Learn more about rugs
Although no one knows precisely when and where the technique of weaving first started, there is no doubt that the weaving art, in general, started in Central Asia. A population explosion caused the inhabitants of that area to migrate to the western parts of Asia in order to find more prosperous land. These migrating tribes were called "Yörük" or nomadic tribes. During their migrations, these nomads, who were exposed to severe weather conditions, learned to use goat hair in the making of their tents. Goat hair is longer and much stiffer than sheep's wool. The flat weave technique was used in the making of nomadic tents.
Just as with a little girl's braided ponytail where strands of the shorter and stiffer hair stick out, the goat hair sticks out of the woven fabric and partially covers the holes in the flat weave, thus making the tent almost waterproof. Later on, these nomadic people felt the need to isolate themselves from the humidity present in the earthen floors of their tents. They then applied the very same techniques of flat weave to the making of floor coverings and called them "Kilims". Since this was the area of paganism, most flat weave designs reflected stylised depictions of the worshipped symbols.
Over a period of time, the art of weaving improved and many items useful in every day life were woven - for example saddle bags for horses and camels that could be used in the transportation of many types of items. The nomadic tribes also wove kilims with goat hair and used them as warm blankets since the fibers were so long - just as in today's Siirt blankets. It's thought that these early blankets were woven in imitation of actual animal felts. Kilims were also woven as room dividers in the tents, as well as for cradles, with the corners tied to the overhead tent poles so that the cradle could be swung back and forth to rock the babies to sleep. These many types of woven products improved over time with additional uses developed on an evolutionary basis.
At first, the nomads, who strictly lived in tents, stacked dried leaves and lay them in the corners of their tents and used the soft stacks as beds. Under the weight of the sleepers, the beds rapidly turned into dust and provided little comfort, thus causing frequent replacement. Then in a further inspiration of using animal pelts as a model, the nomads started to add pile to the basic flat weaves. These first pile rugs were very supple; the nomads would simply fold and throw them on a horse's back to be used as a sleeping bag during their long voyages.
As mentioned, no one knows exactly when and where the first knotted pile carpets were woven; however the oldest "surviving" pile carpets were discovered in the grave of a Scythian prince in the Pazyryk valley of the Altai mountains in Siberia by a Russian archeologist (Rudenko) in 1947, and is presently displayed in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad. The carpet was woven with the Turkish double knot and contains a surprising 347,000 knots per square meter (255 per square inch); it is 3.62 square meters (6 x 6.5 feet) and has been carbon dated to have been from the 5th century B.C. The Pazyryk, or Altai carpet, is rather sophisticated; thereby showing that it is the product of a long history and tradition of weaving.
During the era of Selcuk Empire, Turks reigned Iran (Persia) and Caucasus for several centuries. The art of weaving was introduced to Anatolia by the Selcuks towards the end of the 11th century when Selcuk sovereignty was at its strongest. In addition to numerous carpet fragments, many of which are yet to be documented, there are 18 carpets and fragments which are known to be of Selcuk origin. The technical aspects and vast variety of designs used proves the resourcefulness and the splendor of Selcuk rug weaving.
The oldest surviving Selcuk carpets are dated from the 13th-14th centuries. Eight of these carpets were discovered in the Aladdin Mosque in Konya (capital of Anatolian Selcuks) in 1905 by Loytred, a member of German consulate staff, and were woven at some time between the years 1220 and 1250 at the apex of Selcuk reign. Of these 8 striking rugs, 3 are large complete rugs; 3 are large fragments from small rugs, and 2 are fairly small fragmants originating from large rugs. Three more carpet fragments from the Selcuk period were discovered in 1930 in the Esrefoglu Mosque in Beysehir. Today, these rugs are displayed in the Mevlana Museum in Konya and the Kier collection in London. A third group of carpet remnants were recovered in Fostad (old Cairo) in 1935-1936. These 7 rugs from Fostad were identified as having originated in Anatolia in the 14th century. The most common design characteristic of the 18 rugs before mentioned are the Kufic border, the eight pointed star, and the hooked (geometric) motif. The Turkish rug, which originated in Central Asia, preserved all of its characteristics until the 14th century. After the Ottomans gained control over the whole Anatolia, changes started appearing in the characteristics of the motifs, and in the sizes of the still traditionally woven Turkish rugs.
