|Two countries stand out where the art of carpets
weaving is concerned: Iran and Turkey. The earliest carpets, which are among the most
famous handicrafts in the world, blossomed in the hands of the women of both these
countries. Their incredibly fine workmanship using distinctive knotting techniques created
objects of exquisite beauty. While Iranian weavers used the asymmetrical or Persian knot,
Turkish weavers used the symmetrical knot, also known as the Ghiordes knot after the small
Turkish town of Gördes famous for its carpets. Despite occasional confusion with the
renowned Gordion Knot of ancient Anatolian legend, carpet weaving is an art which
originated with the Turks on the steppes of Central Asia.The land of Anatolia, meanwhile,
now modern Turkey, has for thousands of years been a melting pot of civilisation, where
the diverse cultures of many peoples who migrated here from all directions have mingled.
This colourful mosaic has created an extraordinary wealth of folk culture encompassing
many aspects of life from cuisine to dances and traditional costume. Today Turkish carpets
are woven in 36 different districts, each with its distinctive range of colours and
Central Anatolia, a region which covers several provinces, including Konya, Kırşehir, Karaman and Sivas, is one of the most important where carpet weaving is concerned. The sheep of this region produce fine quality wool and the plants needed for producing vegetable dyes are readily available. The carpets of many districts in the region have won deserved renown in western markets and are exported in large quantities. One of these districts is Yahyalı, which lies 100 kilometres south of Kayseri between Mount Erciyes and the northern Toros range.
As well as carpets woven with the traditional symmetrical Turkish knot, Yahyalı weavers also produce asymmetrical knot carpets with a short pile and a knot density per square decimetre of 45x50 or 42x55. The weavers use wool yarn from their own flocks. The shorn wool is washed and dried, combed, and then spun using either a spindle or a spinning wheel. Both the weft and warp of Yahyalı carpets are wool, the yarn being noted for its silky gloss which becomes even more pronounced with age and use.
Yahyalı carpets employ strong, warm colours like dark green, dark red, wine red, dark blue, indigo and brown. This reflects the species of plants which grow in this region with its harsh continental climate. The patterns incorporate a great diversity of motif and display a strikingsymmetry.Today there are over two thousand carpet looms in Yahyalı. The finest quality carpets made here employ one hundred percent vegetable dyes, and the second quality at least seventy percent vegetable dyes. The dyes are prepared from leaves, roots and bark gathered in the surrounding countryside.These are boiled in large cauldrons, the time varying according to the shade of colour desired. Red is obtained from the madder root, known locally as boyalı çili, which grows widely in Central Anatolia, brown is obtained from walnut shells and leaves, and ash grey from a kind of clay. One of the most striking colours in these carpets is indigo blue in diverse tones, which only the local dyer Mehmet Erdoğan is capable of producing, using a secret formula passed down in his family.
As well as weaving carpets to sell, the women weave for their own homes. They are proud of the carpets which adorn their houses, tributes to their weaving skills. Carpets woven by young girls for their trousseaus are the finest of all in the subtlety of their colour schemes and use of motifs. Carpet designs always have symbolic meanings, and in Yahyalı the carnation, opium poppy and rose motifs represent love, faithfulness and passionate love respectively.
The earring motif used around the central medallions symbolises the wish for a happy marriage, the wolfs mouth motif protection from misfortune, and rams horns strength, health and prosperity.
One unique and fascinating characteristic of Yahyalı trousseau carpets is the series of stylised motifs representing a village used in the borders. The girl depicts the house she wishes for, the houses of her neighbours, and the village fountain, mosque and trees, arranged side by side. Perhaps she thereby expresses her desire for the happiness of her village, her family and her own married life.