Kilim Classification Through Technique


    The kilim is probably the best known type of weft-faced flatweave. It is woven by building up a design in blocks of color with discontinued weft threads. Some technical forms are used to create a design of weft-faced weaving. Some kilims tradition- ally employ only one of these forms and take it as their characteristic. Comparing these forms can sometimes help us to identify kilims. For example, the Karapinar and some western Anatolian kilims share some features with Balkan kilims, although it is very difficult to determine the origin of them. Were these features originally taken to the Balkans (Rumeli) by nomads migrating from Anatolia or were they brought back to Anatolia by refugees returning from the Balkans who settled in the Karapinar area (Konya) and in Denizli and Aydin?


   We can easily get lost when classifying kilims by their patterns unless more research is carried out as to why one form has survived or has been superceded. This resulting information in addition may help in the tracing of migratory movements of various nomadic or once nomadic tribal groups. For example, the Egret rugs (parmaklı) have eccentric wefts and the design is built up with a series of contour bands of eccentric/curved weft with no slit in the weave. The same technique also appears in kilims woven by the yoruks of the Taurus region. whereas the Afsars, the Karakecilis and settled Turkmen groups seem to prefer crenelated-slit kilims and motifs with vertical angular profiles. In some regions it is possible to see various techniques employed simulta- neously.

   In some cases in tracing origins, technical peculiarities may be even more valuable than the design itself. The nomads of the Taurus and Mut regions weave, for example, eccentric weft kilims with a goat- hair warp and use many different Anatolian patterns. Their kilims may be very different in design from each other but never in technique. It would probably be easier for nomads to add some new motifs than to change their basic techniques. This suggests that any variation in technique can give us clues about their origin.

Kilim techniques

   The kilim is woven by passing discontinuous weft threads between alternating sets of warps. The design is made up of blocks of color. The thread of one color is usually passed back and forth in a motif until the block pattern is complete. It is easier and much less time-consuming to weave in localized blocks than across the loom from selvage to selvage. After one local pass of the weft inside a block pattern width, the weaver passes her hand through the shed and presses down the warps to open them. The wefts are passed rather loosely and then beaten down to create a face with hidden warps. The weaver alternates the warp set locally to change the shed. To return from counter-shed to shed over the immediate weaving area the shed-stick is pulled towards the weaver who continues until a motif is finished or the short design weft thread is used up. She then moves to a contiguous motif of another color. 

   The comon slit weave (kilim technique) is the best known type of weft-faced weave. The technique gets its name from the slit created between two different color blocks. Variations have been created to meet the need of closing or avoiding this slit when relating one color block to another. Any slit avoiding technique is called the common slit weave. Different variations are fre- quently used in one piece. These technical variations have no local names but for convenience we have assigned names to them.


Common slit weave

   The common slit weave is woven with desi discontinuous colored weft threads as are all hori types of weft-faced weaves. The weft is passed between alternate warps and return- ed on the edge of each colored area. It mos completely masks the warp. If the weft of forn one area turns back and forth repeatedly in flat- the same warp unit and the adjacent weft larg areas are woven independently, a vertical heyl slit will form between the two areas. The for weft of one color area does not encroach and upon the warp unit used by the adjacent or b color block but rather uses the next separate mig warp unit. 

To avoid the slit wherever possible, patterns with long vertical slits tend not to larit be used. Instead, a series of blocks, no more they than 1 cm in length, are used to produce short slits in the weave. The reasons for this are obvious. A long slit gives the appearance of a tear and minimizes the Com durability of the woven piece as a rug. Kilim designs therefore tend to be angular with horizontal, diagonal and short vertical lines. 

Crenelated (common) slit weave is the most widespread and commonly known form of Anatolian kilims, or indeed of flat-woven rugs.. It appears in flat-woven rugs large ground rugs, small prayer rugs, hey bes, cuvals, yastiks and minders. Looms for weaving these are usually rather narrow and portable, either because they save space or because they can be carried easily during migration. It is true also that it is very difficult to weave flat-woven rugs in single large pieces without having marked irregu larities in the weave. In general, therefore, they are woven in two vertical strips or as a single main piece with two long borders woven separately and later sewn on. This kind of kilim is especially common in central, southeastern and western Anatolia.

