Kilim: Wikis


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Hotamis Kilim (detail), central Anatolia, early 19th century. Photo courtesy Marla Mallett
A Shahsavan kilim (in Ardabil) with typical geometrical symbols some of them of mythological inspiration such as the crab or scarabeus

Kilims are flat tapestry-woven carpets or rugs produced from the Balkans to Pakistan. Kilims can be purely decorative or can function as prayer rugs.



The name 'kilim' or 'kelim' is Turkish, and comes from the Persian gelim (گلیم) 'to spread roughly', which is probably of Mongolian origin.[1] Various forms of the word are used in other languages (e.g. Greek κιλίμι, Albanian qilim, Ukrainian: Килим, Kylym, Lithuanian kilimas). In Kurdish, they are called 'berr'.


Not only pile carpets were produced in ancient times, but also kilims.

"As kilims are much less durable than rugs that have a pile to protect the warp and weft, it is not surprising that few of great age remain. The oldest piece of which we have any knowledge is a fragment obtained by M. A. Stein, the archaeological explorer, from the ruins near Khotan, in Eastern Turkestan, of an ancient settlement, which was buried by sand drifts about the fourth or fifth century anno domini. The weave is almost identical with that of modern kilims, and has about fourteen threads of warp and sixteen threads of weft to the inch. The pattern consists of narrow stripes of blue, green, brownish yellow, and red, containing very small geometric designs. With this one exception, so peculiarly preserved, there are probably very few over a century old."[2]

Weaving technique

Kilims are produced by tightly interweaving the warp and weft strands of the weave to produce a flat surface with no pile. Most kilim weaves are "weft-facing", i.e., the horizontal weft strands are pulled tightly downward so that they hide the vertical warp strands.

When the end of a color boundary is reached, the weft yarn is wound back from the boundary point. Thus, if the boundary of a field is a straight vertical line, a vertical slit forms between the two different color areas where they meet. For this reason, most kilims can be classed as "slit woven" textiles. The slits are beloved by collectors, as they produce very sharp-etched designs, emphasizing the geometry of the weave. Weaving strategies for avoiding slit formation, such as interlocking, produce a more blurred design image.

The weft strands, which carry the visible design and color, are almost always wool, whereas the hidden warp strands can be either wool or cotton. The warp strands are only visible at the ends, where they emerge as the fringe. This fringe is usually tied in bunches, to ensure against loosening or unraveling of the weave. [Source for this description of the weaving: Davies 2000].


Ardabil rugs feature motifs that are very similar to Caucasian rugs, but with more motifs and objects woven into the borders. The colors are also lighter. The patterns are predominantly geometric and the most common layouts on Ardabil rugs are medallions, multiple connected diamond-shaped medallions, and all-over octagonal shapes. The most recognized design found on Ardabil rugs is the famous Mahi (Herati) design - a diamond medallion and small fish throughout. Some modern weavers have begun to favor bold geometric patterns over the traditional Mahi (Herati) design and have added colors such as turquoise and purple to the more traditional red, pink, ivory, green, and blue.

Commercial value

Because kilims are cheaper than pile rugs, beginning carpet collectors often start with them. Despite what many perceive as their secondary (or inferior) status to pile carpets, kilims have become increasingly collectible in themselves over recent years, with quality pieces now commanding high prices.

What some sensed as inferiority was actually a different nature of rugs woven for indigenous use as opposed to rugs woven on a strictly commercial basis. Because kilims were not a major export commodity, there were no foreign market pressures changing the designs, as happened with pile carpets. Once collectors began to value authentic village weaving, kilims became popular.

Types of persian kilims

Gelim of Harsin in Kermanshah, Tarh-e-Aroosak (Doll Design) Type
  • Ordinary kilims: this type of kilim is woven with hemp, cotton and also wool threads.
  • Gunny kilim: this special type is woven with varicolored pieces of cloth.
  • Suzāni kilim: this type is embroidered with raised figures after the ordinary kilim is woven.
  • Needlework kilim: this type of kilim is hung on the wall and is woven with cotton threads.
  • Jol: this is a kind of kilim the surface of which is embroidered. With its decorative designs, it is used as horse saddles.
  • Palās: this is a kind of kilim in which each color is used for weaving several rajs, it does not have a pile. Palas is also the name used for the coarse woollen robes dervish wear.
  • Jājim or chador-shab: this is a kind of striped carpet woven with colored threads and thinner than palas.
  • Zilu: this is a kind of kilim woven with cotton threads and simple designs quite in harmony with rural life. It has a cotton warp and weft.
  • Rakht-e-khāb pich (bed-packing kilims): this type of kilim is used by migrating tribes.
  • Charkhi-bāf kilim: this is a kind of sturdy and thick kilim only one side of which can be used.
  • Khorjin (saddle-bags) and Juwals: these kilims are used for carrying goods.
  • Gilimcheh (small kilims): these are woven like kilims but these could be tiny and stylin.
  • Masnads: these are sturdy and fine-woven decorative kilimeches.
  • Navār-chādor (tent-band): this type of kilim is decorative.
  • Sajādeh (prayer kilims): these are woven with altar designs and are used for praying.
  • Ghigh: this kilim is used for the walls of tents; both of its side are the same and can be used alike.
  • Rah Rah: These kilims are knitted mostly in the Sirjan region and are also called khatti design kilims. Ardebil and Moghan knit the same design but in lower qualities.

See also


  1. ^ "kilim." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2008.
  2. ^ Hawley, Walter A. Oriental Rugs Antique & Modern. (1913). Reprint (1970): Dover Publications, New York, N.Y., p. 278.


  • Allane, Lee (1988). Oriental Rugs: A Buyer's Guide. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-27517-3. 
  • Davies, Peter (2000). Antique kilims of Anatolia. W.W. Norton & Co.. ISBN 0393730476 9780393730470 9780393730470 0393730476.  [The first edition of this book was published by Rizzoli International in 1993 as "The Tribal Eye: Antique kilims of Anatolia" ISBN 0847817059 9780847817054 9780847817054 0847817059]
  • Yanni Petsopoulos, Kilims: Flat Woven Tapestry Rugs, Rizzoli, 1979, ISBN 0-847-80245-0

External links

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