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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Slitweave 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
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
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
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.
Cicim 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
Zilli 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
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