Many motifs are used in traditional kilim rugs, handmade flat-woven rugs, each with many variations, and we will take a look to kilim rug motifs in this post.
In Turkish Anatolia in particular, tribal women wove themes significant for their lives into their rugs, whether before marriage or during married life. Some motifs represent desires, such as for happiness and children; others, for protection against threats such as wolves (to the flocks) and scorpions, or against the evil eye. And, these motifs were often combined when woven into patterns on kilims.
In these tribal societies, women wove kilim rugs at different stages of their lives, choosing themes appropriate to their own circumstances. Some of the kilim rug motifs used are widespread across Anatolia and sometimes across other regions of West Asia. However patterns vary between tribes and villages, and rugs often expressed personal and social meaning.
Tree of Life (Hayat Aǧacı, top and bottom of image) symbolizes the desire for immortality.
Each Tree of Life symbol here contains at its centre an Earring (Küpe) motif, a wedding present symbolizing the desire for marriage. Although the name kilim rug is sometimes used loosely in the West to include all type of rugs. Rugs such as cicim, palaz, soumak and zili, in fact any type other than pile carpets, the name kilim rug properly denotes a specific weaving technique. Cicim, palaz, soumakand zili are made using three groups of threads, namely longitudinal warps, crossing wefts, and wrapping coloured threads. The wrapping threads give these kilim rugs additional thickness and strength. Kilim rug in contrast are woven flat, using only warp and weft threads. Kilim rug motifs are created by winding the weft threads, which are coloured, backwards and forwards around pairs of warp threads, leaving the resulting weave completely flat. They are therefore called flatweave or flatware rugs.
Diagram of Kilim slit weave technique, showing how the weft threads of each colour are wound back from the colour boundary, leaving a slit
To create a sharp pattern, weavers usually end each pattern element at a particular thread. Winding the coloured weft threads back around the same warps, leaving a narrow gap or slit. These are prized by collectors for the crispness of their decoration. The motifs on kilim rugs woven in this way are constrained to be somewhat angular and geometric.
In tribal societies, women woved kilim rugs at different stages of their lives: before marriage, in readiness for married life. While married, for her children; and finally, kilim for her own funeral, to be given to the mosque.
Kilim rugs thus had strong personal and social significance, being made for personal and family use. Feelings of happiness or sorrow, hopes and fears were expressed in the weaving motifs. Many of these represent familiar household and personal objects. Objects such as a hairband, a comb, an earring, a trousseau chest, a jug, a hook.