buying a turkish rug: genuine or not?

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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

  1. if it has genuinely been woven by hand and NOT by machine?
  2. which is silk and which is mercerised cotton?

Here’s what we learnt from our few hours at a rug workshop in Turkey.

Background

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.

Spinning her wool
Spinning her wool
A weaver working on a rug
A weaver working on a rug

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.
The front of our rug. Note the different shades of blue... this is NOT due to lighting. This is how silk looks from different angles
The front of our rug. Note the different shades of blue… this is NOT due to lighting. This is how silk looks from different angles
The patten on the back of the rug is virtually identical to the front
The patten on the back of the rug is virtually identical to the front
The tassles are part of the weave and not added on afterwards.
The tassles are part of the weave and not added on afterwards.

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.

Silk worm cocoons soaking in hot water
Silk worm cocoons soaking in hot water

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 🙂

Our
Our “rug” and the authenticity certificate
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15 thoughts on “buying a turkish rug: genuine or not?

    Bassco Colonial said:
    January 16, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    It is certainly a good idea to know which rug is authentic or not. It is not an easy task to do but educating ourselves is very helpful. And very nice pictures you have here in the post.

    Claud Austin said:
    November 28, 2016 at 12:55 am

    Your article has 2 errors: There is no such thing as “mercenarised” cotton – it is mercerized cotton (mercerised in British English) Mercerized cotton is a processed cotton – stretched, while treated with sodium hydroxide that increases luster and tensile strength. Name comes from the British chemist John Mercer who invented this process in 1844

    Silk actually burns.
    The difference between silk and rayon is this:
    Rayon gives a burning paper smell and the ash is soft and chalky.
    Real silk gives a burning hair smell and a ball of a black, crispy ash

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      November 28, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      Thanks for your feedback. We appreciate you taking the time to clarify.

    joanfrankham said:
    February 22, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Very interesting, I hope to visit in June so this post gives me an insight on what to expect.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 22, 2014 at 10:52 pm

      We hope you do get to Turkey – it’s such a wonderful place! We enjoyed it so much because there is so much history & culture. Thanks for visiting!

    magwood said:
    February 13, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    Really interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    Savvy Kenya (@savvykenya) said:
    February 3, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Is it a flying carpet?

    Anna (It Started in Asia) said:
    January 30, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    What an informative post! Thanks for sharing this one – when the time comes for a trip to Turkey, I’ll definitely be digging this info out as a helping hand 🙂 Hand made crafts are always spectacular – these rugs are incredible.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      January 30, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      Glad you thought it was helpful! Turkey is a wonderful place and hope you get there one day 🙂

    Ayesha (Miss Spicy Hat n' Sugar Socks) said:
    January 30, 2014 at 2:15 am

    this craft is still very much alive in many countries including Turkey, Pakistan and India. Weavers work hard to produce carpets. This carpet has all the symptoms of being hand woven. Another thing is that, they are not perfectly even or as hard as the factory woven carpets. We have some at our house too 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      January 30, 2014 at 6:14 am

      Yes, weaving definitely still exists but the numbers are dwindling. It is such a skill & takes patience. Watching the women weave was incredible. Then to see the finished product : just blew us away!

    theundergroundgourmet said:
    January 30, 2014 at 12:51 am

    I have been to Istanbul and I loved it. My visit shattered any stereotype I had about this place. Cheers

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      January 30, 2014 at 6:10 am

      It is a wonderful country and Istanbul is definitely most fascinating!

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