Kilims are flat tapestry-woven carpets or rugs. Kilim weaving is a tradition that is believed to have migrated with the Turkmen tribes to parts of present-day Iran, formerly Turkey and Afghanistan, in the eleventh century A.D. However, archaeological evidence has recovered kilim woven textiles from as early as 7,000 B.C., making kilim one of the oldest design traditions in the world! Traditionally, Turkish families have multiple kilims, hanging them on the wall for decoration and using them as bed spreads, carpets, dowries, prayer rugs and table covers. The kilim rugs we use at George Smith are all produced in the Konya area of Turkey; we source them predominantly from those who specialise in traditional manufacturing methods.

How it's made

Arguably the most well-known of the oriental flat weaves, the foundation of these rugs gives them their design and colour. Kilims are manufactured by weaving the weft (latitudinal yarn) through the warp (longitudinal yarn). A particular characteristic of a kilim rug is their tendency to be identical on each side. The kilims George Smith use are usually around 50 years old.

Designs and motifs

Kilim designs are very traditional. Designs are passed on from generation to generation; sometimes they carry a certain meaning, sometimes they are created purely for their aesthetic value. The time it takes to complete a rug varies greatly depending on the size. On average, a 2m x 3m kilim rug takes 12-16 weeks depending on motifs, number of colours, complexity of design and loom availability.

Kilim motifs, their colours and their symbolism are extremely rich and complex. They range from symbols representing scorpions and stars to fertility and wolf’s mouths. The image above is a fertility pattern composed of two elibelinde motifs, which indicate the female, and two koc boynuzu motifs, indicating the male. The eye motif in the middle of the composition is said to protect against the evil eye. The unique nature of kilims reflects the heritage of the cultures in which they are rooted. The kilim weavers, who are wonderfully knowledgeable in the language of kilim rugs, are believed to practice the intricate art of communication in their designs. Read more here about the language of kilim motifs and symbols.

Upholstery techniques

Kilims are upholstered using the same traditional methods as we use on our standard George Smith products. The kilim is applied to each individual panel with the aid of broad width hand pliers, which allow the upholsterer to apply pressure evenly over the tension of the kilim. Essentially, it is the application of a floor rug onto furniture. When applying the kilim to the furniture, the upholsterer pays particular attention to the positioning, in order to achieve the best possible pattern matching.

Selecting kilim rugs for clients

We always carry a number of high quality vintage kilims from Turkey in our factory. Two types of kilims are usually supplied: seamed and non-seamed. The non-seamed kilims are used on larger areas, such as stools, and the seamed kilims are used on smaller areas, such as inside arms. Two kilim rugs are generally used per sofa and one kilim rug per chair. The client chooses from our gallery of kilim options, and our trained and specialist team matches up each individual panel.

 Image courtesy of Homes & Gardens

Designing with kilims

With their unique ability to add personality to any space, kilim prints are becoming more and more sought after; whether as a rug, for upholstery, or as a decorative wall print. The vivid colours and unique geometric designs are supremely eye-catching and enhance many different interiors, from bohemian chic to contemporary living, where they can soften up a white room. They are also extremely durable and, unlike many interior fabrics, they tend to look even better with age!