The formal elements of a flat-woven rug design or composition are its motifs grouped together in a number of ways. Certain groups or arrangements of motifs appear unchanged over the years, others became rearranged and vary from rug to rug. It is only when the same motif begins to be repeated over generations on flatweaves that we can say that it has become traditionalized.
The individual motifs and shapes used on flat weaves were often adapted by the weaver from her surroundings. She used such natural features as lakes or flowing water, or the shape of trees, leaves, branches, blossoms, flowers and pine cones to reflect her environment. She wove the different species of birds, reptiles or insects she saw around her, notably the snake, centipede, scorpion, frog or tortoise, or even domestic animals such as sheep, dogs and cattle. She also wove familiar artifacts such as the comb, ewer, beater, chest, bead or mirror, or fixed points in her immediate surroundings such as the tent, the house, the tent pole or the road. She even used parts of the human anatomy like the hand or the head. She stylized these visual objects and zoomorphic models like the dragon, the snake and the bird from mythical folk legends combining them in woven designs.
Not all kilim motifs were inspired by concrete or physical objects. Some abstract ideas, such as the angular-peaked mihrab niche shape prayer symbol were-also used on kilims. This shape has been interpreted by many writers as the qibla, the sacred gate vO through which one reaches Allah, or the symbol of the Path. Some patterns, concrete in origin as well, tended to be given abstract implications and so gradually lost their physical meaning. The hand motif, once a sign of the maker is a typical example of this. In the Moslem context it began to signify the five pillars of Islam, or the Prophet and his four Caliphs, or the hand of Fatima.
Designs and motifs are often created out of or limited by the weaving techniques used to produce them. The cicim and zili weaves especially are suited for weaving geometric motifs. Also many kilim motifs are plainly dictated by technique. The motifs of slit kilims, for example, especially those with the vertical lines, usually are broken down by crenelation, while the diamonds with sawtoothed edges, a pattern on the kilims of Karapinar in the Konya region, must have served as a technical solution to the problem of weaving without long slits. In Anitkaya (formerly Egret) in the Afyon area the eccentric/curved weft technique is used to block out any slits that might otherwise have tormed in the weave. The curvilinear weft outline has finger-like extensions and is known in the village as parmakl or digit.
Some motifs have been transferred from one weaving technique to another. One of the most common kilim motifs the elibelinde (hands on hips or arms akimbo) is also sometimes used on knotted-pile rugs. It is difficult to say in which technical medium the motif was first used. Two common motifs of knotted-pile rugs and flat weaves are the octagonal Turkmen gol (lake) or giil (rose) so frequently seen on Turcoman rugs and Anatolian Holbein rugs of the 15th and 16th centuries, and the multi-pointed star motifs. These geometric motifs may have evolved out of flatweaving techniques before being trans- ferred to the knotted-pile technique. It is obvious that some motifs have taken the opposite route, such as those in Ottoman art. Embroidery and textiles in general share such motifs as the ewer, the cypress, the branch or stem, and floriate and foliate pattern which also found their way onto the kilim.
Motifs can also move within a given flatweave technique. Though less common, motifs or even compositions have doubtless moved from one flatweaving technique to another.
There is one factor to be kept in mind when studying design on flat-woven rugs. There will be some change and variation of motif and composition among even the most traditional tribal rugs. But the most significant change of motifs and the transfer to different weaving techniques or to different tribal groups occurs when the traditional groups disintegrate and seg ment. It is our belief that the weaver of a flat-woven rug begins to be influenced by other media only when she and her group lose their tribal consciousness and identity. Only then does she copy from oether textiles such as embroidered cloth, stockings or sash-weaves, or even from the decorative tile work, metalwork, stone and wood carving she sees around her.