Kelims are woven carpets in which coloured wefts form the face of the finished weaving. This term also refers to the pile-less web sometimes found at either or both ends of a pile carpet. They are normally reversible with the exception of the Sumac kelim. Sometimes a kelim’s design will simply be a series of stripes running across the width of the rug. However, it’s also common for a kelim to have the same basic design elements as a pile carpet.
These smooth rugs are very versatile. Their colours and design suit modern furnishings, and they can be used not only on the floor but as bedspreads, on tables, armchairs and settees, and hanging on the wall. A kelim has even been found useful to cover up an incurable damp patch on a wall! They are hardwearing, and as their appearance is exactly the same on both sides, they can be turned over if the colours on one side have faded, to give wear on both sides. Because they are not as bulky as carpets with a pile, they can be stored, flat or rolled up, in very little space.
The main centres of production at the present time are in Persia and Turkey. Persian kelims come mainly from Shiraz, though today quite a number are coming from Waramin, and the finest still come, as they have always done, from Sine. The Shiraz and the Waramin tend to use simple, tribal geometric designs; the Waramin particularly look very Caucasian now, and many people take them for Kazaks. The Sine’s invariable have very fine designs, and for these beautiful rugs the rule that kelims are inexpensive no longer apply; for the finest pieces the prices have increased enormously.
The Turkish kelims come in two main sizes – 6’ x 4’, the majority of which are prayer designs, and large ones measuring between 12’-16’ long by 6’-8’ wide. The colours of the large Turkish kelims tend to be better than those of the small ones, especially in old examples; this may be because the large carpets got more use, which up to a point improves the appearance of any good carpet, while the small ones used to be kept for dowries and remained rolled up until a marriage could be arranged. These large carpets are generally made in two pieces on two fairly narrow looms, and then sewn together down the middle. The design usually consists of a series of diamond-shaped medallions.