Kilims are woven rugs featuring colorful, striking designs. They are produced in several areas of the Middle East and Turkey, and are often sold in Middle Eastern carpet shops and markets. Also, these rugs are sometimes found in Western antique stores, and in other outlets that offer imported carpeting and textiles. Based on the method of production, kilims might be used as horse saddles, carrying cloths or prayer rugs – as well as for decorative purposes.
To make kilims, weavers stretch linen or cotton warp strands on looms, then weave colorful weft strands to form patterns. Usually, rugs are woven tightly so the plain warp strands are not visible. Most of the time, kilim rugs in the UK have floral or geometric themes, whereas others feature designs indicating the areas they were made in – like tribal motifs. Once the rug is complete, a fringe is created by tying off the warp strands.
Ardabil rugs have insignias resembling those that are used on Caucasian rugs. Nonetheless, Ardabil rugs have more objects and insignias included on the borders – and the colors are lighter. Primarily, geometrical patterns are used and the most popular layouts are octagonal shapes, connected medallions in diamond shapes, and regular medallions. The Herati (Mahi) design is the most well known design used on Ardabil rugs. This consists of a small fish and diamond shaped medallion throughout. Another commonly used insignia is the elegant female figure (or elibelinde). In recent times, some weavers have started using loud, geometrical patterns in favor of conventional Herati designs. These weavers have included colors like purple and turquoise, alongside the more old fashioned pink, red, green, blue and ivory.
Slits are one of the notable characteristics of traditional kilims. Often, when they require different colors, weavers just switch off instead of interweaving them. Consequently, the rugs acquire tiny slits on the sides of their patterns. Sometimes, these slits can be stitched together, however some collectors want to purchase rugs with slits, due to their perceived value. Typically, slit weave rugs feature extremely bright, bold patterns, whereas interwoven rugs feature patterns with more nebulous, blurred edges.
Carpet collectors who are just starting out often purchase kilims first, because they tend to be less expensive than pile rugs. In the past, kilims were regarded as somewhat inferior or secondary to pile carpets. Notwithstanding, in recent years, kilims have become sought after collectors’ items in their own right. These days, quality kilims can command large prices.