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Kilim: A Traditional Expressive Art Form in Turkey

I remember standing and stomping around on top of a kilim rug with my tiny bare feet, numb with cold water, splashing through a hose in the small garden behind our apartment with my mother and a few neighbors. There would be fresh tea, warm cookies, and whispered gossip. I would laugh through the warm breeze, the smell of carrot cake, the quiet giggles, and the wet kilim rugs beneath my feet. 

In our neighborhood, just like in some others, though not common anymore, you’d see kilim rugs hanging from the balconies after being gently hand washed in cold water. The multiple colors and various geometrical shapes and designs would wave in the wind like a flag, and you’d know the long, tall ones were probably laid in a hallway, the small, rectangular ones possibly in a kitchen or an entry way, and the largest ones proudly displayed in a living room or a dining room, and it would be fun to imagine what the rest of the apartment looked like.

Although kilim rugs are the most commonly known, kilim can be seen in many other forms, varying from bags to even shoes and have been used for a plethora of purposes, such as wall décor and prayer rugs. What makes kilim unique is that each design is different as they are all handwoven, so each has its own spirit.

Kilim rug

Photo Credit: https://www.kilim.com/kilim-wiki/whatskilim

According to Matt Cameron Rugs & Tapestry, “the word Kilim is of Turkish origin and denotes a pile-less textile or carpet produced using a flat-weaving technique… Long before Kilims became decorative items in modern homes, they were used by tribal communities, who created them for practical purposes such as floor coverings, hangings to protect from weather or for storage of grains and other daily essentials. Lightweight and easy to transport, the Kilim was an ideal and essential part of the lives of nomadic people. Today's Kilims still incorporate many old tribal symbols, and are hand-woven in the traditional styles of ancient nomadic people.”

Kilim

Photo Credit: https://susurlukhaliyikama.com/kilim-yikama/

Kilim is one of the most well-known handwoven art forms in Turkish culture, and is especially practiced in Anatolia, mostly by women. Each design on a kilim represents the culture, traditions, beliefs, expectations, and hopes of the weaver, and the materials used vary depending on the geographical location. Although wool and cotton are the most common materials, animal hair and silk are also used. According to Kilim Studio, wool is commonly used due to its unique qualities—it’s durable, sustainable, easier to clean, and healthy. (Research performed by the German Applied and Experimental Allergy Research Association [GAF] showed that wool carpets performed best in resisting dust mite infestation. Wool rugs also act as a natural air filter, trapping allergens such as dust and pollen.) On the other hand, silk is regarded as a sign of luxury, family status, and wealth. Silk is still used in kilim production in the Kayseri and Cappadocia areas, but is definitely much more expensive to obtain. Madder is often used to paint the materials for durability.

 Kilim BagKilim BagKilim Bag Blue

Kilim Bah Grey

The kilim bags you see on Papriqqa, LLC are handmade and made of cotton. They are extremely lightweight with unique designs and colors. The handle is adjustable. For longer use, you should hand wash in cold water and hang dry.

If you are interested in learning more about the designs and the kilim language, you should read this really interesting article, "Language of Kilims."