Kilims are a rug created using a flatweave technique. A flatweave is created by interweaving variously colored wefts and warps, instead of knotting them together or using pressure to hold the rug together like a carpet or pile rug is. A kilim is most often woven using the slitweave technique, a sub-weave of the flatweave technique. There are a few different flatweaves that create the unique and beautiful patterns in kilims.
One style of flatweaving is the plainweave. In this style, the weave and warp are evenly spaced. This means that both of them are equally visible. In a weft-faced plainweave, the warps are more spread out and the wefts are packed tightly together, making them less visible. To weave by hand one color block at a time, there is the discontinuous weave. This weave often turns the weft back on itself. A tulu weave creates a soft mat with tufts. This is created with wefts made of loose yarn that are woven into a plainweave kilim by encircling two warps and then pulled tight, also called the Turkish knot.
Geometric and diagonal patterned kilims are created most commonly weaved with the slitweave. This is created using the discontinuous weave and the name comes from the slit that’s created between the two different colors. The weft is packed tightly to cover the warp. Diagonal slitweaves have a stronger structure than than vertical slits. There are also interlaced outlining techniques. One color block is done before moving on to the next color, thus creating bold, sharp patterned kilims that are reversible.
To create stronger joints between the colors, dove-tailing and double interlocking techniques were created. These new techniques interlock the weaves between two colors and blur the line, losing the striking contrast from slitweaves. However, they solved the problem of a weaker structure, especially with vertical slits. Dovetailing (also known as single interlocking or shared warps) is when two different color-blocked wefts share a warp between them, alternating colors. Double interlocking is when the wefts interlock with each other between the warps.
Although these techniques make beautiful geometric patterns, a soumak weave is used for more complex and varied designs. Mathematical patterns within the kilim are created by wrapping colored yarn around the warps. These free-flowing designs are a time-consuming technique and are often surrounded by plain-weave ground wefts to fill in the rest of the kilim. Because the soumak weave is time consuming, this technique is often used for smaller things like bags, mats and prayer sheets.
Another difficult weave that kilims are made with is brocading. This is when supplementary wefts (also called extra-weft weaving) are weaved into a kilim to add patterns. The extra wefts are weaved onto the standard weft and can create a raised pattern on one side of the kilim. A jijim weave is when the threads are applied on the reverse side of the weave between the weft and warp threads. The weave shows through underneath and is used to fill negative space. Another brocading weave is the zili. The extra wefts are wrapped around the warps in specific ratio patterns. It covers the entire surface and runs parallel to the warps that creates a distinct appearance that resembles cording.
Each of these unique weaves has a rich history and traditions behind them that are passed down to each generation. The weaves takes great skill to make the designs that make kilims so fascinating and unique. A skilled weaver can use multiple techniques to create one kilim and sometimes the designs can have religious and historical meaning that tell the stories of the weavers that came before.