Part 1: Major Kilim Producing Regions in Turkey: Aegean Region, Afyon
July 14, 2018
Part 2: Major Kilim Producing Regions in Turkey: Aegean Region, Aydin
August 5, 2018

Dyes Used in Kilims

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There are three main classifications of wools used in Kilim production:  chemically-dyed, vegetal-dyed, and natural (or no-dye) wools.

No question about it, natural or vegetal-dyed wools are preferred over wools dyed with chemical substances. The reasons for this are myriad, but the biggest one is this: vegetally-dyed wools are simply more aesthetically pleasing (and therefore more valuable) than their chemical counterparts.

However, less than 5% of the Kilims made in the world today actually use vegetal dyes. Why?  Plant-based dyes are much more difficult to work with, and require a skill level that takes many years to acquire. Thus, vegetal-dye pieces are far more costly than their chemically-dyed counterparts. Some Kilim dealers will try to tell you that every rug and Kilim they sell is vegetal-dyed.  Please tread with extreme caution if you hear these words, as this is, in virtually every instance, a misstatement of the facts.  Some folks will say this to justify very high prices, but the reality is, very few rugs and Kilims are actually vegetal dyes. This is especially true if the dealer is selling older pieces, as the art of vegetal dying was nearly lost in the last hundred years or so, and has only recently made a “comeback.”

One important thing to watch for when viewing Kilims is color-fastness.  Check for this by dampening a paper towel and gently blotting the towel over the back of the Kilim.  If you see dye on the cloth, this indicates the dyes are less than totally colorfast, and due caution should be used in cleaning. Obviously, a rug or Kilim that is not colorfast is not a “fancy” piece, and while this doesn’t mean the rug or Kilim must be avoided, it does mean the piece should be relatively inexpensive.

Natural dye materials number in the hundreds, but a few of the more common include:

– Eucalyptus

– Cochineal

– Madder Root

– Onion

– Pomegranate

– Saffron

– Acorns

– Sumac

– Walnut

– Indigo

– Broom

– Cone flower

– Foxglove

– Nettle

– Sorrel

– Yarrow

– Chamomile

– Tumeric

3 Comments

  1. Lindsey says:

    Informative content for Kilim lovers! I take this into account when I want to buy a Kilim for my room.

    • Sonia says:

      If your furniture is a solid color, match their hue to a patterned area rug choice. If the furniture in your room is upholstered in a vivid pattern, choose a muted or solid colored rug to coordinate with the room.

  2. Niha says:

    Under an electron microscope, a wool fiber dyed with natural dyes has more of a speckled rather than a solidly colored appearance.

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