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Kilim Slippers

Kilim Slippers

Handmade in England by Arthur Sleep

We hand-source all of our kilims, silks and tapestries from some of the world’s most exotic frontiers and rocky outposts, sought for their timeless appeal and fascinating history.

Pronunciation: kE-‘lEm

Kilim, a word of Turkish origin, denotes a pileless textile of many uses produced by one of several flatweaving techniques that have a common or closely related heritage and are practiced in the geographical area that includes parts of Turkey (Anatolia and Thrace), North Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia and China.

Filled with romance and culture, ancient heritage and tradition. Each pair of Kilim Sleepers takes on a unique personality, revealing the craftsmanship of its highly-skilled creator.

The styles of the carpets have changed little over the centuries and the people who make them today have retained, in many cases, their traditional tribal ways of life, although political and social factors have caused their recent and continuing migrations.

This leads us to travel extensively in the pursuit of sourcing very unique and luxurious materials, navigating the landscapes of the world’s greatest empires; from the ancient city of Gaziantep, Turkey, neighbouring the Syrian border over to the migrating tribes of the Himalaya and down to Pakistan’s Lahore, the former capital of the Mughal empire.

There can be no substitute for direct contact, for first-hand experience of your own pair of Kilim Sleepers.

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The design

No-one is exactly certain when weaving began. It was certainly in existence in Pharaonic Egypt and was probably know to the ancient Chinese. There are several biblical references.

The spear of Goliath is compared to the weaver’s beam, whilst King Hexekiah moans, ‘I have cut off like a weaver my life’. In Proverbs, a woman, ‘with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart’, says, ‘I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry’, and Job, like Hezekiah, makes a powerful metaphor of transience when he says, ‘my days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle’.

Such casual references as these, and others which may be found in Homer (purple carpets are mentioned i the Iliad) and later Classical authors, make it seem likely that even in these ancient times, 3000-2000 BC, weaving was already an established part of everyday life. Further evidence for this assumption comes from the Egyptian tomb of Mehenwetre, a royal steward who died c. 2000 BC; a fresco decorating the walls of his funeral chamber depicts many scenes of Egyptian life including women weaving flax.

Although we know of no hand-knotted carpets surviving from so early a period, a recent Russian archaeological expedition to the Altai mountains of southern Siberia has excavated a royal burial mound containing an almost miraculously preserved carpet. The Pazyryk carpet, as it is called, must date from c. 500 BC yet it is superbly designed and hand knotted, and is the equal of any piece produced in that area since. That such a piece could have been so beautifully made at such a time presupposes a long history of carpet-weaving in the Altai mountains, which abut on south-west Mongolia and north-west China.

To move on to more recent times, we know that carpet-weaving has been one of the most prized arts of the Middle and Far East for close on seven hundred years. What the newcomer to the subject finds remarkable is the longevity of both the methods and, more importantly, the designs. It is probably true to say that non no other field of the applied arts has it been possible for a type of object produced five hundred years or more ago to be still made today using the same techniques and in the same styles. As an aesthetic, stylistic phenomenon Oriental carpets would appear to be unique.


The designs used centuries ago are still used today and are made richer by the great tradition which lies behind them.

The geography

If over the centuries the styles of carpets have changed little, the people who made them have retained, in many cases, their traditional tribal ways of life, although political and social factors have caused their frequent and continuing migration.
Persia (for simplicity we shall avoid using the modern name of Iran), is one of the six great carpet-producing areas, the others being Turkey, the Caucasus, Turkestan, Pakistan, India and China.
The Caucasus, an area of roughly 166,500 square miles, is bounded on the west by the Black Sea and on the east by the Caspian and forms a link between Europe and Asia. An area rather than a country, it was part of Persia until the early nineteenth century when it was ceded to the jurisdiction of Imperial Russia.

Turkestan is also an area now almost solely referred to in connection with carpets. The home of the ubiquitous Bokhara, the generic term for carpets woven in this district is Turkoman; today the area consists of Turkmen, Uzbek and Kazakh, which stretches to the borders of China. All in all, Turkestan is an area of close on three million square miles. Turkoman carpets, however, also comes from northern Persia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, woven in those countries by nomadic tribes.

Finally Baluchistan: since 1947, the area known in the old books by this name has been part of Pakistan and is bordered by Persia on the west and Afghanistan on the north. Its old capital was the city of Kelat, although most of the carpets are marketed in the town of Bokhara in Uzbek as they have been for generations.

The construction

Kilims are weft-face carpets woven like tapestries, without a knotted pile. The patterns are made from the coloured weft threads which are visible on both sides of the piece.
The Sehna (named after the Persian town of that name) kilim follows the traditional Sehna knotted carpets in design. The Anatolian and Kurdish kilims usually consist of two (the Anatolian) or more strips woven together, whilst the Shirvan kilim is unusual in having diagonal bands of colour upon which are woven geometric designs similar to those found on Daghestan carpets. Merv kilims are also distinctive in that the bands of embroidered zig-zag colours run diagonally across the carpet instead of vertically or horizontally.

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