Weaving a Turkish rug by hand is a skill that produces a work of art, and due to the increasing number in machine-woven products, this is becoming a fast dying art form. Owning a genuine Turkish rug is an investment as the market is now flooded with fake rugs. And finding a genuine Turkish rug is becoming a rarity.
Turkish rugs are renowned and so how can one tell
- if it has genuinely been woven by hand and NOT by machine?
- which is silk and which is mercerised cotton?
Here’s what we learnt from our few hours at a rug workshop in Turkey.
To keep the trade alive, especially in the rural areas, the women are trained at the workshop for approximately 3 months. The first rug they complete is considered theirs to keep as a “reward” for their training. The second rug is assessed and, if the rug is approved, the woman officially becomes a rug weaver and can weave from home. All equipment is provided.
The weavers have patterns to use when weaving rugs. Each one is different and depending on the region/era that the rug is made, the colours and pattern can vary. With their religious faith, they believe only Allah (God) is perfect so no rug will be weaved as perfectly as the pattern. Each rug, in fact, will have a slight flaw or error, usually unnoticeable but not always.
To weave Turkish rugs, weavers use a 2-knot technique which essentially makes the rug stronger, tighter and easier to clean. Ultimately this results in durability as well. But this also means that it takes longer to weave. A Turkish rug can take anywhere from months to years to hand weave. When explained to us, we could understand how the amount of work and skill put into weaving a rug justifies the cost of a genuine Turkish rug. To ensure the women can maintain their trade, they are expected technically to have regular breaks (approximately every half an hour or so) throughout the day.
Hand or Machine?
A few tricks of the trade to help identify whether a rug is hand woven or not
- Hand woven rugs should be stored rolled up in shops. The quality should be questioned the moment rugs are kept flat and stacked on one another.
- Hand woven rugs when flipped over on the reverse side will have an almost identical pattern as its front.
- The tassles on the ends of the rugs are part of the rug and not “stitched” on. The rug should be woven in between the tassles.
Is it really silk?
Mercerised cotton and silk have very similar appearances. But the difference between the two materials is silk can’t be set alight when brought close to a flame or won’t “fluff” when a coin is rubbed against it. Silk rugs can last hundreds of years and when you look at it from different angles, the colours on the rug will appear as different hues.
The process to obtain silk from silk worms is a process in itself. From one silk worm cocoon, a mile (1.6 km) of silk, on average, can be extracted. And when silk is woven, it was described as being as strong as steel. That certainly raised our eyebrows.
We visited the carpet weaving workshop, nearby to Saklikent Gorge, certified by the Turkish Government and the Carpet Weaving Association. Buying at these Turkish Government workshops, we were told, you will get an authenticity certificate posted to you within 6-8 weeks. Ours arrived within 2-3 weeks of us returning home. Depending on the size of the rug, it can be arranged to be shipped to you. Because ours was a small wall-hanging, we figured we would just carry it home with us. They packaged it really well.
Almost 3 months on, we still are yet to frame our “rug” and find a spot on the wall for it. At the moment, it is sitting underneath our World Map and acts as a reminder of a magic carpet that can take us anywhere 🙂