Notes on Turkish Carpet Weavers

Notes on Turkish Carpet Weavers

Our host introduces her, but I don’t remember her name. She doesn’t pause to crack a smile or to look up from work. Indeed, she’s very busy – busy making a living. As she works in silence, slightly hunched over, he tells us a bit about her and the other women like her that work in this factory. How they commute here from their villages each day to earn a living making the rugs that her people pray and rest on and those that sit neatly beneath our coffee tables in our American homes. He explains that if she wasn’t weaving for a living, tradition would nevertheless require her to learn this art as rural Turkish girls are taught to weave in order to make gifts for their dowries.

Without missing a beat, she continues her weaving demonstration. Her loom is full of colorful threads which are slowly taking shape to match the pattern she’s created from the design she has tucked away in her memory. Some of these designs have been passed down from generations of rug weavers before her while others are customized to buyers’ tastes.

Carefully and quickly, she weaves the threads in double knots, a method that’s been passed down to Turkish carpet weavers like her since the 4th century BC. Ensuring the rug’s durability, she continues to double the knots, continuously wrapping each end of the thread around the two warps, pulling down, and cutting as she goes. As she works, our host explains that the quality of these carpets surpasses that of Persian carpets whose weavers only use a single knot.

Double knots are in red and single knots are in green

There’s another weaver on duty today who’s been silently watching from the sidelines. Our host introduces her and explains that her job is to harvest the silk used to make silk-on-silk rugs – silk threads on silk warp and weft. With a possible knot density of 28×28 knots per square centimeter, it doesn’t come as a surprise that these rugs are the most expensive. Heaven forbid if you walk or sit on these rugs – they should only be used as wall or pillow tapestries!

Although it seems impossible from the look of it, a single cocoon can produce 2,000-3,000 feet of silk thread. Silkworms spin cocoons of silk and wait inside for several weeks in hopes of metamorphosing into moths. But Turkish carpet weavers halt the transformation by steaming the cocoons followed by a soak in a water vat.

Afterward, the silk harvester uses a special brush to tease the threads from each cocoon and attaches them to a spinning wheel that unravels the silk from the casing. Once separated, the silk is twisted and dyed before it’s used for weaving.

Soon enough, we are led down a dimly lit hallway that’s lined with and layered in carpets. We enter a room covered in wall tapestries and notice pile-upon-pile of rolled carpets in the opposite corner.

After welcoming us with tea, our host and his men begin a song and dance of displaying the rugs, hopeful that their rugs will make an impression that will lead to a sale. As heavy carpets are unrolled one-by-one on the floor before us, the otherwise quiet room comes alive with a cacophony of our “oohs and aahs”.

Rug-after-rug, pattern-after-pattern – the options are seemingly infinite.

One in particular catches my eye. Its bright design of gold, blues, and reds tugs at my heart strings. Our host explains that this is a dowry rug, but if I were a Turkish bride-to-be, there’s no way that I’d want to part with this masterpiece.

Although I want it, I don’t bother to ask the cost of the dowry rug because I know it far exceeds our souvenir budget. Plus, after just witnessing the level of intricacy and detail that goes into weaving these carpets, this isn’t the occasion to start negotiating with a low ball amount. To do so would be completely insulting.

Someone in our group with the means to shell out thousands of dollars on one of these carpets is making arrangements to have it shipped back to the States. It’s sure to make for good dinner conversation when he has guests over.

As we wait for the transaction to wrap up, my thoughts shift back to the women – the masters of this Turkish artistry and the true captains of this carpet-weaving ship. While the Turkish men get the glory for making the sale, the women continue their work  – silk harvesting and weaving. Quietly.

I wish that I could remember their names.



Have you been to a Turkish carpet factory or do you own a Turkish carpet?

  • The rugs are incredible. Now I understand why they are so expensive. I especially love the one in the last photo. Any idea how much? Do they negotiate? I’m so awful at the whole bargaining thing…

    • Dana Carmel

      I didn’t bother asking how much because I knew that it would be well beyond my budget. And while I think it’s okay to negotiate, some of the salesmen were getting frustrated when some of the guests were making low ball offers.

  • I bought a carpet in Morocco once and it looked so beautiful. I have recently been to a silk farm in Cambodia where they produce silk scarfs and other products. It was so interesting to see how much work goes into this.

    • Dana Carmel

      I would be very interested in visiting a silk farm in Cambodia. You’re right – there’s so much work and detail that goes into making each carpet. I really admire these carpet weavers’ dedication!

  • I have three Turkish carpets. I love them!!

    • Dana Carmel

      How fortunate you are to have three! 🙂

  • I’ve never been to Turkey and I don’t own a rug like these but they are gorgeous! I’m always fascinating at the hours and hard work it takes to make these by hand. To have that kind of craft is amazing! Except it would have to be a hanging rug or you-know-who would lay on it 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Hahaha! I can just picture Phoenix on the rug. Could you imagine if he started gnawing on it?!

  • I went to such a place in Turkey, near Ephesus, this summer, it was a great experience and the people taught us many things !

    • Dana Carmel

      I’m glad you had the chance to witness the carpet weavers in action. It’s such an enriching experience. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • I wish I owned a Turkish carpet but I don’t think it would be in our budget when we get to Turkey one of these days. I can’t get over how much they get out of those cocoons. But I’m even more amazed at all the work the ladies do to produce these rugs. I love that rug you had your eye on too and all its colors.

    • Dana Carmel

      Aren’t the cocoons amazing?! Who knew?! The weavers’ work is phenomenal.

  • This is so interesting to see how these beautiful carpets are made. I love the colors and different patterns. It’s a real art! Although I don’t like having carpets at home, I would get one and hang it on the wall 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Yes – these carpets would make for great wall art! The weavers are extraordinarily talented and skilled.

  • All the work that goes into each carpet is astounding and so impressive. Beautifully written post. Thanks for sharing!

    Happy travels 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Lauren. These ladies are true artisans!

  • Dana, I thoroughly enjoyed your pictures and informative description on how the carpets are made. I will be returning to Turkey next February, and although I can appreciate all the hard work that goes into the carpets, my recent downsizing means I have no room for one.

    • Dana Carmel

      Joanne – thanks for reading and commenting. I hope that you’ll be able to visit a carpet weaving factory during your return visit to Turkey. And even if you’re not going to buy one, it doesn’t hurt to “window shop”!

  • Lovely post, I don’t own one but I definitely appreciate their beauty!

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Becky. I don’t own one either, but the next time I go to Turkey, I definitely want to invest in one!

  • I can’t imagine how hard they work to produce a piece of woven cloth. I don’t think they earn that much either. But the work’s very good!

    • Dana Carmel

      I’m not sure how much they earn but I can only hope that it’s sufficient and respectable. They are definitely gorgeous rugs!

  • I haven’t been to a Turkish carpet factory, although I went to a factory in India. Incredible how much work goes into one of these silk carpets.

    I just came home from Turkey actually, and on my last day I bought a kilim carpet. It doesn’t require as much work as the silk rugs, so it’s more affordable – but still looks beautiful. I also have one from Romania. Two of my most loved travel souvenirs.

    • Dana Carmel

      Weaving silk carpets is very time consuming and I totally understand why they’re so expensive. I’m glad that you’ve been able to invest in some kilim carpets from your travels. Whenever we travel, we try to purchase practical items to decorate our home so that we have a hodgepodge of home accessories and decorations from around the world.


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