Every carpet, with its patterns, resembles a collection of messages, beliefs and symbols.
They are declarations of wish, on which all expectations are enshrined. Every patterns that is woven onto a carpet is a
picture of feeling, a desire or a wish. So far as that every carpet represents a living history from the early ages to the
present in which women have patiently and untiringly written their joys and sorrows in amazing codes and magic letters which
are to be read line by line. They contain voices of birds, voices of children, gently blowing spring winds, flowers, leaves,
branches, figures, whims, wishes and rebukes. An expectation of news by a bird with four wings and heads, but the language
of these symbols has not been fully decoded to our day.
As well as being one of the most indispensable interior decoration goods, carpet has long been a precious gift item,
migration on the roots of conquest and trade, carrying its patterns from one place to another and this magic work of craft
has finally traveled through the ages to our times with its colors, symbol-language and with all its beauty becoming a
subject of "flying carpet" tales.
Like the epic of Elbruz mountain ( a mythical mountain believed to surround the world binding the horizon on all sides-
translator ), the location of the holly fire which burnt the heart of Prometheus and which is also frequently mentioned in
the tales of 1001 nights, life stories and holly narratives have been using colors and language of violets, roses hyacinths
and spring flowers. The so called water of life which made people immortal was also hidden somewhere behind mountains.
People looked for it in vain it was not found. Therefore , human beings failed to achieve immortality. The mythical bird of
Phoenix also built its nest behind these mountains. There were also giants and dragons which embraced the universe. This old
fairy tale was woven into colorful Caucasian carpets depicting an eagle and snake. The theme was also adapted prayer rugs
and even woven into socks heads carves in the hands of women and girls.
Like yellow narcissus and ovidius, symbolizing hopeless love, today's Anatolian people still attribute countless meanings to
flowers and narrate their day-today emotions in this way. An engaged girl preparing for marriage , expresses her love and
happiness by putting a pink hyacinth motif in her lace and weaving into a carpet. Purple hyacinth denotes melancholy, white
hyacinth denotes, loyalty, poppy flower denotes spring, tulip carnation denotes love and peace, clover violet denotes luck,
fertility and paradise. All symbols become the young women's language.
These masterpieces of art, decorated with all the colors of nature, with embroideries and motifs, have migrated over the
centuries from one country to another and from one district to another, undergoing an interaction with local cultures on the
way. That's why it is quite normal encounter surprising results in the course of studying the origins of particular motifs.
While, at the same time observing in amazement how patterns, which are similar to the motifs of Anatolian origin, dating as
far as back 3000 BC have been woven into Turkish carpets, one comes across certain motifs of the Pazyryk carpet found also
on Seljuk bowls.
However, any attempt to determine the origins of motifs as a whole consisting of all these symbols, and to study the
different origin, which have overlapped in the course of their history, has understandably become a problem as complicated
as untangling the complex of beliefs. Human beings, in the course of their own development over thousands of years, have
reshaped their carpets, motifs and embroidery from one generation to another. Today's women still weave their carpets in the
same frame of mind and emotions, but they no longer know the origins of these mysterious patterns and motifs. They continue
this long artistic and historical adventure by attributing them with new names and meaning relating to their present lives.
There are very few documents in existence that might help to shed light on the history of the carpet weaving craft. One of
the most significant sources in this field is the Pazyryk carpet. During excavations made under the supervision of
archaeologist S.J.Rudenko in 1947-49 at the second tomb (tumulus) in a row of five that came to attention along the Soviet-
Mongolian border, an interesting tool was found, which has very similar to the weaving combs in use today. However, for a
long time archeologists found it hard to say what it was used for. Later one of the most interesting carpet in the world was
brought in to light. The Pazyryk carpet, which was found at the fifth tomb, was the most exciting discovery made in respect
of the carpet weaving history. It owned its almost perfect preservation to the fact that it had remained frozen inside a
large piece of ice, in generally, wood products are worn out under wet atmosphere, like underground or tomb.
Click on the photo for a larger version.
Hence the very limited number of old carpets. However, the Pazyryk carpet is an enormous exception due to coincidence
mentioned above. This carpet, which amazed the world of archaeology and arts, has been preserved in its original state for
nearly 2500 years and has reached our time due to the fact that the water which filled the tomb turned into ice. Its year
of manufacture and origin has been a matter of debate among experts. It has been claimed to be of Iskit or Hun origin
lately. Hun origin idea has been accepted.
Dimensions of this carpet, which is estimated to have been woven between the 5th - 3th centuries B.C. are 2.00 x 1.85 m. Its
warp and weft as well as knots are all wool. It was woven using double knot method with 36 double knots to square
centimeter. In addition to its highly superior weaving technique, it has a historical character. This carpet of
extraordinary fineness and superior quality, has such motifs that reveal cultural manifestations of a typical nomadic or semi- nomadic society. Named after its location, this carpet is known as the Pazyryk carpet and is exhibited at the Hermitage
Museum in St. Petersburg (Leningrad).
