Flat-weaves, or kelims

(Posted on 12/09/13)

Flat-weaves, or kelims

Flat-woven rugs are generally referred to as kelims (or gelims), which is a Turkish word meaning prayer rug.  They are made by tightly interweaving the warp and weft strands to create a flat, pileless surface.  The design is produced by threading the weft strands through s number of the warp strands, rather than directly from edge to edge, and then looping them back around the last warp thread used.  Each section of the overall design is woven separately, and when one part of the pattern is completed a new, usually different, weft thread is inserted at the point where the last one finished.  The angular nature of most patterns allows the warp strands to be overlapped by two or more sections of the wefted pattern, ensuring that the rug is bonded firmly across the width.  On a rare occasions when vertical strips are used in the design, the adjoining sections are either stitched together at the back, or the first and last weft threads from the adjoining segments of pattern are tied around the same warp strand - a technique used by the American Indians in weaving blankets.  Consequently, the weft strands form the pattern on the face of the rug which, because they have been looped back around the warp strands, is clearly visible from both back and front.  Kelims are much quicker and cheaper to produce than pile rugs, and this is normally reflected in their price.  However, they have become increasingly collectable in recent years and are no longer as inexpensive as they were.

Tapestry weaving  A very similar technique to kelim weaving.  It can easily distinguished because the weft strands are left hanging at the back, and the design can only be seen from the front.

Soumak technique  Associated with the Caucasian weaving group of the same name which has produced this highly distinctive type of flatwoven rug for generations.  The design is created by wrapping a weft thread around four (or sometime more) warp strands and then drawing it back and wrapping it around two, a technique of 'looped' weaving not dissimilar to the way fishermen make their nets.  It produced a slight herringbone effect on the face of the rug and a series of ridges along the back.  The easiest way to recognize Soumak weaving is to turn the item over and note the unclipped strands or weft hanging from the back.

                                                                                             (Soumak Kelim)