Turkish carpets date back as far as the 5th century B.C. The art of rug weaving began in Central Asia by nomads, who made goat hair rugs to protect themselves from severe weather. Turkish rugs were traditionally made by women, who passed down their weaving designs to their daughters. Today, Turkish rugs are woven in more than 750 tribal areas and villages, incorporating the same symbols, designs and colors that have been passed down through generations. Before purchasing a Turkish carpet, learn how to evaluate its quality. Use these tips to buy a Turkish carpet.
Prepare to Buy a Turkish Carpet
- Choose a kilim for a less expensive alternative. A kilim is a flexible, woven rug that can be folded. It has no backing, and can be used as a furniture covering, blanket, wall hanging or rug. Kilims often are made from cotton fibers using a flatweaving technique.
- Choose a hand-knotted carpet for a higher quality rug. Made of wool or silk, handwoven Turkish rugs are single or double knotted onto a firm backing.
- Choose handmade Turkish rugs for the high quality weaving and unique story each carpet offers. Artisans create rug designs that share part of their own life stories. Handmade rugs are hand-knotted and, depending on the size, can take years to complete.
- Choose commercially manufactured Turkish rugs for design control. Customers can dictate the colors, styles and patterns displayed in commercially manufactured rugs. If you are tied to a particular color palette or design, consider purchasing a commercially made Turkish carpet.
- Consider several different sizes for each room. Areas like dining rooms, hallways and entryways may not allow for many sizing options. However, in living rooms and bedrooms you may be able to utilize several carpet sizes based on different furniture arrangements in the rooms. The more sizes you are willing to consider, the more choices you will have when purchasing a Turkish carpet.
- Understand the typical Turkish rug dimensions. Handcrafted Turkish rugs vary in size. However, many rug weavers use the following carpet dimensions: Yastik is 60 by 90 cm (23.6 by 35.4 inches); Ceyrek is 90 by 135 cm (34.5 by 53.1 inches); Kisa Yolluk is 70 by 200 cm (27.6 by 78.7 inches); Seccade is 120 by 180 cm (47.2 by 70.9 inches); Saf 110 by 230 cm (43.3 by 90.6 inches); Karyola is 150 by 230 cm (59 by 90.6 inches); Kelle is 300 by 200 cm (118.1 by 78.7 inches); and Taban is 6 m x 6 m (19.7 x 19.7 feet).
Select a Turkish Carpet Dealer
Purchase a Turkish carpet from a carpet cooperative. Workers at Turkish carpet cooperatives will take you on a tour of the work areas, share a cup of tea with you, and then present various carpets according to your preferences. Carpet cooperatives, which typically represent the work of hundreds of artisans from dozens of villages, do not necessarily have the cheapest prices, but they offer high quality, authentic Turkish rugs.
Look for a reputable rug dealer who is an expert in Turkish carpets. If you aren’t planning a trip to Central Asia or Turkey any time soon, seek out an expert dealer locally. A Turkish carpet expert can provide information about the fiber content and quality. Reputable dealers will provide comparisons between different carpets and won’t try to pressure you to purchase a specific rug. Some dealers may allow you to take Turkish carpets home so you can evaluate how they look in your home before purchasing them.
- Inquire about where each Turkish carpet was made. Although rugs are made in more than 750 villages and tribal areas, each area is known by its own designs, symbols and styles. An educated carpet dealer can provide insight into the origin of the rug by evaluating its design.
Evaluate the Quality of the Rug
- Determine if the Turkish carpet is hand-knotted. Authentic Turkish carpets are hand-knotted, and can take months or even years to complete.
- Understand the 2 types of knots used in Turkish rug weaving. The double knot, also called a Gordes knot or Turkish knot, provides the most durable carpet. In a double knot, a strand of yarn encircles 2 threads. The single knot, also called a Sennah knot or Persian knot, encircles 1 thread.
- Examine the underside of the rug for imperfections. The underside of a hand-knotted rug will show some imperfections in the knots. If the back of the rug is perfect, it probably was made by a machine, not a person.
- Evaluate the knots per square inch (KPSI). The higher the KPSI, the higher the quality. Approximately 150 KPSI is considered average, while fine Turkish rugs may have KPSI counts of 500 or more.
- Examine the design on the underside of the rug. The greater the number of knots, the more distinctive the design will be on the back of the rug.
- Ask what material was used to make the Turkish rug. Turkish rugs and flatweaves are made from 5 materials: sheep wool, goat hair, silk, floss silk and cotton. Select rugs made from natural materials, which are more durable than synthetic materials.
- Consider Turkish carpets made from wool. Wool carpets are the most traditional type of Turkish rug, and are woven by hand in countryside villages. Wool quality varies by region and climate, with the higher quality wool coming from sheep found in cooler and higher elevations. The wool typically is hand-spun using a drop spindle, called a kirmen, and spinning wheels.
- Evaluate silk Turkish carpets. The silk used in Turkish rugs comes from silk cocoons. When unrolled, the single thread from a silk cocoon can stretch up to 25,000 meters (82,021 feet). The silk fibers are strong and can be twisted easily. Because of the fine fiber, silk rugs can feature about 625 KPSI. Large silk Turkish carpets can take up to 6 years to complete.
- Consider floss silk Turkish rugs. Often referred to as art silk, floss silk is mercerized cotton that has a sheen similar to silk. It is used primarily in rugs woven in Kayseri.
- Evaluate goat hair carpets. While historians believe that Turkish carpets were originally woven with goat hair, very few rugs today are made with goat hair. Occasionally, goat hair will be used in the bindings of Turkish carpets.
- Consider cotton Turkish carpets. Cotton is usually considered more resistant and less elastic than wool, so tighter knots can be achieved. Cotton is used primarily for creating flatweave Kilim rugs, although it can be used to create hand-knotted Turkish carpets as well.
- Determine whether natural or synthetic dyes were used on the Turkish carpet’s fibers.
- Evaluate natural dyes. Authentic Turkish carpets are made from natural dyes extracted from vegetables, roots, flowers and insects. Natural dyes provide greater authenticity and will increase the rug’s value. However, natural dyes will mellow over time.
- Evaluate synthetic dyes. Synthetic dyes are available in a wider range of colors than natural dyes. However, unlike naturally dyed fibers, synthetic fibers don’t hold dye throughout the entire fiber. A closer examination of a Turkish carpet created with synthetic dyes will reveal that deeper fibers don’t have the same color as fibers closest to the surface. Synthetic dyes usually hold their color better over time than natural dyes.
- Rugs from Hereke and Kayseri are distinctive from other Turkish carpets. Hereke rugs are denser than other Turkish rugs, and therefore more expensive. Artisans from the Kayseri region are known for their rugs with intricate floral designs and bold colors.
- Do not dry clean or steam clean Turkish wool rugs. The chemicals used in dry cleaning can be harmful to the rug fibers and affect the longevity of the rug. Steam cleaning strips the natural oils from the wool, converting live wool to dead wool.