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The Magic of Turkish Carpets

A Buyer's Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before Buying a Turkish Carpet

hands of a weaver making a fine silk Turkish carpet

I've been fascinated by Turkish carpets since my first visit to Istanbul. (And once had an epic "lost in translation" conversation with a Turkish friend about them!) At first, I was drawn to the exquisite silk carpets, watching weavers in the windows of the rug shops practicing their art. Since then, I've spent hours talking with various merchants and weavers to learn more about the history, art and culture of rug-making in Turkey.

animal motif silk carpet

Most Turkish carpets are made from silk or wool, and some have cotton warps (foundations). Rugs vary in quality and cost, depending on factors like:

  • size - ranging from the smallest of wall hangings to enormous floor coverings.
  • method of manufacture - hand-made or factory produced.
  • construction - silk carpets are knotted, but wool carpets can be woven, knotted or embroidered. (One of my newest acquisitions - shown below - is unusual because it includes all three techniques.)
  • type of knots - the Turkish double loop is renowned for it's strength and durability. Some other knots result in carpets that "shed", eventually causing the rug to take on on a moth-eaten, threadbare look.
  • quality of materials - from all natural to entirely synthetic, and every combination in between.
  • colours - materials can be chemically or naturally dyed, resulting in an array of colour combinations to appeal to every taste.
  • fineness of workmanship - the finest silk carpets contain nearly 900 knots per square centimetre!
  • design - some designs are mass-produced, others are unique to a single carpet. The diversity in design means there really is something for everyone.
obvious flaws in a wool woven Turkish carpet

They say that people don't pick Turkish carpets.  Turkish carpets pick their people.  And they also say that every carpet contains at least one flaw - because nothing in life is perfect. This 150 year old example is charming BECAUSE of it's many imperfections. Was the weaver happy? Sad? Sharing something about her life and surroundings? The more you look, the more you see!

(Perhaps it's because of the flaws, but this carpet has called to me since I first saw it in 2015.  It's still in the showroom in Istanbul because we don't have enough floor space on Arkadaslik.  But I know that one day, when the time is right, it will grace my floor.)

pile of colourful silk and wool carpets laid out during a sale

My tastes in carpets have evolved since my first visit to Turkey. I've gradually become a fan of wool carpets, especially OLD wool carpets, and particularly old wool carpets WITH A STORY TO TELL. Sure, I still like the perfection of a symmetrically styled silk carpet, but, more and more, I hear the voice of the weaver in the old wool ones.

Each handmade rug that I own is unique, old, and willing to share its story with anyone who listens. I think THAT is the magic of the Turkish carpet.

A Guide to Buying the Perfect Turkish Carpet For Yourself

So what do you need to know when the perfect Turkish carpet finds you?

Before you even set foot in a carpet shop, there are 3 things you need to know:

  1. Know your size requirements. There's no sense in looking at carpets that are too big or too small. You'll simply overwhelm yourself with choices.
  2. Know your colour scheme. Unless you plan on re-painting and buying new furniture to match your new rug, it's a good idea to pick something that will fit well into your existing décor.
  3. Know your budget – but don't divulge it. And no matter how charming the carpet seller, no matter how many glasses of çay they offer, don't budge on your limit. Ever!

Arm yourself with knowledge, and listen to everything the seller has to tell you – but don't let yourself get bamboozled. Your perfect carpet will meet all three criteria - or it really isn't perfect for you!

Use your common sense – look at the carpet, inspect the knots and weave, walk on it, sit on it, take time to think it over. Does everything the seller tells you ring true? Do you have any niggling doubts? If you're not 100% confident, then move on. It just means you haven't found your perfect match yet.

But if everything feels "right", then start to haggle – and do it ruthlessly!

If you find the perfect carpet (or the perfect carpet finds you) that meets all three criteria – size, color, price – then buy it. Don't be put off by worries of getting "ripped off". Yes, someone else may be able to negotiate a better price. But if it's a carpet that you love, that suits the space you have in mind for it, and is a price you're willing to pay, it's a good match. Go for it! And enjoy!

Have you got words of carpet shopping wisdom to share? Has the perfect carpet found you? We'd love to see pictures and hear your story. Get in touch any time to share!