Sofreh Kilims: Special Carpets for Special Occasions
A kilim is a flat woven rug that is produced using a tapestry weaving technique, rather than using a knotted-pile technique. Sofreh kilims use many of the same traditional tribal symbols and colors as pile rugs, only they are a flat, more durable weave. They are a beautiful addition to a collection and have many versatile uses in interior design. They also have a cultural meaning that sets them apart. Let’s explore these lovely pieces a bit further.
Antique Persian Sofreh Kilim Origin and Connections
The term “sofreh” is a word which means a cloth upon which food is served. This term “spread the sofreh” is used rather than “set the table.” It also refers to a gathering that involves serving a meal to guests. A “sofreh” refers literally to a cloth used for this purpose but is a term that is generalized to encompass the preparation of the food, practices, dishes, and rituals involved in this type of religious feast. Food, and rituals surrounding food, play a significant role in tribal cultures. Ceremonies surrounding food are a part of Muslim, Zoroastrian, Jewish and other diaspora communities as well.
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There is much more to a sofreh Persian rug than just cooking a meal, but for this article, the term will be used to reference the kilim that is used for the spread. However, it is important to understand the significance of the piece beyond it being a beautiful rug.
Sofreh cloth and carpets can be found throughout Turkey, Iran, and other tribal cultures. They have been woven by diverse groups with many different traditions and weaving customs. As one would expect, they are typically of a fine weave, and great care goes into producing the beautiful carpet designs.
Producing A Sofreh Kilims
In terms of how a Sofreh is made, it is made with the same technique used to produce other kilims, although sometimes a soumak technique is used instead. The difference is in the materials that are used and the care that goes into making it because it is a religious item.
A kilim is made by stringing a warp vertically between two beams. The pattern is produced by weaving different colors of yarn in an under and over pattern, picking up the opposite threads with each alternating row. The pattern is produced by changing colors according to the design preferences of the weaver.
There are two types of joins used when changing colors. One of them produces a slit in the fabric where the colors are changed. The other uses an interlocking technique. If the slit produced is large, then it will often be stitched on the backside of the piece after it is complete.
This technique produces a firm, durable textile that is appropriate to be used as a carpet or hung on a wall like a tapestry rug. Pieces that are specifically woven to be used as a sofreh can be made as thick or thin as needed.
Designs and Significance Of Sofreh Kilims
Because they are intended to be used underneath a formal meal, they are often long and narrow. They are not as narrow as a runner rug, but they are more rectangular than square. They are typically three to four feet wide and can be any length. The more formal ones are longer.
Many sofreh use the soumak technique where the weft is wrapped around the warp threads. This is not always the case, but it is found in many of these pieces meant to be used as a sofreh. The soumak technique takes longer to produce than a regular flat-weave kilim. It creates a more textured front and a sturdier fabric. The soumak technique allows the weaver to produce cleaner lines and vertical edges.
Many of the designs found in Sofreh Kilims are similar to other styles, but with a few significant differences. They often have an intricate series of main and guard borders that helps to define the ceremonial space for the meal. However, they often include stripes or sections defined by squares or rectangles within the field of the carpet. Many times, these squares or stripes help to define some aspects of the ritual meal to be served. These differ among area and culture, but the general purpose is the same throughout.
The region and place of production determine the colors used and the design. Sometimes, you will find motifs that have significant meaning within the borders of the sofreh. Sometimes the field is a solid color that is surrounded by a pattern that has significance as well. The colors used also have a significance in terms of the meaning intended by the weaver, but these also differ according to region and tribe.
It is difficult to make generalizations about the meaning and significance of a particular rug, other than that they are used for serving a ceremonial meal. If you are invited to a meal and a sofreh is used, it means that you are being treated as special in that person’s eyes.
The meaning of the sofreh is what connects them. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. They are distinctive from other carpets by the field, which is divided for are special purposes, or sometimes a solid color. The rug designs of the borders can be simple or complex. One thing is for certain: they are beautiful and special pieces.
Enjoy browsing our fine selection of antique Persian Sofreh Kilims. Whether you are planning a special occasion or simply want a piece with special meaning and significance, we have some magnificent examples to choose from in our collection. Perhaps you will find exactly the one that you have been looking for all along.
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View our current collection of Sofreh kilims below:
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