What is a kilim?

Sarkoy Kilim from our collection

A definition of Kilim

People are always asking us “What is a Kilim?” So I am dedicating this blog to answering that question as best I can.  I think adding to the confusion is the amount of various spellings and pronunciations. We have kilim, kelin, gelin, gelim, chelim; then add to that all the sub groups that the word ‘kilim’ can encompass such as çiçim, flat weave, slit weave, sumak (soumak) and it is easy to get confused.

Kilim (from Wikipedia): Persian: گلیم gelim) are flat tapestry-woven carpets or rugs produced from the Balkans to Pakistan.

Whereas carpets are made from knotting the single strands of wool onto the warps and cutting the wool down to reveal the design (see diagram above), kilims are made by passing the wool back and forth between the warps (continuous or discontinuous).  The diagrams below are all close-up examples of various kilim weaves.  These diagrams are taken from Peter Davies ‘Antique Kilims of Anatolia’, a brilliant starting point for anyone interested in kilims.


No single definition can encompass the romantic side of this age-old art though.  Kilims are woven from the creative mind of their weaver, using her and her family’s traditional motifs, style and of course the natural land that surrounds them in the use of natural dyes and the variants of wool available to them.  There are at once stunningly unique yet full of history.

There are 2 basic schools of thought about the origin of kilims and I find it fascinating that there is still an unequivocal answer after the decades of study this art has received.  Or perhaps this only adds to the mystic!

Briefly, some believe that the great migration of Turkmen tribes from Far East Asia (Mongolia) in 11 Century AD brought the weaving tradition and its motifs to the Anatolian plateau.  Others believe that the weaving culture was already established in Anatolia since possibly Neolithic times, known as the ‘Mother Goddess’ theory.

Regardless of the theories, Anatolian kilims in particular, have a history and a beauty that it is difficult to liken to any others.

Gallery | This entry was posted in Goddess Theory, Kilims, warps & wefts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What is a kilim?

  1. Paul schweitz says:

    Great article, have two old kilos, one Anatolian and one L’essenziale.
    Nice, question i.e., they both have a ten by twenty cm hole in the center!
    Is this common?
    Thanks, Paul schweitz

    • Sorry for the massive delay Paul (would appear notifications were off). That would be uncommon. You would be able to tell from the edges though, are they sealed/stitched to produce the hole or fraying? ..that would be your answer 🙂

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