Carpet, being an invention of nomads, was an important means created the cold ground which was an important problem when the
tent was erected. It was laid down to avoid stepping on bare ground in the tent. Hides were used in its place before,
however they were easily worn out. A final solution to keep out the cold could only the use of a very strong and durable
material. Therefore, a softer, thicker and more durable item, which would retain warmth better and also double up as a bed
or duvet, was needed. Kilim was in use much earlier, but it was insufficient at keeping out of the cold and damp from the
ground. It was primarily used as a cover on cradles or hung in the middle of the tent as a partition. Priscus, a member of
the delegation sent by Byzantium to West Hun Emperor Attila, wrote that a carpet was laid before his seat in the tent and
told that his bed was segregated from the room by an embroidered linen. Different functions performed by carpet and kilim
are, therefore, evident.
The first carpets were woven with wool knots on wool warp. At the beginning, the ends of knots (pile) must have been left
uncut. In this way, a long dense and thick surface could be obtained, and this thick layer of wool could ensure protection
against the cold in cold areas where winters were harsh. This new weaving technique, developed as knots on double warp
threads by making use of the kilim weaving technique, evolved as the carpet that we know today. The single knot system, on
the other hand, did not become very popular among nomads. The most important thing for nomads was the durability of the
goods. For they could not find the raw material required for producing a new carpet whenever they needed it and whenever
they want, if the old one become unusable and had to be replaced. Lambs could not be sheared in winter to obtain wool for
weaving carpet; it had to wait until spring. Consequently, a new carpet could not be woven at any time of the year.
Therefore, to avoid such an unexpected problem, nomads has to produce reliable and long lasting goods. That is how they have
the double knot technique (also known as Gördes-Gordion knot) which considerably increased the strength of the carpet.
Turkish carpets are named after each district which respectively have their own individual designs and characteristics
reflected on each carpet. These carpets which are usually woven on looms at high planes and villages have standard sizes.
With a difference of a few centimeters, they are usually woven in sizes of 60 x 100, 90 x 135, 130 x 200, 150 x 200 or 200 x
300 cm. But they may also come in larger and different sizes. However, it is almost impossible to find a carpet in very
specific size. Also some carpets are very rarely available or not available at all, in any size other than its standard
size. Since these carpets are usually geared for their weavers, it is impossible to find nomadic carpet in very large sizes
(exceeding the ground size of a tent). Today there are about 300.000.carpet looms in Turkey, producing annually an average
aggregate sum of 4.500.000.m2 of carpets.
in 1868 later in its chemical production in Europe, dealing a serious blow to the production and
export of root dyes in Anatolia. Chemical dyes were introduced in Turkey in 1882 and from then on production of root dyes in
Anatolia began to decline as result of aniline dyes imported from Europe.
However, this practice was saved from complete extinction by nomadic-Turkmen communities who with their habit of using
natural dyes by means of traditional methods.
Indeed, the craft of using natural dyes involves a rather precise and complicated process. Degree of maturity of the plant
to be used, boiling, temperature, dosage of pigment and composition of the water (with or without lime) largely affect the
shade of color to be obtained. At present, pear leaf, alchamilla, vine leaf, quince fruit and leaf, dyer's daisy, buck
thorn, walnut shell and leaf, indigo plant, plane tree leaf, linden leaf, acacia flower, pomegranate, snapdragon, wild mint,
peach leaf, saffron, wild rose and many other plants are used to produce natural dyes, resulting in extremely beautiful
shades of color.
Nature provides its own store of colors. Trees, flowers, plants and even certain types
of soil (particularly those containing iron oxide) supply incredibly beautiful colors. Certain archaeological findings
indicate that such plant dyes have been used for a very long time.
During Seljuk and Ottoman periods, natural dyes became an important sphere of commercial and artistic activity. For
instance, 15 Th. century sources indicate that, in addition to the production of root dyes and the development of the
methods to obtain different colors, kermess insect (cochineal), indigo and plants containing similar pigments were shipped
from Anatolia to Europe. The same sources also reveal that during the Ottoman period such dye plants were grown with great
care under state subsidy and control, and that in the 16 Th. century caravans used to arrive in Bursa from various
countries, loaded with silk thread to be dyed there. Buck thorn, known as golden tree, was particularly a very popular and
prized source of natural dye. Discovery of the composition of the dye, called Turkish red (cramoisi), which was very famous
in Europe, as a result of the analytical studies by C. Liebermann
Reflecting the weaver's skill, carpet forms one of the most important items in the dowry of the young Anatolian girl preparing for her marriage. Dowry carpets are usually kept for life and laid only to honor important guests. These are only sold in hard times, when the family is an economic crisis.
