While I was (willingly) sipping endless glasses of tea during the lengthy process of buying a carpet, it occurred to me that wool is a fibre that is truly woven in the history of Turkey. It was readily available with sheep and goats providing a sustainable source of fibre to nomadic or village based peoples, it was durable and could be dyed with natural dyes and woven even in those early civilisations. The earliest indication of kilim rugs (flat woven) goes back to about 7000BC. The woven product could be used as carpets and bed coverings for warmth, fashioned into carrying bags and used as prayer rugs and ceremonial pieces. Wool is still valued for those same centuries old properties, only we can do even more with it now. That’s special.
Once European travellers (from Marco Polo onwards) saw these rugs and took them back across Europe they became desirable, coveted items – and they still are. My dearly beloved wanted a carpet for our dining area; he had done a bit of research in advance on the do’s and don’ts of carpet buying so armed with top tips from the internet to look before you buy we embarked on our mission. Walking back to our hotel after dinner on our first night in town we were enticed into a carpet shop like insects into a Venus flytrap. Instead of being devoured we drank the tea offered to us and chatted with the carpet seller who commandeered his team of assistants to show us a stunning array of carpets, flicking them one way and another for us to see the colours from every angle. We couldn’t possibly make a decision there and then, despite our host offering a once only “crazy” price – we had after-all only just arrived at 6pm!
Day 2 we combined sightseeing with work on the carpet buying mission.
This entailed lots more tea – Apple tea and Turkish tea – plentiful discussion (occasionally in French, otherwise English) and admiring a staggering array of carpets rolled out in front of us by the carpet selling whanau. The carpet sellers all have a common thread to their spiel, and at times it’s not entirely clear as to where fact finishes and fiction takes over. But they were delightful, friendly and we had pleasure doing business.
We learnt about tribal designs particular to different regions, the meaning of particular motifs, why rugs from some areas don’t feature animal designs, the ingredients of the natural dyes and the unique features of the double “Turkish” knots, and at last after being told many times I have the direction of warps and wefts straight in my head. I was amazed by the intricacy of the work and inspired by the splendid patterns and colours; new ideas for knitting projects perhaps?
And so it went on, if tea really is good for you, and I think it is, then I have had a health boost because I drank gallons of the stuff, and enjoyed it too.
And of course you want to know….did we buy one? Ahem, well there may just have been a small fee for excess baggage on the way home. Two carpets came at a much better price than one alone. We don’t know for sure if we paid too much or not – we paid less than the price some sellers wanted – in the end it was a deal between a willing buyer and a willing seller and we are very happy with our Usak carpets. Not only will they do the job, they are a wonderful reminder of our holiday in fabulous Istanbul.