During the Ottoman reign, several Turkish tribes decided to settle down and build a number of villages and small towns. Notably, the village of Hereke was settled on the edge of Marmara Sea some 60 kilometers east of Istanbul. The first court carpet workshop was established in Hereke and began to weave carpets of unusually large sizes to be used in decorating Ottoman palaces. These exceptionally fine rugs were also used to tie and retie relationships with European countries in time of war and peace and so they were given as gifts to kings and queens, as well as to key army commanders and statesmen. Towards the end of the 14th century, these rugs which were the finest examples of the eye and hand harmony, began to enter European homes, churches and castles thanks to the intermediaries such as merchants of Florence and Genoa.
During the 14th and 16th centuries, Turkish rug designs appeared prominently in many European artists' paintings, with the rugs so depicted being of Anatolian origin. These paintings were subsequently named for the respective artists, for example, Holbein, Lotto, Memling, Van Eyck, etc. In the beginning of the 16th century, every European prince owned a private carpet collection. In Vienna, the people were allowed to own rugs after 1671. When the Turks left Vienna, many Turkish rugs were left behind in their tents. This allowed fine Turkish carpets to become known by the European populace. A short time thereafter, the kings and queens of Europe began to open their castles and palaces, as well as their residences, to visitation by their subjects. This in turn, spurred European interest and thereby dramatically increased the demand for hand-knotted Turkish carpets.
In the 19th century, additional court workshops were opened in Istanbul in the districts of Kumkapi, Topkapi and Uskudar. And in 1891, Sultan Abdulhamid II increased the number and sizes of the carpet workshops in Hereke, and thus, the exquisite carpets woven in Hereke became more plentiful. Throughout their development from Central Asia to the Caucasus region to the Anatolian plains, steppes, and costal areas, and through the Selcuk and Ottoman eras, Anatolian rugs have maintained the purity and characteristics of their origin. Turkish rugs reached their deserved place in Europe over time. Rugs from Hereke, Usak, Bergama, Kars and other cities became well known and increasingly popular. Anatolian rugs are unbelievably rich in design, color and symbols. Today, these fine rugs are woven in more than 750 villages and tribal (nomadic) areas. Each of these rugs differs from one other by their particular design, symbolism, and relative size; these characteristics are passed on from mother to daughter, and thus for centuries they have kept the same design, symbols, and beautiful shades of color.
The use of vegetables, barko, roots and other natural items to make dyes has been a well known art for many tousands of years. this ancient practice continued unchanged and untouched untill the mid 19th. century when synthetic dyes were invented. The findigs at a Chinese spring dating from about 3000 B.C. inicate that the scince of dyeing was initially devolpped in the far east. On the other hand, in Europe, the first dyers were most probably people who leaved around Zurich Lake in about 2000 B.C. The dyeing industry was established in the 15.th century B.C. We also know that the art of dyeing belongs to old times in India. Marco Polo in the cronicles of his travels tells us how Indigo was cultured before it was exported to Europe by Portugeese to reach and varied Anotoilan dyeing proccesses are a synthesis of the dyeing, the knowledge that was handed down from centuries B.C., and the rich traditions of Anotolia itself. Why are natural dyes so important? Is it because some shades of colour can not be found in various synthetic dyes, or is it because the natural dyes are cheaper or easier to obtain?
Actually, its none of the seasons. The synthetic dye catalogues are quite thick and rich in the kinds of dyes and shades of colour that are available. But the natural dyes come from mother nature's own harmony, and they reflect the preferences of the various peoples through the years and centuries. Plus, the natural dyes (vegetable dyes) will mellow with time, and if left under the sun, They'll shine and radiate the most pleasing shades of colour.
In many areas it is common paractise to expose naturally dyed rugs to the sun so that the colours fade gradially and gracefully to the year ultimate harmony and beautiy. But the synthetic dyes dont have this peculiarity. If the dye used is of the cromatic type, the colours are fast to light, as well as moisture, which, in itself, can be considered as an advantage. But if the synthetic dye used is of a lower quality, with time the colours will fade and the various shades will probably be dull and lifeles. We can see with our naked eyes all the differences in dyes, understand the advantages, and disadvantages of each type, and easily discern which ones are more harmonies and eye pleasing.
