Some people love to shop, but I am not one of them – unless we are talking about beautiful rugs. However, I have my lifetime quota and then some, so rug shopping in Turkey was not on my agenda, but it was for some of my travel companions.
Marketing by large companies and cooperatives is pretty slick in Turkey. It involves an educational component, hospitality and a crew of folks to help prospective buyers close the deal. Our group visited the Golden Yarn Company in Mustafapasa. The first thing we learned was that the double knotting technique of Turkish carpets is what distinguishes them from Persian, Indian and Chinese carpets.
In addition, quality Turkish carpets are made with vegetable-dyed wool and silk. Indigo, chamomile, walnut and pomegranate are but a few of the sources that provide the harmonious color tones for these carpets that age with grace. Carpets made with chemical dyes do not have the same staying power. It is the difference between a carpet that will last 100 years versus 300 hundred years.
Six narrow looms are set up along the walls where six gracious women demonstrated their skill at tying these double knots. They come to this company for training and then the company sets them up with looms in their homes and pays them a monthly salary. Completion of a rug can take from a few months to two years, depending on the size; complexity and how many people are working on it. Sometimes several family members will work on a single rug.
Becca gets a chance to try carpet making.
In another room was a silk making demonstration. One cocoon can yield up to a mile of silk. There is a culling process and cocoons that don’t have satisfactory fiber are separated out. Our tour guide made sure to explain how nothing is wasted. At the end of silk process the chickens get the used cocoons and worms inside. Then the people eat the chickens…
This little tour is followed by tea, coffee or local wine and then the rugs come out and we are shown the difference between kilims and rugs, wool on cotton, wool on wool and silk carpets. There is even a demonstration of the Turkish flying carpet, as a 3 foot round rug is hurled into space and it twirls and lands gracefully on the floor with no wrinkles.
But I saw my own magic carpet almost flying on a narrow street in Istanbul. Walking down a steep, very old cobbled street near the university of Fine Arts, I looked up to see the source of the whumppping sound and found two women, one young and one not so young shaking out their own carpets…