The term "nomad" has been used hitherto in its most general sense. However, former nomads who have become settled also produce carpet in the same way. Carpet weaving is an additional means of income for thousand of peasants today. The women do not stop weaving carpet after marriage. Expecting the Turkish woman to stop weaving carpet would mean to tearing her apart from her highest source of pride. At present carpet looms at villages have stubbornly resisted modern developments and resolutely carried its traditional craft and historical custom. These carpets which once decorated the palaces of Sultan have also become an important means of investment today.
WEAVING THE CARPET
The out line of a carpet loom looks like a wooden frame. Warp threads are vertically wound around the loom parallel to each other, depending the type and the size of the carpet. After preparing the warp, a chain like plait called "chiti" is woven, leaving a margin for fringes, and then a 2-4 cm wide kilim weaving is done so as to prevent the pile knots from shifting and dropping out. Upon a completion of this procedure, the carpet is ready for weaving. The weaver hangs the colored knotting threads wound into small balls together with the carpet design, drawn on a graph paper somewhere within reach. The type of graph paper used, depends on the type of the carpet and the density of its knots. A quarter of the carpet a symmetric model of a center patterns, and a half of the niche design is drawn on 1/2 graph paper.
Each knot on the carpet corresponds to one square on graph paper and its color is designed by the paint covering the
respective square. Sitting on a small tool, weaver begin to weaving the carpet from the bottom upwards. As the weaving
progress, the carpet is shifted behind the loom. Upon completion of a row of knots, the weaver passes the horizontal thread
called weft throughout the warp threads (below and above) across the width of the carpet, and firmly presses on the knots
with the shed stick. The ends of knots, which have been cut roughly with a knife at the time of each knotting, are trimmed
with a special pair of scissors to make them even with the face (pile) of the carpet. The two methods used in carpet weaving
are; (Gördes) Turkish knot double knot and (Sine) Persian knot single knot.
Although the single knot method largely facilities working with detailed motifs, the double knot method produces an
extraordinary strength. Carpets woven with the double knot method, therefore, turn out to be an important means of
investment as they stand better against wear and tear in time. Upon completion of the carpet, another cilium weaving is done
so as to fix the knots. Finally, a chain plait is woven and the carpet is cut loose from its warp to be taken out of the
loom. It is washed with soapy water, to get rid of the dust and dirt collected during the course of weaving, and made ready
Rugs and the various flat weaves are made from four basic materials; sheep wool, goat hair, cotton and silk.
The quality of wool varies according to the climate, the breed of sheep and the time of year of sheering. Wool from a sheep that live in warm and arid regions is normally dry and brittle, and since it breaks so easily, it ends up being short and feels lifeless. Good quality wool comes from healthy and well fed sheep, found in cold regions or at high elevations with good grazing lands and lots of water. In the colder regions, sheep grow a full fleece to keep warm and their bodies store fat which then translates to a high lanolin content within the fiber which reaches lengths of 10 cm and more. The wool so obtained feels silky smooth and wet springly. Wool from the higher elevations (cooler also) and from the spring sheering is considered to be the highest quality. Wool is hand-spun by using primitive utensils called "kirmen" (drop spindle) and by spinning wheels. Women usually spin the wool during idle moments and on the street while spinning. In hand-spun wool, the original length of the fiber stays same through the spinning process, a fiber that measured 7 cm before spinning will still measure the same after spinning. Wool can also industrially spun, but the hard twisting of the fibers by the spinning machines tends to break some fibers. Although the broken bits and shorter fibers can be made to adhere together through the use of oils during the spinning time process, the fiber will have lost some of its strength, which, in turn, will shorten the life spun of the rugs to be woven.
In rug and kilim weaving, cotton is used for the warp threads, as well as the wefts. Compared to wool, cotton is generally considered to be more resistant fiber and its less elastic. So tighter knots can be tied on to cotton warps as opposed to wool. If very tight knots are tied to wool warp, the fiber will break much more frequently than the warps were or cotton. Consequently, woven pile rugs with high knotting density counts will normally have cotton warps, for example, in "Hereke", "Ladik" and "Kayseri" carpets.
Goat hair occasionally found in oriental rugs in the side bindings (selvedge) but is more frequently found in saddle bags, cushions, various types of stacks etc.
The silk used in Turkish carpets comes from silk cocoons in Bursa. It has a very high tensile strength and can be twisted very finely, besides it is quite resistant. The finest silk comes from the first part of the amazingly long single thread with which silk warm spins its cocoons. When unrolled the thread from one silk cocoon can stretch up to 25.000 meters. The best and the finest hand woven rugs in the world are "Hereke" silk rugs. A normal quality silk "Hereke" should have 1.000.000 knots per square meter. Today with tremendous care, attention and density, some exceptional "Hereke" silk rugs are woven with 3.240 000 knots per square meter; that is 18 knots vertically on 1 cm. And 18 knots horizontally on 1 cm. This indicates how finely the silk can be twisted and woven, as well as how strong and resistant these piles can be.