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What Are Turkish Rugs?

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  • Written By: Soo Owens
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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Turkish rugs are an ancient art form as well as a staple of the Turkish textile industry. Most rugs feature intricate designs that reflect various symbols and motifs along with mythic, religious, or literary scenes. Different types of rugs exist, each classified according to standards that include design and the textile fiber used. The techniques employed during the rug's construction also distinguish them. Rugs that originate from Turkey are mostly hand-woven, almost always by women.

The materials used to construct the rugs are wool, cotton, and silk. Wool is the most popular and least expensive option as it is more widely available in Turkey than cotton and silk. The texture of wool is not as fine, and thus, has a lower knot count. The knot count determines the rug's overall texture and the level of detail that can be achieved by the weaver. The use of wool in Turkish rugs dates back farther in Turkish history than cotton or silk, and some believe that wool rugs are the most authentic.

The availability of cotton is limited and it is more expensive. The weaver, however, is able to achieve a greater level of detail with cotton. It is usually interwoven with a wool base. The fine cotton threads increase the knot count and the amount of work required by the weavers. Cotton rugs can depict more elaborate designs, though some display simple geometric symbols or patterns.

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Silk construction is the rarest, as the fibers are more difficult to produce than cotton and wool. They are also finer, resulting in a higher knot count that allows the weaver to incorporate the most elaborate scenes possible. Weaving a silk rug is more time consuming which is reflected in higher prices. Silk Turkish rugs with high knot counts are not usually laid down on floors. Owners often hang them from the walls or ceiling instead.

The most popular Turkish rugs have distinguished histories and are categorized into one of five styles, which are usually region specific. The ancient Konya and Bergama styles have existed for millennia, while the younger Milas and Ushak came into popularity a little later. These four styles use only the finest wool. Hereke rugs, produced in the Hereke village, are internationally renowned for their decadence and grandiose designs and fabrics. The Hereke rugs, commonly found in Turkish palaces, are hand woven from silks, cottons, and wools and even fine silver and gold threads.

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