Turkish rugs have always been admired and sought after for their charm and character. For many centuries they have been used for decorating homes, although in their country of origin they are an important part of religious life.
The rugs are made in all parts of the country, but for this brief introduction we'll describe them in three sections.
Not all rug making in Turkey goes back to ancient village life. Carpet production was introduced into some areas in the mid 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.
The Hereke area in western Turkey now produces some of the most sophisticated carpets. These are known for their elegance and their use of the Senneh knot in their construction. The style of these rugs is actually inspired by Persian designs (from Kerman and Tabriz), and French designs (Savonnerie and Aubusson carpets).
In the east of the country between the towns of Kayseri and Sivas, short pile rugs are made. These designs are influenced by designs from Tabriz and Isfahan in Persia, but they also produce rugs which use local geometric designs, many in the form of prayer rugs.
All these rugs, whether the pile is in wool or silk, are amongst the finest rugs woven anywhere in the world.
Video: showing a woman making a Turkish rug.
Rural Village Weaving
In many areas rural village weaving has been carried on without any influence from the outside world. Kiz carpets are dowry rugs woven by girls with the help of their families. Traditionally a bride gives the groom a carpet which she has made herself. These rugs are for private family use, and not intended to be sold.
Rural rugs are woven using floral patterns. Prayer rugs are noted for their use of stylized tulips. Natural cotton is a common pile material, and a white ground is often used, with carnation designs and 'boteh' motifs providing color.
In this area are the towns of Bergama, Kula, Melas and Ghiordes. Ghiordes gives its name to the typical symmetrical Turkish knot used in rug weaving. The most popular and well-known design from this region is the tree-of-life in a very stylized form and geometric flowering diamonds. These are used in making prayer rugs.
Melas produces authentic Anatolian designs, typically a tree-of-life in a stylized form, and geometric flowering diamonds in prayer rugs. These tend to have an arrowhead shape woven in warm colors. The borders are wide, and are made of stylized geometric and floral designs.
Bergama rugs can be either of a Caucasian design, or closer to the classic Anatolian types of Melas.
Ghiordes produces rugs which are popular in the western word because of their extremely elegant designs and colors. Prayer rugs and double-niche rugs are frequently made here. Naturalistic flowers from French designs were introduced in the 19th century, and are still used in many designs. A typical Ghiordes carpet will have a squat-shaped 'mihrab' and uses a lot of borders.
Ghiordes Turkish rugs are considered to be the equal of the best Persians.
Points of Interest
At the risk of oversimplifying, here are a few general points of interest.
- Because most Turks are Sunni Muslims, they observe the strict Koranic rules regarding making pictures of people or animals. This is why you will rarely see such figures on these types of rugs.
- The pile is almost always longer than Persian rugs. They also tend to have fewer colors.
- On prayer rugs when the 'mihrab' mosque pattern is used, a lamp or ewer is suspended from an arch. You'll often see this with two pillars either side, which are pillars of wisdom.
- Red and blue are the most usual colors used for backgrounds. Sometimes the sacred color green is used.