Zili Kilim Rugs


   The zili is one of the distinctive weft- float patterned weaves known by its name throughout much of Anatolia. It is often confused with other types of weave in non- weaving circles in Turkey. The S dragon patterned soumacs of the Caucasus (see Index) are also sometimes mistakenly identified with it. The etymology of the word is confused. The term 'zilu' is used in Persian sources in connection with fine woven rugs and covers. Although Ottoman Turkish lexicographers do not assign a Turkish origin, others say the word has a Turkish source. Some villages in the districts of Tokat and Sivas bear the name Zile, but no connection has been established between these towns and the sili or zili weave. 

Zili technique

   The zili technique is an extra-weft floating technique on plain weave, mostly with a float ratio of 3/1 or 5/1. First, the weaver inserts float threads between shoots the of ground weft and passes them from the reserve side to the face of the weave. After she has worked each passage of weft floats progressively from edge to edge, she passes two or three rows of ground weft to secure the pattern threads. She leaves the yarn of each float hanging on the face of the weave until the return on the next row. The two or three shoots of weft are especially useful at the vertical junctions between color areas because the pattern weft has split the warp set and is therefore not secured there by the e shed as it is changed. However these shoots may not be necessary if the weaver interlocks the pattern thread with its float counterpart in the adjacent areas before turning back on the next row.

    The main characteristic of zili is weft floats which split the pair of warps where they are laid in. Weft floats are laid over and under the warp at a ratio of 2/1, 3/1 or 5/1 (rarely 3/3), so that the surface of the weave is completely covered with floats over two, three or five warps.

   Each colored yarn turns back in its own field in most zili forms. But it should be noted also that contours may be created only with the same floating three, five system. One or more warp threads will be visible where the set has been split between each surface float. The finished weave is dominated by a corded effect due to the appearance of this uncovered warp on the face and to the vertical or diagonal contours of float/lay. 

   We have encountered zili mostly of 3/1 or 5/1 in various parts of Anatolia, especially around Konya, Eskisehir, Sivrihi sar, Canakkale, Fethiye, Antalya, Silifke and Mut. The three float and two weft pass zili variation is used to produce weaves with contour designs on a plain weave ground rather than solid ribbed floated areas. These are here also classified as zili because, although, the application may differ, the dominant technical form is basically the same characteristic split warp set of the zili.

   Athough at first glance design fillingzili weave (the more common type) appears to be similar to solid design (semi-wrapping) cicims, the technique is actually quite different. In the cicim the weft progresses upwards in semi-wrapping to produce contour motifs, whereas in contour zili the regular weft floats are woven also upwards but generally in order to build contour ribs of floats.


   The zili can be distinguished from the cicim by looking at the reverse side. On the back, alternate single floats coincide with the places where the face float is laid in, and there are short vertical threads where the pattern thread jumps to the next shed at the edge of a line. In contour designs single floats are not visible. Only short, jumping threads on the reverse side can be seen (see below). Loose threads on the reverse side are a feature both of the zili and the cicim weaves. 

   In publications on weaving the zili is generally referred to or defined together with the cicim as a weft-float weave. The two are distinctly different. Generally the weavers of zili do not weave cicim, and vice versa. This fact helps confirm the need for their separate classification. Weavers famil iar with both cicim and zili say that the zili is easier to weave because the motifs are simpler. In design filling zilis the regular 3/1 float pattern is easy to follow across the loom.

   In contrast to the kilim and cicim, the zili is an easy technique for weaving horizontal or vertical lines. Weaving diagonals is a little more complicated and can only be done by offsetting the weft floats by a single warp. 

   Some forms of the zili, such as 3/1 floats in vertical sequence, are sometimes given quite different local names and are thought of as different techniques. For example, among settled groups and nomads in the Taurus mountains the design filling vertical offset zili is referred to as the weave while the offset and vertical design filling techniques are called zili. But in places where offset zili is not common such as Sivrihisar, Eskisehir, Bergama and Canakkale only weft floating in vertical sequence is called zili. The general zili technique of splitting the warp set to borrow' one of a pair is also called calma or celme (stealing or lifting) in some areas.

