Persian Kilims
Nasser Parhizgar
Tehran, Iran, January 1987

Kilims, Pronounced In the Farsi language as “gilims”, where the “G” is sounded as in “Good”. they are hand-woven on vertical or horizontal looms, using dyed threads produced from sheep or camel wool as well as cotton and occasionally silk or horse and goat’s hair. usually the warp is of cotton while the weft is from wool.

Kilims are a part of nomadic heritage and have been woven for thousands of years around Persia, as well as other parts of the near east and east Europe. Each area has its own unique style of patterning and coloring. thus as with hand-woven rugs, one can with experience, distinguish origins by the characteristic patterns and colors apparent in a kilim.

Dyes for coloring the threads are usually produced from naturally available raw materials such as fruits (berries, pomegranates, etc.), fruit-skins (walnuts, pomegranates, etc.), flowers, plants and so on. More recently threads from some commercially produced kilims are chemically dyed and therefore pose a handicap during washing, due to possibilities of the merging of colors. Naturally produced colors have the advantage of permanence as well as richer and more sober tones. All kilims can be washed with water at a temperature of 10o-300c,or if size allows, dry-cleaned.

Female members of nomad or village families, perform on the whole weaving with the children helping during free time, usually in winter months when agricultural activity is at the minimum. The more experienced older members in each family produce the finest of kilims.

Unlike hand-woven rugs, which must be designed beforehand, there are no specific patterns or designs pre-set for kilim weavers. Improvisation according to personal tastes and lifestyles plays an important part of the finished product. Therefore understandably, each kilim, even if produced in the same tribe or village tends to be unique unto itself, and finding two exactly similar works can be virtually impossible; ,just as searching for two similar paintings by different artists would be an impossible task.

Weaver’s mind and life experiences directly influence Works. consequently due to their simple life styles, kilim patterns are often abstract, consisting of symbols of rural life and nature such as plants, birds and animals. On other samples one will find geometrical patterns with broad horizontal stripes and figures with bold motives assembled in harmonious colors.

During kilim weaving, contrary to carpet weaving, it is possible for the weaver to start and finish one side or a particular column of patterns before returning to conclude other parts yet untouched. thus it may be that on first look some kilims may seem perfectly symmetrical whereas in actual fact on closer scrutiny one might notice slight irregularities and differences in detail, even though this would not alter the value of the finished product.

Some kilims, when finished, are embroidered; others known as “sumac” have a mass of loose threads at the back. These are called “ needlework” and many are very attractive as well as valuable pieces for collectors.

The outer borders and the fields of kilims are more often than not densely patterned as weavers seldom leave empty areas. Outer borders are sometimes black goat’s wool for the purpose of durability once in use.

The best kilims of Persia are woven in Kurdistan of W. Iran, Azerbaijan of N. W. Iran, Turkmen of N. E. Iran and Qashqai of S. W. Iran. but many other areas also produce kilims of quality and beauty.

In nomadic households kilims have always played a multi –purpose role. Most often it is used as a carpet covering floors, as well as wall hangings for decorative purposes. They are used as saddle covers carryall bags, door drapes, cushion covers and many a time as protection from wind and storm as a blanket.

In modern homes kilims can also play the above roles as well as table covers, curtains, bedspreads and material for furniture upholstering. Being in actual fact a sort of tapestry and very colorful they are very often hung on walls of modern homes lending a cheerful and lively atmosphere to rooms.

Kilims, when worn and used are categorized as antiques and many knowing collectors are at present active in buying available kilims as a secure source of investment.

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