History of Kilims              

         What is a kilim?


kilimThe Merriam-Webster dictionary defines kilim as “a pileless hand-woven reversible rug or covering made in Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran and Western Turkistan. From this definition another question arises: Are all kilims reversible? The answer is no.

Kilims are also made in other regions like the Balkans or North Africa. So, how can the concept of a kilim be defined?


The best definition could read as follows: “kilim: a word of Turkish origin which denotes a pileless textile of multiple uses produced by one of several flat weaving techniques that have a common or closely related heritage and are taken into practice in the geographical areas of Turkey (Anatolia and Thrace), Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, China, North Africa, the Balkans and the Caucasus”.





Having solved the matter of a definition then a clarification should be made between a kilim rug and a carpet or pile rug. The design of a kilim is made by interweaving the colored wefts and warps--creating what is known as a flat weave-- in a pile rug individual short strands of different color, usually of wool, are knotted onto the warps and held together by pressing the wefts tightly against each other. The design is created by these separately knotted strands that form the pile and the patterns become visible to the eye after the excessive length of the knotted strands are shorn off. In conclusion, the kilim rug is pileless and the carpet rug has pile.


The origins of kilims 

The past of humanity jealously hides the genesis of kilims. It is quite probable that we will never know the exact or even true origins of the kilim rugs. The merciless unbeatable enemy that prevents us from having solid physical evidence as to where and when the first kilims were woven is the fact that all textiles yield rapidly to both the ravages of time and nature.


The lack of clear evidence leaves room for speculation, some motivated by well-meant curiosity and impartial academic

interest while other may be based on less benevolent cultural, religious or nationalistic bias.


Therefore a theory proposes that the kilim rug originated in the fourth century BC.It is reasonable to assume that kilims evolved from utilitarian, non-decorative and non-symbolic weaving in a remote prehistory when man started discovering himself as an artist through several forms of crafts. It is also acknowledgeable that the first weaves constituted only a technological advance over the use of animal skins which were probably decorated with dyes or beads.


When weaving was discovered it was likely that a few patterns of colors were incorporated into some

of the first products of the weaver’s loom. One more time, the evidence to support when and where

the artistic met the technological is not conclusive which contributes to the mystery surrounding

the kilim rugs of today.


To quote some of the existing evidence it may be said that there are some fragments in existence of oriental rugs of which the oldest dates from the thirteenth century. Ancient sources describe many rugs found in history. For example, Sui annals state that woolen rugs from Turkey and Persia were being exported to China during the sixth and seventh centuries. Alexander the Great found Cyrus the Great’s tomb resting on a fine rug. Marco Polo while traveling through the Caucasus and Turkey in 1271 described the beauty of the Turkish and Caucasian oriental rugs he saw there.


To conclude, the only and most relevant fact is that it does not matter where this fascinating rug was made, the technique of creating a soft pile by knotting and compacting wool yarn is the same one used by rug weavers today.


And for kilim lovers neither history no words

can convey the beauty and romance of the kilim.


Read more: Colors in Rugs