Help me learn about Turkish carpets?
May 12, 2010 7:54 PM   Subscribe

Please help me learn about buying Turkish carpets?

I've been to other rug-producing countries and, although I've seen some absolutely lovely carpets, have been too intimidated and felt too ignorant as to what is a good value to be able to conduct a negotiation. I will be visiting Turkey relatively soon and would like to bring back a carpet. What do I need to know?
posted by Morrigan to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There are various guides to doing this the "right" way, but coming from a country with a sort of Turkish tradition à la rugs, the best and simplest advide is to not listen to any claims of quality, special heritage and so on, but simply to buy what you like the most, if the price seems reasonable in your heart. It's been generations since you could go to Turkey or a similar country and pick up a fantastic rug at a bargain piece with any sort of general ease.

This link seems to fit the question a bit.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:19 PM on May 12, 2010

You're probably best to go with a Turkish friend to a carpet shop. That way you'll probably be able to get a better deal rather than the dealer asking for prices which a normal Turkish person wouldn't pay.
posted by jpcooper at 12:00 AM on May 13, 2010

Rules of thumb:
a) more knots per square inch is more valuable.
b) geometric or abstract floral designs are more traditional/"authentic" and tend to be worth more.
c) muted colours are similarly more traditional/"authentic."
d) definitely don't look too interested in the ones that you are interested in.
e) find out who is doing the work if you care about the use of child labour
f) regular bargaining stuff: do price checks to get a sense of the range, start with a bid well under what you're actually willing to pay
g) find out from a Turkish friend which markets are "bargaining expected, nigh mandatory," and which ones are genuinely "fixed price." The fixed price ones (speaking from experience in sort of similar countries) will generally have reasonably good quality, but you pay a premium for having that ease of mind, and they usually won't have the absolute best, which are probably tucked away in some attic of a shabby shop and only taken out when recognizable connoisseurs come around.

I am not a carpet expert. Just random bits of knowledge picked up from living in carpet-producing countries.
posted by bardophile at 3:08 AM on May 13, 2010

Depending on how big a rug you are looking for, would it be possible for you to bring an empty luggage bag with you? You can save about 200-300 USD in shipping from the price they give you if you take care of shipping yourself.

And when they are in front of you flipping the rug about, it actually really does matter because the color changes when depending on the way it was weaved. I was getting annoyed by the guys constantly flipping the goddamn rugs until my fiance pointed out that the colors changed slightly when they did that.
posted by spec80 at 3:32 AM on May 13, 2010

My wife is a rug dealer. She often gets friends and customers asking for this kind of advice. Her response: don't buy any rugs over there. You will most likely be shown cheap rugs with inflated pricetags made just for tourists. Find a dealer here at home who you can trust. Buying here, at least you can go back and complain if you find out you've been robbed. But if you must...

- Knot count is irrelevant. Look for high-quality natural dyes and hand-spun yarn instead.
- Handle the rugs. Good wool has a high lanolin content and will feel soft. (Though there are chemicals that do this artificially.)
- Look for unnatural colors (hot orange, bright green). Those are likely to be chemical dyes.
- Don't assume that old-looking rugs are old. There are numerous techniques for "antiquing" a rug.
- Be smart. Don't spend a lot. Have fun.
posted by booth at 11:27 AM on May 13, 2010

- Knot count is irrelevant. Look for high-quality natural dyes and hand-spun yarn instead.

@booth Really curious about that one. It goes against everything I've ever heard about carpets. What I have always heard and read is that the knot count (if you mean knots/unit area by that term) is a key indicator of quality. Can you elaborate?
posted by bardophile at 12:43 PM on May 13, 2010

Are you wanting a serious (large and/or fancy) carpet? Or just something nice-looking that you will be happy to have in your house as a reminder of Turkey, preferably something that if a knowledgeable person comes over to your house for a party, won't roll their eyes at and make you toss them out?
Instead of getting a carpet-carpet, I was shopping for things that didn't look like all the other carpets around. I came home with a 2.5x3.5' grain-sack woven in the soumak style, and a pair of ... umm... eating mats? ... 4' squares with a mix of raised fuzzy carpet, soumak wrap-weave, and flat kilim-weave. All together, about the cost of a 4x6' regular carpet-weave. My favorite ones of those turned out to be a local specialty, too - maybe I just was picking out things that didn't look like they'd ever try to sell it at Pier1. The friend I was with was a big fan of the grain sacks and camel-bags because you can stuff them as big floor-pillows for lounging, but I use mine on the floor as a rug (that just happens to have 2 layers). Additionally, the less-common styles are less likely to be mass-produced, but it all depends on whether that fits with your aesthetic.
posted by aimedwander at 8:17 AM on May 14, 2010

Yes, bardophile, everyone talks about knot count because it's an easy concept to understand. (And it lets dealers sell hi-count bad rugs for a lot of money.) It's like shopping for a digital camera based only on resolution, ignoring the quality of the lens, etc.

If you had two rugs made with the same materials, knot count could demand a higher price, simply because a rug with more knots takes longer to make. And I say price, not value. And honestly, I'm not sure what to say about value. It's a subjective thing. I'm talking about something else here - maybe "goodness."

A rug made with good wool (not all the world's wool is good for rug-making, by the way) and good dyes will last a long time and will look good for a long time. Rugs without those two things, even if they have a ridiculous knot count, will not.

If you watch a collector who know his (or her) stuff, they handle the piece, look at the back of it, evaluating the rug's construction and the quality of its materials.
posted by booth at 7:23 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Booth: Thank you. I hadn't checked the thread for a while, so just saw that you had replied to my question. That's a most illuminating answer, especially the comparison with digicam resolution.
posted by bardophile at 7:09 AM on June 13, 2010

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