Kilims are produced by tightly interweaving the warp and weft strands of the weave to produce a flat surface with no pile. Kilim weaves are tapestry weaves, technically weft-faced plain weaves, that is, the horizontal weft strands are pulled tightly downward so that they hide the vertical warp strands.
When the end of a color boundary is reached, the weft yarn is wound back from the boundary point. Thus, if the boundary of a field is a straight vertical line, a vertical slit forms between the two different color areas where they meet. For this reason, most kilims can be classed as "slit woven" textiles. The slits are beloved by collectors, as they produce very sharp-etched designs, emphasizing the geometry of the weave. Weaving strategies for avoiding slit formation, such as interlocking, produce a more blurred design image.
The weft strands, which carry the visible design and color, are almost always wool, whereas the hidden warp strands can be either wool or cotton. The warp strands are only visible at the ends, where they emerge as the fringe. This fringe is usually tied in bunches, to ensure against loosening or unraveling of the weave.
Although the name kilim is sometimes used loosely in the West to include all type of rug such as Cicim, Palaz, Soumak and Zili, in fact any type other than pile carpets, the name kilim properly denotes a specific weaving technique. Cicim, Palaz, Soumak and Zili are made using three groups of threads, namely longitudinal warps, crossing wefts, and wrapping coloured threads. The wrapping threads give these rugs additional thickness and strength. Kilims in contrast are woven flat, using only warp and weft threads. Kilim patterns are created by winding the weft threads, which are coloured, backwards and forwards around pairs of warp threads, leaving the resulting weave completely flat. Kilims are therefore called flat weave or flatware rugs.
To create a sharp pattern, weavers usually end each pattern element at a particular thread, winding the coloured weft threads back around the same warps, leaving a narrow gap or slit. These are prized by collectors for the crispness of their decoration. The motifs on kilims woven in this way are constrained to be somewhat angular and geometric.
In tribal societies, kilims were woven by women at different stages of their lives: before marriage, in readiness for married life; while married, for her children; and finally, kilim for her own funeral, to be given to the mosque. Kilims thus had strong personal and social significance in tribal and village cultures, being made for personal and family use. Feelings of happiness or sorrow, hopes and fears were expressed in the weaving motifs. Many of these represent familiar household and personal objects, such as a hair band, a comb, an earring, a trousseau chest, a jug, a hook.
One of the main differences between kilim weaving and plain weave is that while in a plain weave the warp and weft are evenly spaced (meaning they are both seen), with tapestry weave used in kilims, the warps are more widely spread, and the wefts are packed densely to completely cover the warp threads. This imbalance creates weft-facing weaves that carry the entire pattern.
Slit Tapestry/Slit Weave
This is the most common weaving technique used to create geometric and diagonal patterned kilims. The slit refers to the gap left between two blocks of color. It is created by returning the weft around the last warp in a color area, and the weft of the adjacent color is later returned around the adjacent warp. Weavers pack the weft tightly to completely cover the warp and often favor diagonal patterns so as to avoid weakening the structure of the rug with vertical slits. They work on one color block before moving onto the next. It produces bold, sharp patterns that weavers enjoy creating with more freedom allowed than a plainweave. It also results in a smooth kilim that is reversible with the same pattern on both sides in most cases.
Dove-tailing and Double Interlocking
A number of techniques evolved to deal with the problem of the slit that was formed using the above technique. These techniques developed in the Near and Middle East, but were not used so commonly in Anatolia. Dove-tailing (also known as shared warp or single interlock weave) refers to the wefts from two different color blocks, returning (in opposite directions) around the same warp that forms the boundary between them. With the double interlocking technique, wefts from adjacent color fields interlock with each other between the warp threads that run between them. With both of these techniques, the striking contrast of the colors that are created using a slitweave is lost, resulting in more blurred designs. Nevertheless, they are main techniques to be used for strong joins between vertical color blocks.
This is the common name for weft wrapping technique used to create complex and varied designs. Colored yarns are wrapped around the warps following mathematical patterns that allow the weavers to create free flowing intricate designs that form reliefs on the surface of the work. Because it is a time consuming technique, it is commonly alternated with thin plain-weave ground wefts and often used for smaller works such as bags, prayer sheets and mats.
These difficult techniques were favored by Yörük, Turkmen, and Kurdish tribal weavers in Anatolia. They are forms of supplementary weft or extra-weft weaving that allows weavers to add patterns onto the standard weft which holds the warp thread together. They give the appearance of an embroidered addition, and usually result in a raised pattern. As the nomad way of life disappears, so too does the knowledge of how to create these weaves.
With the jijim weaving technique, different colored threads are applied between the weft and warp threads, on the reverse of the weave. It is often used to decorate a plainweave object, or to create small ornamental motifs, that may be scattered or in series. The groundweave underneath shows through, giving the impression of an embroidered motif, and it is often used to fill areas of negative space. Bristle wefts are often used to create a textured effect on bags, mats and quilts.
This is another supplementary-weft weaving technique used exclusively in Anatolia, and is a type of float weave commonly used for tents, cushions, sacks, and mats. It has a rough appearance, covering the entire surface of the material with a distinctive effect that resembles cording and runs parallel to the warps. The extra wefts are wrapped around the warps, usually in a ratio of 2:1, 3:1, or 5:1. After the line is complete, the extra wefts are applied and pulled tight.
Tulu and Filikli Tulu
Derived from the word ‘tüylü,’ which means ‘hairy’ in Turkish, this techniques produces long-piled soft mats that were used by the pastoralists in central Anatolia to provide comfort and warmth during the harsh winters. They are created using extra wefts, made from loose spun yard, that are interwoven into a plainweave kilim using a Turkish Knot (where the yarn encircles two warps and is pulled tight between them before being cut) and results in tufts of soft wool. A Filikli Tulu kilim is made using silky mohair yarn, taken from the hair of the Angora goats.