Non-vertical pattern weave

   The non-vertical pattern weave techni- cal variation of weft-faced weave is used to avoid the formation of slits or to reduce them. The designs employed however do not prevent the formation of slits altogeth- er. Patterns in which the slits are reduced to a minimum do not cause the creation ofa separate technique. They are ways of conceiving compositional form without forcing the technique beyond its limits. Avoiding slits by design is especially common around Karapmar, near Konya and also Aydin, Denizli and Sivrihisar in the west where the saw tooth edged diamonds, utilizing only horizontal and diagonal contours, seem especially suitable.

Eccentric/curved weft

   Normally the weft of weft-faced weaves passes between the warp without deviating from the horizontal. In the case of eccentric/curved weft, the weft is inclined up or down by depressing it unevenly with the beater. The colored wefts are first drawn through the warp sets and given the general curve required by the pattern. Then in some areas they are beaten down to give a pressed weft, while in others they are left loose. This creates curvilinear lines on the weave. Sometimes eccentric wefts are used to enclose floral motifs. For curvilinear designs, a weaving cartoon is needed on the loom. This variation was used on the Ottoman tent kilims. It is also used together with common slit weave in the kilims of Konya, Seydisehir, Mesudiye (Yanekin) Nuzumla (Yayalacik), Cukurcimen, Afyon, Dazkiri and among the Taurus yoruks. An eccentric weft kilim, completely without slits, is to be seen in the Afyon area. (Egret). Since the traditional kilims are not as markedly figurative as the Ottoman tent kilims, such rugs can be woven from memory like other traditional types.

Extra-weft inset

   In this variation of weft-faced weave, extra wefts are inset between regular discontinuous wefts. After a series of these have been passed and depressed with a beater, a small group of wefts is passed locally and beaten down. Over this more rows of regular weft are passed and beaten down to enclose the woven inset.

    Between the extreme tautness of the inset and the slack eccentric weft around it a curved swell is created on the surface of the weave along with a slight wavy texture in the regular weft . This technical variation is used by the weavers of Nuzumla, Mesudiye, Derbent (Konya), Islahiye (Gaziantep) and the Taurus region. It is not a slit-avoiding technique but a modified weave which minimizes the slit by the formation of curvilinear weft insets.

Double interlock

   The double interlock is woven by interlinking the two adjacent complimen tary wefts of different color areas. The weaver loops each weft through its adjacent weft on the turn between the two colored areas and links it over the next before returning it to its own area. This creates a firm weave that is totally without a slit. On the face of the kilim the pattern areas are separated by firm unbroken edges. On the reverse, a row of stitch-like threads appears where one color area is interlocked with another. This weave is not common in Turkey, but it can occasionally be seen in some Kurdish kilims.


   In dovetailing, discontinued weft threads from adjacent color areas meet at the same single warp. The weaver takes them around this common warp and returns them to their own color area. The warps, which are usually employed in pairs, are here separated and the wefts dovetailed on the same warp so that no slit can form. The dovetailing may have a ratio of 1/1, one weft from each colored area sharing the common warp at each junction, or 2/2 or more. Sometimes, up to five wefts are dovetailed into a single junction. It is, of course, a technique used around the world in weaving, it was used in the Ottoman tent kilims to help create curvilinear floral motifs. It is almost unknown in Turkish traditional kilims. 

Extra-weft contour wrapping

   Extra-weft contour wrapping is used to produce a single contour, in all appearances like a row of stitches, around and between areas of different colors. The weaver passes in each row an extra-weft thread around the pair of warps between two color areas. She leaves it hanging until she has passed the next row of design thread in both areas and then wraps it around the adjacent end warps of each color area. On the face of the finished weave this produces contours which appear to have been worked in after the piece has been taken off the loom. In fact, the wrapping is done gradually or progressively from set to set, or if the weaver finishes a whole motif independently, the extra-weft may then be wrapped around this. This is a form widespread throughout Anatolia.

Contour bands of eccentric/curved wefts

   In this technical form the broad gaps between color blocks are filled with weft- faced woven bands and with contour threads of a contrasting color around the edges of the motifs. It is not used with the common slit weave but mostly is used in conjunction with the non-vertical pattern weave to help create non-vertical patterns. This form is employed by the n yoruks of Nuzumla, Mesudiye,Akviran, rumra and Obruk near Konya, the Taurus yoruks of Mut, and in Egret and Dazkiri near Afyon. It also is used in the east among the Islahiye yoruks of Gaziantep.






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