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Understanding Kilim Rugs

Design by Katie Hodges Design | Photo by Haris Kenjar

What exactly is a Kilim rug and what makes it different from other types of Turkish rugs found in my shop? Let's break it down so you can understand and appreciate this interesting, durable rug.

The Basics

Kilim rugs are flatweave rugs, which means that they are made by interweaving various colors of wefts and warps to create a weave that is truly reverseable. By contrast, a carpet that has a pile is made by individual short strands of material knotted onto the warp and held together by pressing the wefts together tightly. Handmade items are the best option for owning durable, heirloom-quality items that will last for decades, and Kilims are among the sturdiest and most durable vintage rugs on the market.

Kilims were created by nomadic tribes across the Anatolian region in Turkey, but also throughout eastern and central Asia. These rugs were the workhorses of the tribes and were made using whatever material they either had on hand or could get nearby. This includes cotton, wool, hemp, goat hair, or a combination of several materials. Sometimes the materials are organized by color, resulting in distinct stripes, while many of the rugs are called plain weave — the most basic weaving technique — and have no pattern at all. They are lightweight in comparison to other types of carpet made in the same region which is another reason they were favored by nomadic tribes.

entry with a kilim runner

Design by Kate Marker Interiors | Photo by Stoffer Photography

Materials, Colors, & Motifs

Undyed goat hair and wool plain weave Kilims feature rich browns and blacks and are desirable for those who want a neutral, textural base on the floor. Goat hair is particularly desirable because of its stunning dark color palette, its strength, and its water-resistant properties. If you pour water on a 100% goat hair rug it will bead up just like a performance fabric, making it an excellent choice for high-traffic areas of the home. They are suitable anywhere you might use an indoor-outdoor rug such as three-season porches or mudrooms.

Occasionally, an undyed rug may include a smattering of thread of a different color that was likely leftover from another Kilim and woven in for subtle interest. While some might perceive that as an imperfection, I find the subtle color variation a sign of the humanity of the weavers and a reminder that the rug is truly a one-of-a-kind item.

Hemp rugs can vary in texture, and may be soft enough to use as a blanket (Darica in my shop is an example of an ultra-soft hemp rug). A hemp Kilim would be an excellent addition to a bedroom or anywhere you desire something soft-to-the-touch underfoot.

Because of the technique used to create Kilim rugs, any designs are going to be more angular in nature than rugs woven in other ways. To create more ornate designs than stripes, the weavers would use a split weave to change the color of threads used in a single row. Evil eyes or amulets  which signify good luck  are common symbols, as is the Jijim design. The Jijim is an ornamentation made with a supplemental thread that enhances plain weave rugs with subtle details. 

Caring for your Kilim

Since your Kilim is lighter weight, you may choose to take it up for cleaning more often than heavier rugs. Place the rug on a flat surface and brush over each side to loosen any debris — a hand broom will offer you the most control when doing so. Treat any stains with a gentle solution, rinse, and then let it dry on a flat surface — inclined if possible. Weekly vacuuming with the beater bar in the upright position will reduce the need for frequent cleaning, and of course we always recommend a properly-fitting rug pad to reduce friction between a rug and the floor. For more details on caring for all types of vintage and antique rugs, refer to this blog post on the topic.

I have several Kilim rugs in the shop now but if you don’t see what you are looking for, please get in touch.