, the exact colours that the weaver had planned for the design could not always be found, and the kilim became an endlessly shifting colourscape, with details and idiosyncrasies that can be discovered and enjoyed throughout its life.

Balanced plainweave

This is the straightfor- ward interlacing of the warp and weft on a loom. Where the warp and weft are of the samethickness, the result is balanced plainweave. The colour of both warp and weft threads will show on the surface of the kilim, so that they must both be the same colour for a plain cloth. The background for decorative devices, such as cicim and zilli, is generally woven in this way.

Weft-faced or tapestry weave

Here the wefts are beaten down onto each other so tightly that the warps are hidden. The colour of a kilim woven in this way is determined solely by the colour of the wefts, and the warps may therefore be monochrome or undyed. Such kilims will be either plain or decorated with simple horizontal bands of different colours. Weft- faced weave is commonly used for the ends of kilims, and of knotted carpets, as well as for tent cloths, bags and saddle bags.


This is the simplest technique by which blocks or areas of colour, rather than simple horizontal bands, may be introduced into the weave. One coloured weft returns around the last warp of its own colour area. The adjacent colour returns around the next warp, leaving a vertical slit between the boundaries of the two colours. Obviously this slit must not be too longor the kilim will be weak and easily torn. To avoid this the block of colour is stepped diagonally, which in the case of slits ofup to half an inch long results in a bold geometric diagonal design of diamonds and triangles, or in a distinctive crenellated pattern. Sometimes the slits are very noticeable, but on very finely woven kilims, such as those from the Caucasus, they are often undetectable. Many kilims are woven in this way, and most are fully reversible. Some kilims have diagonal lines of slitweave across a single colour area. These are known as ‘lazy lines’, enabling the weaver to 'work in stages on small parts of one colour section. When completing the rest of the section, the weaver meets up with the earlier work with a diagonal line of slit-weave steps, successfully breaking up large areas of one colour.

Contour bands

There are a number of ways to cover or reinforce slits. Simple, contrasting contour bands can be woven between the blocks of colour, outlining each area, or, in a more complex method, the weaver can wrap extra wefts of a contrasting shade round pairs of warp threads between different colour areas. This produces a contour on the face of the finished weave, which looks as if it has been worked in after the piece has been taken off the loom. In fact the wrapping is done progressively throughout theweaving ofthe kilim. This technique is used throughout Anatolia.

Dovetailing and single-interlock tapestry

In dovetailing the weft threads from adjacent colour areas return around the same warp. Although there is now no slit between the two colour areas, the design does become blurred at the edges, a small ridge is formed at the interlock and the weave cannot be as dense as it is when slitweave is used, because of the doubling up of wefts on a single warp. A link of 1: 1 of each colour on the same warp is known as dovetailing; higher ratios give a more jagged outline and are called single—interlock tapestry. These techniques are used in Thrace, Persia and Afghanistan, and the kilims produced are double-sided.

Double-interlock tapestry

This technique is not common in Turkey, but is used extensively in Turkcstan and occasionally in Persia, especially among the Bakhtiari tribes. The wefts of adjacent colours link once as they move in one direction and again in the next row in the other direction. This creates a very crisp outline between the colours, and gives a strong, solid weave without slits, but causes a ridge to be formed on the back of the kilim, so that it is not reversible.

Extra weft insets and curved wefts

Normally the weft passes between the warps horizontally. However, by beating down the weft unevenly it can be curved as required. If, as sometimes happens, the thickness of the yarn varies, or has been woven unevenly —resulting in a sloping weft line — extra wefts can be inserted to take up the space, in a wedge formation. As well as being corrective these extra weft inserts are used decoratively, to insert a series of small motifs or break up large colour areas in the same way as ‘lazy lines’.

When extra wefts are inserted, the main weft is usually curved around it

This can be skilfully exaggerated by craftsmen so that curvilinear shapes are created, such as waves, or even a perfectcircle. Great skill is needed to produce a weave which lies flat despite the ' variation in tension of the wefts. Curved weft weaving has been extensively used in textiles for many centuries in all corners of the world, and it produces kilims with flowing naturalistic designs, such as those from central and north Persia, rather than the geometric and angular designs that result with slitweave or interlock techniques.

Weft-faced patterning

This is a different concept from slitweave, dovetailing or interlocking, where colour changes only occur from one block of colour to the next. With weft— faced patterning, coloured wefts are woven so that they only show on the surface of the kilim when they are needed for part of an intricate pattern that intermingles two or more colours. For the rest of the time, they float along the back of the rug. This technique produces a kilim with distinctive narrow bands of very fine, tightly woven patterns across the width. It is used extensively in Central Asia by Balouch, Qa1a—i—Nau and Sarmayie weavers. Itiis occasionally used in Persia and Anatolia in a guard band just next to the fringe.

Warp-faced patterning

A relatively difficult technique not widely used in kilim weaving except in north Afghanistan and parts of Persia. Here the warps form the pattern and colour, and the weft is not visible. When the warp is not being employed on the surface of the weave to produce the pattern it floats along the reverse, as with weft-faced patterning. It is impossible to weave a piece more than about 12 inches wide using the warps in this way because the tension of the weave goes awry. Instead, very long, narrow strips are woven and then cut into equal lengths and sewn together to make a rug. In Central Asia this is called ghujeri. The warp-faced patterning technique is principally used for binding-ropes, tent-bands and long, decorative strips that form a ‘cornice’ around the top of a room or tent.


The term cicim thought to derive from a combination of the Turkish word Cici meaning ‘small and delightful’, and the first person possessive suffix ‘im’, and it describesa decorative device, often set against a balanced plainweave or weft- faced weave background. Cicim is a technique used mainly in Turkey, although it is occasionally seen in Persian and west Afghan kilims. It is often mistakenly thought that the extra wefts from which the pattern is formed are embroidered into the piece after the ground weave is finished; in fact, they are interlaced as the whole work progresses. Since the extra yarn may also be filled in with other kinds of weaving, such as zilli or soumak, or may be woven close together with no ground weave visible in between. Kilims using cicim are often quite lightweight and are traditionally used as curtains, or as furniture and hearth covers.


Like cicim, zilli is both a Turkish word (meaning ‘with small bells or chimes’) and a weaving technique found mostly in Anatolia. On the surface of the rug it resembles cording, running parallel with the warps. Extra wefts are wrapped round the warps in a common ratio of 2:1, 3:1 or 5:1. Two or three rows of ground weft are shot between each row of thicker float wefts, so that the surface is completely covered with float over two, three or five warps’? Each colourd yarn turns back in its own field, but contours may be created only with the same ‘floating three and five’ system. One or more warps will be visible where the set has been split between each surface float. In contrast to cicim, zilli is an easy technique for weaving horizontal and vertical lines. Weaving diagonals is a good deal more complicated and can only be done by offsetting the weft floats by a single warp. Zilli is used extensively by Turkish weavers, especially around Konya, Sirrihisar, Canakkale andhdut.


The term soumak is said to have derived from the Caucasian town Shemakha, where very fine brocade weft-wrapped kilims have been woven for centuries. The soumak weave is achieved by weft-wrapping rather than the floating or semi-wrapping of extra wefts as in zilli or cicim. Usually it is wrapped with an extra weft in the ground weave, but the most widespread forms of soumak in Anatolia do not have ground weft to support the wrapping structure. The finest soumak kilims come from the Caucasus, and during the last century, from Balouchistan. The technique is not used extensively in Persia or in Turkey except in small areas of weave on bags and juvals. Kilims woven in soumak technique are very hard-wearing and heavy and often display the finest workmanship.

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