Fine Turkish carpets recognised for their value and beuty are made with natural dyes obtained from plants, berries and trees. Chemical dyes are also used but to the trained eye they do not have the beauty or lustre of natural dyes. The main natural dyes are listed below.
Dyes Woad (Civit Otu) Blue: From this plant dark or light blue tones are produced by the length of time which the plant is boiled. It is found along the edges of fields groving wild in Central and Western Anatolia. Dyers Woad and some other plants are used to yield indigo which is the oldest and most important blue dye.
Madder Red (Kok Boya): The roots of this plant are known as madder. It grows wild in Central and Western Anatolia. A two year old plant will be about one and a half meters heigth . "Rose madder" was a standart colour on the plattes of the old masters of the Rennaissance and today, many expensive Itailan and English neckties are known as madder ties because of the rich deep toned red colour.
Ox-Eye Camomile (Sari Papatya), Bright Yellow: During the spring, one finds this plant all over Anatolia. It's large, golden yellow flowers a top long stems last throughout the summer. It grows along roadsides and in dry meadows. The flowers, fresh or dried, used along with an alum mordant, produce a bright yellow.
Walnut Tree (Ceviz), Brown: The beatifull walnut tree can be found in the forested country of Eastern Turkey. It is a profusely branched tree which has a heigth of up to 25 meters and bears peanut leaves. The fruit is covered with a thick green rind which along with the leaves, is often used by villagers for a green or blackish-brown dye. The walnut tree is native in Turkey and is absent only in the regions with several meters. Turkey producs 15-20 percent of the world's wallnut crop. The effective colouring agent is the brown dye, juglone, which adheres directly to wool fibers without a mordant (mordant means a fixing agent). In ancient times the wallnut pods were used in medicine and for the dyeing of hair.
Pomegranate Tree (nar), Yellow to bronish yellow and brown to black: This tree grows in the mild regions of Western, Southwestern, and Northeastern Anatolia. It's a tall tree with a heigth of up to 40 meters, with branches that are spiny with very shiny, lance-shaped, dark green leaves. It's easily distinguished by it's beatiful pinkish-violet flowers. During autumn, the tree bears a fruit with many seeds which is the yellow-red skinned pomegrate. The fresh or dried skin of the fruit is used for dyeing. If an alum mordant is used, along with the skin, a yellow brownish shade will result. If an iron mordant is used, a brownish-black shade will result. In Oriental carpets and kilims, the pomegranete is a symbol of fertility and abundance because of it's many seeds.
Buckthorne (Cehri), Deep Yellow: This plant grows only in Turkey on slopes with altitude up to 3000 meters (9843 feet). Before the 20th. century, it was mainly cutivated in Central Anatolia (Konya, Kirsehir, Sivas, Ankara and Kayseri). To day only wild shrubs grow along roadsides, in fields and vineyards at Urgup, Corum and Kahramanmaras, which are areas of farmer cultivation. The unripe fruits, fresh or dried are used to create the dyes. When an alum mordant is used, a deep yellow will result. This deep yellow from the dried fruits is mainly used for dyeing silk. This colour dye is ofen used to obtain secondary and tertiary colors.
Supurge (Sutlegen), Yellow: This plant grows throughout Turkey. The entire plants contains a milky juice in its narrow, undivided leaves and clusters of blossoms. Some variaties bloom during the late summer and early autumn. All parts of the plant, except the roots are used for creating this yellow dye. This dye is frequently detected in cottaged industry carpets of anatolia mainly in the Daskiri, Maden and Ortakoy carpets.
Bast Hemp (Gence), Brilliant Yellow: This dye is not used as ofen as other yellow dyes. This plant grows on the mountains of Central and Eastern Anatolia. The brilliant yellow colour is common in older flat weaves. The strong colour is often mistaken for a chemical dye and for this reason it's not popular in Western anatolia Workshops where weavers cater to foreign market. In Eastern Anatolia, Lake Van area, the kilims are produced for local consumers who perefer bright colours and are less concerned about the distinctions between chemical and natural dyes.
