Tools & Materials

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 often.


   
  Tools1

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 kilim workshops.


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 properly treated.


   
Kilim Rugs  

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.