Kilim carpets are a type of decorative floor covering with origins which are firmly rooted in history.
History and Background
Kilim carpets have been handmade for hundreds of years around the world. It is unsure where they originated, but the word ‘kilim’ is itself of Turkish origin. The distinguishing feature which differentiates kilim carpets from similar items such as Persian rugs is that the Kilim is created using a flat-weave technique, whilst Persian rugs are made by using a knotting technique.
In addition to their decorative function, the Kilim has also served numerous practical purposes throughout history. As well as being a useful carpet, they also served a useful purpose in the storage of daily essentials such as grains, and upon hanging around the home, could protect the owner against bad weather. Kilim carpets were also very popular with nomadic peoples, for they are light and easy to transport.
The weaver of each individual kilim usually has full control over the appearance of the end product, and therefore the design of a kilim carpet is almost always the result of improvisation. This freedom of design extends to all areas of the rug; from colour to design to the materials used.
Guide for Collectors
Kilims are produced by interweaving the warp and weft strands of the weave to create a flat surface. Once a colour boundary has been reached, the weft yarn is then backwards from the boundary point, often creating a vertical split between the two different areas of colour.
These are beloved by collectors, as they tend to be emphasize the geometric nature of the weave, include sharp-etched designs. Other weaving strategies, such as interlocking, produce a far more unclear design image. Warp strands are made of either cotton or wool, whilst weft strands, carrying both the colour and the design, are almost exclusively wool.
Value and notable auction sales
Kilims are a rug of choice for beginning carpet collectors, as they are often cheaper than pile rugs. Despite often being perceived as inferior or secondary to pile carpets, they have in their own right become increasingly collectible in recent years, with quality pieces often reaching high prices at auction.
What some may perceive as inferiority to pile carpets is in fact something very different. Kilims have not experienced foreign market pressures to change their designs, so after being appreciated by collectors for their authentic nature, they have increased in popularity.
A Bessarabian kilim carpet sold from Sotheby's auction house for $42000 on 10th November 2006, another Kilim carpet sold from the same auction house for $24000 on 16th December 2005, and at the same auction, another Bessarabian kilim carpet sold for $10800.
A Persian Senneh kilim rug auctioned at Clars Auction Gallery for $3750 on 7th October 2007, and a late 19th century kilim was sold from Nazmiyal Live Auctions for $3500 on 15th April 2010, whilst an antique Turkish Kilim Carpet circa 1900 sold at the same auction for $2500.
Smaller Kilim carpets, such as the one auctioned by William Bunch Auctions and Appraisals on 21st September 2010, which sold for $50, have been auctioned for similar amounts.