From Dervishes to Samba - Fall 2011 travel blog


silk cocoon

dye room

spinning the silk

for sale

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making silk

One of the things Turkey is best known for is carpets. Making them takes patience, skill and artistic ability and a finished product can take more than a year to produce. Understandably many of today’s youth are more interested in making their living with computers than spending countless hours tying knots and the Turkish government is worried that this skill will be lost. It has opened carpet schools which it heavily subsidizes. Young woman attend for free for two years and work at their own pace, selling the rugs they produce here if they wish. Some return to their villages and share their knowledge with others. The students here are all over 18 and have finished their formal education, unlike in some other countries where child labor produces many of the carpets.

Today we visited the main carpet school campus and had a tour that started with the silk worms and ended with many of us buying a carpet. The cocoons are imported from China just as they always were and are boiled in hot water to destroy the worm inside and soften up the fibers. A cocoon is about the size of a walnut and contains about a mile of thread. The fibers are so thin, many are spun together to make a thread thick enough to weave. Silk is generally died chemically, but the wool carpets made here are often dyed with natural substances. The indigo dye was quite amazing. As the wet wool came out of the dye it was yellow, but the longer it was exposed to air the bluer it got.

Turkish carpets are double knotted while those in other countries have single knots. A silk carpet can have 600 knots per square inch. Some carpets follow traditional designs, but here free style is also encouraged. After we watched the young women knot, some of us gave it a try. I don’t expect to get a job here any time soon!

After liquid refreshments were provided, the staff unfurled carpets before us. They obviously had done this many times before and were like a well oiled drill team. The silk carpets had a definite nap and changed colors as they were flipped around. As always happens when we come to Turkey, I end up buying something I did not know I wanted and always end up loving. The price included delivery and import fees to our door step and we bargained as best we could. You never know whether you could have done better, but since we are in the middle of redecorating a few rooms in our house, they caught us at a vulnerable moment. After all the credit cards stopped smoking, we went outside for a lovely lunch under the trees.

Then we drove to the coast and boarded our gulet named Nirvana, which will be our home the next four days.

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