What does it take to make a kilim
area rug? In material terms, not very much really. A loom, a
beating comb, a shuttle (optional) and a knife or scissors are
the simple tools needed and wool is the primary material. Cotton,
silk and animal hair (goat, camel, or horse) are also sometimes
used, mostly in conjunction with wool. Gold or silver thread,
beads, and other small decorative baubles that strike the weaver's
fancy are also sometimes inserted into the design, but not very
The earliest known illustration of a loom appears
on an Egyptian bowl dated to ca. 4000BC, but its invention is
believed to have been made even earlier, at the dawn of civilization.
Today, though looms may vary in type, size and complexity of
construction, in most cases they are quite simple structures
of wood with, perhaps, a few metal parts. The function of the
loom is to hold the longitudinal strands (known as warps) under
tension so that the horizontal strands (called wefts) can be
woven between the warps to produce a kilim rug. Custom and circumstances
usually determine the type of loom used. Sedentary villagers
usually employ a fixed vertical loom while nomads, for the sake
of portability, generally employ a horizontal ground loom where
stakes driven into the ground hold the loom in position. Adjustable
looms with a fixed width but with a mechanism permitting the
completed horizontal kilim section to be moved out of the way
of the weaver are usually found in more sophisticated contemporary
A beating comb is usually just a larger and
cruder version of the familiar hair comb; it is usually made
of wood, metal, bone, horn, or some combination of these materials.
Its function is to compress, i.e. "beat down", succeeding
lines of wefts against the preceding ones so that the kilim
rug produced is tightly woven.
The shuttle is basically a stick with notches
in the ends. When used, the weft end is placed
in the notch and the shuttle is then inserted
between alternate warps to produce a weave, but
weavers often prefer to dispense with the shuttle
and pass the weft between the warps by hand.
A knife or scissors are used to cut and trim
the wefts and warps; their function needs no further elaboration.
"It is generally acknowledged by
experts that good quality wool is used today in the production
of kilims of repute..."
Wool is the primary and often the only material
used to make a kilim rug. Many kilim rugs are made totally from
wool where it is used for both warps and wefts, and wool is
the primary weft material used with cotton warps, which accounts
for the great majority of all kilim rugs. This popularity of
wool is due to its inherent qualities. It is supple, durable,
handles easily when spun or woven, readily takes on dyes and,
most important, is in plentiful supply in kilim-making regions.
There are certain breeds of sheep, like the merino, whose fleece
is especially sought-after for its special luster and length
of fiber, but actually it's the domestic fat-tailed sheep bred
is favorable climatic and grazing conditions that provides much
of the excellent fleece used in kilim rugs. Whatever the source,
however, it behooves the kilim maker to use the best wool available
to ensure high quality of the final product if it is to be competitive
in world markets. It is generally acknowledged by experts that
good quality wool is used today in the production of kilim rugs
of repute, thus ensuring them long life - provided they are
Cotton is commonly used for warps because of
its high strength and plentiful supply. Also, because it keeps
its shape well in use, retains its natural whiteness with age,
and because it can be spun into fine, thin strands, it is commonly
interwoven in places to highlight certain aspects in the overall
design executed mainly with wool.
Animal hair - goat, camel or horse - is used
sparely in kilim-making, but to good effect. Fine goat hair
in particular, when mixed with wool, gives a silky sheen, while
the strong longer outer hair may be used for warps or enduring
selvedges. Very strong and durable camel hair, where available,
is sometimes used to give added strength to a woolen kilim rug,
while tail or mane hair of horses is used by some nomads to
provide decorative fringes or tassels.
Silk was and remains a luxurious material, and
though flatweaves made from silk are now rare
they are still produced, notably in the Kayseri
district of Anatolia in Turkey. Bridal dowries
that include silk flatweaves are treasured, regarded
as status symbols, and protected as family wealth.
Beads and baubles, and other items that may
be regarded as extraneous to a flatweave readily marketable
in Western countries, are sometimes interwoven into a kilim
design by some tribal kilim-makers and, due to their very authenticity,
such kilim rugs have a certain ethnic appeal.