Wild Camomile (Beyaz Papatya), Yellow: During March, in Western and Southern Anatolia, this camomine plant will cover entire fields with fresh bolssoms. With alum mordant, a clear yellow dye will be obtained.
Tree-Leaved Sage (Ada cayi), Yellow: This herb can be found in most Mediteranean regions. It blooms on the dry hill sides from March up Until August. It is distintive its tall flowering spikes of mauve or pinkish two-lipped flowers. The leaves and stams, either fresh or dried, are sutible for dyeing. Plants are just one of many sources from which to obtain natural dyes. To obtain a natural dye the plant is boiled to extract the colour. Next, to ensure the absorption of the colour in to the wool a second plant or natural salt is mixed with the dye. This second plant or salt is known as the mordant.
A mordant prevents beeding or running of colours thus it fixes the colour. If a chemical salt is used as mordant the dye is still called natural. When alum is used as mordant alone with madder a pale red is obtained because alum is a natural light salt. But if iron is used as a mordant a deep red or burgandy is produced. The choice of modant determines the colour of dye. Today, some people belive that there are no natural dyes because of certain chemicals which are used as mordants. Mordants are form from natural chemicals of the earth not synthetically produced, so when they are added to natural dyes they act as a fixing agent and produced the colour desired by the weaver.
Rugs and the various flatwaves are made from five basic materials; sheep wool, goat hair, cotton, floss silk, and silk.
Pure Silk: The silk used in Turkish carpet comes from silk cocoons in Bursa. It has a very high tensile strenght and can be twisted very finely, plus it is guite resistant. The finest silk comes from the first part of the amazingly long single thread with witch silk warm spins its cocoons. When unrolled, the thread from one silk cocoon can stretch up to 25,000 meters. The best and the finest hand-woven rugs in the wold are Hereke silk rugs. A normal quality silk Hereke should have 1,000,000 knots per square meter. To day with tremendous care, attention and density, some exceptional Hereke silk rugs are woven with 3,240,000 knots per square meter; that is 18 knots vertically on 1 cm. And 18 knots horizontally on 1 cm. This indicates how finely the silk can be twisted and woven, as well as how strong and resisdent this piles can be.
Sheep Wool: The quality of wool varies according to the climate, the breed of sheep, and the time of year of the shearing. Wool from sheep that live in warm and arid regions is normally dry and brittle, and since it breaks so easly, it ends up being short and feels lifeless. Good quality wool comes from helthy and well fed sheep found in cold regions or at high elevations with good grazing lands and lots of water. In the colder regions, sheep grow a full fleece to keep warm and their bodies store fat which then translates to a high lanolin content within the fiber which reaches lengths of 10 cm. and more. The wool so obtained feels silky smooth and yet springy. Wool from the higher elevations (cooler also) and from the spring shearing is considered to be the highest quality. Wool is hand-spun by using primative utensils called kirmen (drop spindle) and by spinning wheels. Women usually spin the wool during idle moments and the street while spinning. In hand-spun wool, the original length of the fiber stays the same through the spinning process - a fiber tahat measured 7 cm. before spinning will still measure the same after spinning. Wool can also industrially spun, but the hard twisting of the fibers by the spinning machines tends to berak some of the fibers. Although the broken bits and shorter fibers can be made to adhere together through the use of oils during the spinning process, the fiber will have lost some of its strength, which, in turn, will shorten the life spun of the rugs to be woven.
Cotton: In rug and kilim weaving, cotton is used mostly for the warp threads, as well as for the wefts. Compaired to wool, cotton is generally considered to be a more residant fiber and it is less elastic. So, tighter knots can be tied on cotton warps as opposed to wool. If very tight knot are tied to a wool warp, the fiber will break much more frequantly than if the warps were of cotton. Consequentl, woolen pile rugs with high knoting density counts will normally have cotton warps, for example, in Hereke, Ladik, and Kayseri Bunyan carpets. Goat Hair: Goat hair occosionally found in Oriental rugs in the side bindings (selvedge), but is more frequently found in saddle bags, cushions, various types of stacks, etc.
