Weaving Techniques

The reason that rugs are a subject of such fascination and admiration for so many is that within their threads they carry the weight of history. The designs (which may have religious, talismanic or totemic meanings) tell the stories of their weavers, and of traditions passed down from one generation to the next. Creating these designs, while retaining structural integrity, requires great skill and knowledge of different weaving techniques that can be employed for different effects, many different examples of which may be seen in a single rug.

In our article, What Is A Kilim, we established that a kilim is defined as a flatweave rug (as distinct to a carpet or pile rug), in which warp yarns (those fixed to the loom) are interwoven with weft yarns usually with the slitweave technique. 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.

Another solution was to create the discontinuous weft, which allowed weavers to work (by hand) on one color block at a time. The quandary of what to do with the weft led to them returning it back on itself, resulted in the slitweavetechnique that is employed in the majority of kilims. This and other main rug weaving techniques are explained below.

Hand/Knotted Pile Rug

Before we being to look at the flatweave weaving techniques however, it is important to clarify what makes it unique by understanding the common pile rug or knotted weaving technique. In these plush rugs, knots are made on the warps, and then cut before moving onto the next (forming the pile effect, which also carries the pattern of the rug). After each row of knotting, wefts are then inserted and packed to the desired stiffness. There are two main different types of knots used. The symmetrical Turkish/Gordes/Double knot involves looping the yarn around two warps and then pulling it tight between them, which naturally creates a more durable rug. The a symmetrical Persian/Sehna/Single Knot is preferable for designs with higher “resolution” and involves wrapping one end of the yarn around a single warp, and then taking the other end loosely beside the adjacent warp, before cutting both ends.

Slit Tapestry/Slitweave

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.

Soumak/Sumak

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.

     

Brocading

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.

Jijim/Jajim/Cicim

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.

Zili

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.

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