   Different forms of the zili can be woven on the same piece and zili may also be used in combination with other techniques such as cicim and sumak. The zili technique, because of its very nature, deters change in the motifs. The Turkmen octagon gol or gill and the overlaid zigzag motifs seen in the 14th and 15th century Timurid Turkmen miniatures, for instance, are still seen on Turcoman rugs. These designs we assume have changed little over the centuries. They appear today on yastiks, minders, cuvals and small rugs woven in the regions of Konya, Kayseri, Nigde, Kirsehir, Eskisehir, Sivrihisar, the Taurus Moun- tains, Adana, Sivas, Gaziantep and Maras. Each area uses its own weaving materials.

Design-filling vertical zili


The design-filling vertical zili, which can also be called the plain zili, produces a solid design across the loom with weft floats in a 2/1, 3/1 or 5/I ratio. It is also known as fitilli (corded) in Antalya and the surround- ing region It is especially used for such designs as rows of Turkmen gol or gul on cushions, and floor and hearth covers in areas where a large proportion of the weavers are settled Turkmen. These are notably around Adana, Gaziantep, Kayseri, Kirsehir, Eskisehir, Nigde, Konya and the Taurus Mountains. Occasionally this zili form can be found in western Anatolia. It is also used with other forms of zili and even with cicim and sumak.

Design-filling offset zili

   In the design-filling offset zili the weft float is advanced in diagonal sequence, a single warp is left exposed after each float as usual, and the design threads climbing to the next shed are offset by one warp at a time so that a gradual diagonal is created in the design. This allows for the formation of large diagonal patterns extended across the field, large V's and/or lozenges from mirrored V's. It is quite common in Tiirkmen settlements, especially in the Taurus region from Antalya to Gaziantep and to some extent around Bergama.


Checkered zili

on plain or weft-faced weave

   The checkered zili form is used to fill out a motif or pattern. It is especially used together with contour zili. Weftfloats with a three-to-three ratio are woven vertically, diagonally or in a checkered sequence, the float producing an alternative pattern on the reverse side. It is used mainly around Konya, Nigde and Kirsehir and mostly on a balanced plain weave ground.

Design-filling vertical  or offset zili on balanced plain weave

   This form of plain or design-filling offset zili has small isolated motifs woven with float ratios of 2/1,3/1 and 5/1 mostly on balanced plain weave. Such zili weaves using black goat-hair are called ful among settled Turkmen groups in the Taurus Mountains between Antalya and Silifke.

Contour zili

(on balanced plain or weft-faced weave)

   The contour zili is a form of extra-weft three-span float in which only contours, rather cicim-like in appearance, remain on the surface of the weave. They are woven in a linear design as rugs or covers on a weft- faced or balanced plain weave ground. First the weaver passes two, rows of weft, then inserts the extra-weft pattern thread from the back to the face of the weave, passes it over three warps and through again to the back. After passing two more shoots of ground weft, she brings the pattern yarn up to the third shed, between the same warps, takes it through to the face and floats three warps back. The shoots of ground weft secure the pattern thread, but also limit the pattern to vertical or diagonal contours. Horizontal lines are produced when necessary by using sumak weft-wrapping or a similar form of weave. It is a form sometimes mixed with extra-weft floats of different lengths, especially on the borders. This adds an element of contour to the face of the weave.

   Contour zili can be distinguished from the cicim weave by the appearance on the back side of short vertical passes from the float on one shed to the shed above. It is a form used mostly on weft-faced plain weaves especially on floor rugs produced in Bergama, Canakkale and the Balikesir regions. In the east, mostly at Cildir, near Kars, the same technique on balanced plain ground weave is woven locally, a technique perhaps brought there by immigrants from the Caucasus.

   Occasionally 3/3 weft float contour zilis may be countered by areas of plain ground weave to produce a checkered pattern. Floats in 3/3 ratio progress vertically to form solid float squares. These are framed by continuous or intermittent zili contours over plain weave. Significantly, checkered pattern weaves referred to as palasin Persian sources appear to have been called zili or zilice in Turkish texts.




Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published