December 29, 2012

Kilim Rugs from Pirot

In the past years I worked on the renovation of our cottage in the Jablanica region of Serbia, and now what I'd like to hang on a wall of its living room is a traditional Kilim rug of Pirot (Пиротски Ћилим).

The Kilims of Pirot were usually used for covering floors, walls and for to be used as curtains, for bedspreds and for covering parts of furniture.
As part of the Serbian Heritage and Culture, those rugs are now often used for ethno style interiors and people who look at this picturesque folk art still gets inspired by its colors, ornaments, pattern and quality.

Kilim weawing was (and still is) a strenuous and laborious work, so it's often seen like a writing, a story and a diary of the person who made it. For centuries, women have been weaving their pain, joy, messages and symbols into the rugs.

Originally, these rugs were only an object of use, but slowly they became a symbol for heritage and were an inextricable part of the region in which they were created. Kilims were given as a gift only on special occasions – they decorated the salons of the Serbian dynasties of the Karadjordjevic and Obrenovic and rulers used to offer them to foreign diplomats, as a valuable gift and a unique souvenir from Serbia.

The most important ingredient for a good quality kilim is the wool (obtained from the sheep from the Stara Planina). Only a good quality wool is a guarantee for a long duration, a nice appearance and a high quality weaving.
The sheared wool gets classified by fiber length and then washed in boiling water, rinsed out, dried, bleached and dyed. By spinning the precious wool is transformed to yarn.

Pirot, situated on a caravan road between the Middle East (Among the most famous kilims are the ones from Persia, Afganistan, China and the Caucsus) and Europe, became a famous center for this ancient weawing technique.
In the 16th century, when rugs were made exclusively for domestic needs, the kilims were simple and mostly uncolored. However also multicolored rugs (called “ŝarenice”) were made.
In the 17th and 18th century the kilim making was improved and weaving was done on a vertical loom known under the name of “Pirot loom”. The Pirot vertical loom is a simple device leaned against a wall.

 In the 19th century, the Pirot kilim reached the highest technical and art values with its real wealth of ornaments, colors and motifs. The kilims were earlier dyed by natural plant dyes later artificial (industrial) ones were used allowing more nuances of one color.
From century to century the kilim is crafted less and less in private houses and more and more in manufactures like the ones in Pirot during the 18th and 19th century. At the end of the 19th century Pirot had 250 looms and between two world wars a half of the whole women inhabitants of Pirot were involved in kilim making.
In 1886 the Kilim society of Pirot was founded and in international exhibitions and fairs Pirot kilims started to win gold-medals.
In 2002 Pirot Kilim became a Serbian Brand with protected geographical indication with 122 ornaments and 96 types of rugs registered.

Patterns and Motifs
The ornaments are always geometrical and the the same pattern appears repeated in different colors. Across the time they have always been transformed and enriched continually.
The most common pattern are:
rhombs, stylized “mirab” (kind of pattern), little dining-tables, amulets, German boxes and bombs, French candies, chests (“kuveri”)
then there are figurines like lizards, flames, small birds, scorpions, branches, doves in several variants, roses in several forms, pomegranates, wreaths, cross section of flowers braided into a wreath, flowers (carnations, pansies, tulips, roses).

А bold red color in several nuances – from light red to the color of rotten sour cherries prevails on Pirot kilims. The blue color is often used (gained of natural indigo) with little of yellow and white color (since mid of the 19th century, before the color beige made of onion leaves was used as white).

More information abоut Kilims:
The website of the Guild of the Kilimmakers in Pirot : Damsko Srce (

On Wikipedia the best Information about Pirot Kilims is in German (relying on the book about Kilims from Peter Bausback, 1983: Kelim. antike orientalische Flachgewebe. Klinkhardt & Biermann, München. ISBN. 3-7814-0206-1)

A good document about the sheeps of Stara Planina is a little information brochure from Sergej Ivanov (from which I used the pictures for this post)

A good website with lots of infromation about Pirot kilims:

Very beautiful picture of old Kilims on Tanjica's Flickr site:

And here my post about the Serbian Pavillon at the Shanghai-Expo with a facade inspired by Pirot Kilims


  1. This might interest you - Serbian pavilion for the world expo 2010 - inspired by traditional serbian carpet patterns -

    1. Thanks peegee! I forgot to put a link to my post about the pavillion!

    2. I suspect I've seen it first on your blog :)
      ps. I enjoy your posts! architecture is my secret passion - keep up the good work!

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