A definition of Kilim

Kilim means a flatwoven rug, or rug without a knotted pile with various spellings and pronunciations. We have kilim in Afghanistan, Poland, Turkey, Hungary and Serbia, kelin, gelin, gelim, chelim in Rumania, bsath in Syria and Lebanon, Kylym in the Ukraine, Palas in the Caucasus; then add to that all the sub groups that the word ‘kilim’ can encompass such as çiçim, flat weave, slit weave, sumak (soumak) and it is easy to get confused. Moreover, flatweaving is found in some form all over the world, from Great Plains of North America to Scandinavia and Indonesia. At times there is only a structural similarity in what is produced, but the disciplines imposed by the materils and techniques often result in strikingly similar designs and compositions.

Kilims are made by passing the wool back and forth between the warps (continuous or discontinuous).  The diagrams below are all close-up examples.

Kilims are woven from the creative mind of their weaver, using her and her family’s traditional motifs, style and of course the natural land that surrounds them in the use of natural dyes and the variants of wool available to them.  There are at once stunningly unique yet full of history.

Until recently the kilim in general has been considered the poor relation of the Oriental knotted carpet by collectors and traders alike. In the last two decades, there has been an explosion of interest in the decorative, utilitarian and collectable qualities of these remarkable objects.

Kilims, together with jewellery, clothing, tent furnishings and animal trappings, helped to form the identity of the village or nomadic tribal group. Kilims were made for use on the floors and walls of tents, houses and mosques and as animal covers and bags.

Kilims can be recognised by their tribe and area of origin to within a group of villages or even a single village. This compares with nomadic, groups, who weave kilims within a much larger area, at their summer or winter quarters and sometimes at camps during a migration. The confusion of origins and names reigns supreme inn Persia, where thousands of sedentary peoples from many different tribes have been forcibly relocated from one end of the country to the other in the course of its stormy history.