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Kilim Rugs

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History Of Kilim Rugs

"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.
Kilim Rugs Karemi Net
Hotamis Kilim (detail), central Anatolia, early 19th century. Photo courtesy Marla Mallett

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.

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