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File:Hotamis Kilim .jpg
Hotamis Kilim (detail), central Anatolia, early 19th century. Photo courtesy Marla Mallett

Kilims (Persian: گلیم‎‎ gelīm, Azerbaijani: Kilim, Turkish: Kilim) are flat tapestry-woven carpets or rugs produced from the Balkans to Pakistan. Kilims can be purely decorative or can function as prayer rugs. Modern kilims are popular floor-coverings in Western households.


The term 'kilim' originates from the Persian gelīm (گلیم) where it means 'to spread roughly',[1] perhaps of Mongolian origin.[2] The Turkish name is kilim; Kurdish has its own name: berr.


A Shahsavan kilim (in Ardabil) with typical geometric symbols, some of them of mythological inspiration, such as the crab or scarab beetle.

Like pile carpets, kilim have been produced since ancient times. The explorer Mark Aurel Stein found kilims dating to at least the fourth or fifth century CE in Hotan, China:

"As kilims are much less durable than rugs that have a pile to protect the warp and weft, it is not surprising that few of great age remain.... The weave is almost identical with that of modern kilims, and has about fourteen threads of warp and sixteen threads of weft to the inch. The pattern consists of narrow stripes of blue, green, brownish yellow, and red, containing very small geometric designs. With this one exception, so peculiarly preserved, there are probably very few over a century old."[3]

Weaving technique

Kilims are produced by tightly interweaving the warp and weft strands of the weave to produce a flat surface with no pile. Kilim weaves are tapestry weaves, technically weft-faced plain weaves, that is, the horizontal weft strands are pulled tightly downward so that they hide the vertical warp strands.[4]

When the end of a color boundary is reached, the weft yarn is wound back from the boundary point. Thus, if the boundary of a field is a straight vertical line, a vertical slit forms between the two different color areas where they meet. For this reason, most kilims can be classed as "slit woven" textiles. The slits are beloved by collectors, as they produce very sharp-etched designs, emphasizing the geometry of the weave. Weaving strategies for avoiding slit formation, such as interlocking, produce a more blurred design image.[5]

The weft strands, which carry the visible design and color, are almost always wool, whereas the hidden warp strands can be either wool or cotton. The warp strands are only visible at the ends, where they emerge as the fringe. This fringe is usually tied in bunches, to ensure against loosening or unraveling of the weave.[5]


Detail of a Turkish kilim

Ardabil rugs feature motifs that are very similar to Caucasian rugs, but with more motifs and objects woven into the borders. The colors are also lighter. The patterns are predominantly geometric and the most common layouts on Ardabil rugs are medallions, multiple connected diamond-shaped medallions, and all-over octagonal shapes. The most recognized design found on Ardabil rugs is the famous Mahi (Herati) design - a diamond medallion and small fish throughout. Another widely used motif is the elibelinde, a stylized female figure.[6] Some modern weavers have begun to favor bold geometric patterns over the traditional Mahi (Herati) design and have added colors such as turquoise and purple to the more traditional red, pink, ivory, green, and blue.

Commercial value

Because kilims are often cheaper than pile rugs, beginning carpet collectors often start with them. Despite what many perceive as their secondary (or inferior) status to pile carpets, kilims have become increasingly collectible in themselves in recent years, with quality pieces now commanding high prices.

What some sensed as inferiority was actually a different nature of rugs woven for indigenous use as opposed to rugs woven on a strictly commercial basis. Because kilims were not a major export commodity, there were no foreign market pressures changing the designs, as happened with pile carpets. Once collectors began to value authentic village weaving, kilims became popular. Now, many kilims are woven for export.


Persian (Iranian)

Gelim of Harsin in Kermanshah, Tarh-e-Aroosak (طرح عروسک, "Doll Design") Type
  • Ordinary kilims: this type of kilim is woven with hemp, cotton and also wool threads.
  • Gunny kilim: this special type is woven with varicolored pieces of cloth.
  • Suzāni kilim: this type is embroidered with raised figures after the ordinary kilim is woven.
  • Needlework kilim: this type of kilim is hung on the wall and is woven with cotton threads.
  • Jol (جل): this is a kind of kilim the surface of which is embroidered. With their decorative designs, they are used as horse saddles.
  • Palās (پلاس): this is a kind of kilim in which each color is used for weaving several rajs, it does not have a pile. Palas is also the name used for the coarse woollen robes dervish wear.
  • Jājim (جاجیم) or chador-shab (چادرشب): this is a kind of striped carpet woven with colored threads and thinner than palas.
  • Zilu (زیلو): this is a kind of kilim woven with cotton threads and simple designs quite in harmony with rural life. It has a cotton warp and weft.
  • Rakht-e-khāb pich (رختخواب‌پیچ, "bed-packing"): this type of kilim is used by migrating tribes.
  • Charkhi-bāf kilim (چرخی‌باف): this is a kind of sturdy and thick kilim only one side of which can be used.
  • Khorjin (saddle-bags) and Juwals: these kilims are used for carrying goods.
  • Gilimcheh (گلیمچه, "small kilim"): these are woven like kilims but tiny and decorative.
  • Masnads: these are sturdy and fine-woven decorative kilimeches.
  • Navār-chādor (نوارچادر, "tent-band"): this type of kilim is decorative.
  • Sajādeh (سجاده, prayer kilims): these are woven with altar designs and are used for praying.
  • Ghigh: this kilim is used for the walls of tents; both of its side are the same and can be used alike.
  • Rah Rah (گلیم راه‌راه): These kilims (or, more precisely, soumak rugs) are woven mostly in the Sirjan region and are also called khatti design kilims. Ardebil and Moghan are woven in the same design but in lower qualities.
  • Kamoo Sofreh (سفره کامو): These Sofrehs are woven mostly in Kamoo and are also called Natural design Sofrehs.

Balkans and Eastern Europe

Anatolian (Turkish)

Perhaps the best known and most highly regarded, these kilims (or kelims) are traditionally distinguished by the areas, villages or cities in which they are produced, such as Konya, Malatya, Karapinar and Hotamis. Most Anatolian kilims are slit woven. Larger antique kilims were woven in two to three separate sections on small nomadic horizontal floor looms in three feet wide long strips, then carefully sewn together matching the patterns edges to create an ultimately wider rug. These pieces are still being produced in very limited quantities by nomadic tribes for their personal use and are commonly known as cicims.

  • Cicim or Jijim or Jajim: kilims woven in narrow strips that are sewn together.


  1. CARPETS v. Flat-woven carpets: Techniques and structures, Encyclopedia Iranica, by JEAN-PIERRE DIGARD and CAROL BIER
  2. American Heritage Dictionary, s.v.
  3. Hawley, Walter A. Oriental Rugs Antique & Modern. (1913). Reprint (1970): Dover Publications, New York, N.Y., p. 278.
  4. "Carpets v. Flat-woven carpets: Techniques and structures", Encyclopædia Iranica [1]
  5. 5.0 5.1 Davies, 2000[page needed]
  6. "Hands on Hips - Elibelinde". Retrieved 24 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


External links