Kilims are flat tapestry-woven carpets or rugs produced from the Balkans to Iran. Kilims can be purely decorative or can function as prayer rugs.


The name 'kilim' or 'kelim' is Turkish, and comes from the Persian gelim (گلیم) 'to spread roughly'. Various forms of the word are used in the Balkan languages (e.g. Greek κιλίμι). In Kurdish, they are called 'berr'.


Kilims are produced by tightly interweaving the warp and weft strands of the weave to produce a flat surface with no pile. Most kilim weaves are "weft-facing", i.e., the horizontal weft strands are pulled tightly downward so that they hide the vertical warp strands. When the end of a color boundary is reached, the weft yarn is wound back from the boundary point. Thus, if the boundary of a field is a straight vertical line, a vertical slit forms between the two different color areas where they meet. For this reason, kilims are sometimes referred to as "slit woven" textiles. The weft strands, which carry the visible design and color, are almost always wool, whereas the hidden warp strands can be either wool or cotton. The warp strands are visible only at the ends, where they emerge as the fringe. This fringe is usually tied in bunches, to ensure against loosening or unraveling of the weave. [Source for this description of the weaving: Davies 2000].

Commercial value

Because kilims are cheaper than pile rugs, beginning carpet collectors often start with them. Despite what many perceive as their secondary (or inferior) status to pile carpets, kilims have become increasingly collectible in themselves over recent years, with quality pieces now commanding high prices.

What some sensed as inferiority was actually a different nature of rugs woven for indigenous use as opposed to rugs woven on a strictly commercial basis. Because kilims were not a major article of export commerce there was not foreign market pressures changing the designs as there was with pile carpet. Once collectors began to value authentic village weaving, kilims became popular.

Types of Persian Kilims

  • Ordinary gilims: this type of gilim is woven with hemp, cotton and also woolthreads.
  • Gunny gilim: this special type is woven with varicolored pieces of cloth.
  • Suzāni gilim: this type is embroidered with raised figures after the ordinary gilim is woven.
  • Needle -work gilim: this type of gilim is hung on the wall and is woven with cotton threads.
  • Jol: is a kind of gilim the surface of which is embroidered. With its decorative designs, it is used as horse saddle.
  • Palās: is a kinds of gilim in which each color is used for weaving several rajs, it does not have a pile. Palas is also the name used for the coarse woolen robes dervish wear.
  • Jājim or chador-shab: is a kind of stripped carpet thinner than palas woven with colored threads.
  • Zilu: is a kind gilim woven with cotton threads and simple designs quite in harmony with rural life. It has cotton wrap and weft.
  • Rakht-e-khāb pich (bed-packing gilims): this type of gilim is used in migrating tribes.
  • Charkhi-bāf gilim: is a kind of sturdy and thick gilim only one side of which can be used.
  • Khorjin (Saddle-bags) and Juwals: these gilims are used for carrying goods.
  • Gilimcheh (small gilims): these are woven like gilims but are smaller and decorative.
  • Masnads: these are sturdy and fine-woven decorative gilimeches.
  • Navār-chādor (tent-band): this type of gilim is devorative.
  • Sajādeh (prayer gilims): these are woven with altar designs and are used for prayers.
  • Ghigh: this gilim is used for the walls of tents; both of its side are the same and can be used alike.
  • Rah Rah: Rah Rah Kilims are mostly knitted in Sirjan region and also are called Khatti Design Kilims. Ardebil and Moghan knitt the same design but in lower qualities.

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