Floss Silk: Floss silk, or art silk as it is some times called, is actually mercerised cotton and is used in certain rugs that are woven in Kayseri. Although not identical to silk, a somewhat similar look is obtained by mixing cypress tree fibers with cotton that has been washed in citric acid. Floss silk rugs are woven with natural cotton warp and weft threads.
In flatweaving there are a number of different types of loom and weaving techniques but for purposes herein, the various types can be catogorized into two general groups. The first grouping contains the basic flatweave technique, or "kilim weaving". In a kilim, the pattern is formed by passing a yarn of a particular colour over and over and under the vertical yarns (known as warps) for the duration of the particular colour or design motif, then the same horizontal yarn (known as weft) is turned on the same path (next row) along the edge of the same coloured motif. This process is continued until the individual motif is completed. Then the next motif is started where the initial one finishes, but the two yarn colours are not normally joined together in anyway, thus causing a slit to appear between the two respective yarns. Each block of colour is then woven succesively until the whole kilim is completed. When you hold a kilim woven in this way up to the light, you can easily see the slits where two patterns meet but do not join. The second grouping contains flatweaves which employ the technique of way wrapping or brocading.
A motif is created by adding a third yarn to the warp and weft yarns which is wrapped arround the warp yarns in several configirations depent upon whether the intent is to weave Cicim, Zili, or Sumak. In Cicim, the motifs are usually scattered or in series, with no organic relationship between any two motifs, and the basic ground weave (warp and weft) shows through so that the Cicim motifs appear to be embroidered. In Zili the entire surface of the ground weave is normally covered with the design yarns and vertical lines, somewhat like cords, protrude to give Zili its distinctive appearance. In Sumak, the entire surface is also normally covered with the design yarns. All three techniques may be employed together in one flatweave if desired. Each of the 4 basic types of flat-weave also has a number of sub-groups with variations in technique (23 total).
There are two principal types of knots that are used in rug weaving. The first one is called double knot, Turkish knot, or Gordes knot and naturally given a firmer weave yielding to a stronger and more durable carpet. The second one is known as the single knot, Persian knot, or Sennah knot.
The Turkish knot is standart of yarn encirling two warp threads, with the loose ends rawn tightly between the two warps. The Persian knot is a strand of yarn that encircles one warp threads and winds loosely around the other warp. One loose end pulled through the two warps, while the other end goes to the outside of the paired warps.
Rugs and the various flatwaves are made from five basic materials; sheep wool, goat hair, cotton, floss silk, and silk. The quality of wool varies according to the climate, the breed of sheep, and the time of year of the shearing. Wool from sheep that live in warm and arid regions is normally dry and brittle, and since it breaks so easly, it ends up being short and feels lifeless. Good quality wool comes from helthy and well fed sheep found in cold regions or at high elevations with good grazing lands and lots of water. In the colder regions, sheep grow a full fleece to keep warm and their bodies store fat which then translates to a high lanolin content within the fiber which reaches lengths of 10 cm. and more. The wool so obtained feels silky smooth and yet springy. Wool from the higher elevations (cooler also) and from the spring shearing is considered to be the highest quality. Wool is hand-spun by using primative utensils called kirmen (drop spindle) and by spinning wheels. Women usually spin the wool during idle moments and the street while spinning. In hand-spun wool, the original length of the fiber stays the same through the spinning process - a fiber tahat measured 7 cm. before spinning will still measure the same after spinning. Wool can also industrially spun, but the hard twisting of the fibers by the spinning machines tends to berak some of the fibers. Although the broken bits and shorter fibers can be made to adhere together through the use of oils during the spinning process, the fiber will have lost some of its strength, which, in turn, will shorten the life spun of the rugs to be woven.
In rug and kilim weaving, cotton is used mostly for the warp threads, as well as for the wefts. Compaired to wool, cotton is generally considered to be a more residant fiber and it is less elastic. So, tighter knots can be tied on cotton warps as opposed to wool. If very tight knot are tied to a wool warp, the fiber will break much more frequantly than if the warps were of cotton. Consequentl, woolen pile rugs with high knoting density counts will normally have cotton warps, for example, in Hereke, Ladik, and Kayseri Bunyan carpets.
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