One of the things I did to prepare for my trip to Turkey was to take measurements of rooms in my house where I would like to put a beautiful hand woven Turkish carpet. I wasnât sure if I could afford such a souvenir but I surely wanted to be prepared if opportunity presented itself.
As much as I wanted to bring home a Turkish carpet, to be honest, I was a bit intimidated at the thought of the rug buying experience. Iâd heard stories of being âtrappedâ by a beckoning shopkeeper and nearly being drowned in tea after innocently admiring his beautiful wares. I didnât know the signs of true quality and I was not terribly confident in my negotiating skills. Could I overcome my fears of the quintessential carpet encounter to grace my home with an elegant Turkish carpet? Oh, how I wanted to! A superb Turkish carpet would be an investment that would last a lifetime, even my childrenâs and grandchildrenâs lifetimes. Surely I could do this.
Turkish Carpet Weaving Process
Near Ephesus, we went to Carpetium, a carpet manufacturerâs large showroom and weaving center. First we learned about the weaving process. The special double-knotting technique, unique to Turkish carpet weaving makes the pile incredibly tight and resilient. In this style of weaving, the threads are wrapped twice around the vertical warp and horizontal weft threads, while most other weaving styles only knot the pile threads once on the thread
frame. The knots are packed tightly, row after row, making it much less likely to get a âpullâ or have threads come loose in the pattern. We watched some women working at huge looms, fingers flying. I even got to try my hand at double knotting and I can attest that it takes a lot of practice and excellent eyesight. The woman whose loom I used probably had to rip out my weaving after I left!
The patterns can be incredibly intricate, depending on the knots per inch. Rugs made with silk, woven on a silk warp and weft (silk-on-silk) can have amazingly high knot density, over 1,000 knots per square inch (KPSI), and thus create extraordinarily detailed patterns. I was in awe of a work in progress that was a reproduction of the Last Supper. Silk-on-silk is the most expensive rug and as such is usually smaller in size and often used as a wall hanging.
We also saw how the silk is harvested. Silk cocoons floated in a vat of hot water. With a wooden whisk, the lady stirred the pot, capturing thin threads of silk from the cocoons then fed them into a machine that rolled the silk up into skeins. The tiny cocoons bounced and bobbled in the water as they unwound, each one producing up to a mile of very strong silk thread.
Wool-on-cotton is more common for larger rugs and those that will be used on the floor. Wool-on-wool is usually used for Kilims, which is a flat weave without knots, similar to an Indian blanket. We learned that natural vegetable dyes are more desirable than artificial ones because the colors donât fade as much or rub off. We moved through the showroom, marveling at walls covered with dozens of exquisite rugs, to a large room with benches around the edges. There we were offered the ubiquitous tea or Raki (strong anise flavored Turkish alcohol). I went with tea while Todd went for the Raki â I think he was anesthetizing his wallet!
Negotiating for a Turkish Carpet
The show began slowly at first; workers rolled out a beautiful rug then another and another, side by side, as the salesman narrated. When the floor was covered, they increased speed and five or six men rolled out rugs with a flourish to a frantic pace. Rug upon rug created an elegant patchwork of sublime color and texture nearly 12-inches deep! It worked, I wanted one. But which one? And no one had mentioned any prices yet. Todd sipped his Raki and I started digging through the rugs.
At the first sign of interest, the salesman whisked me into another room and brought in rugs of the colors I desired. Itâs OK to ask for prices but the salesman then knows you are interested and the full court press begins. Rule of thumb is to counter offer with about half of the starting price and continue negotiating from there. If you just canât agree on a price, thatâs OK, but itâs considered poor etiquette to settle on a price then walk away.
The first rug I liked was silk and way out of my budget. The shock on my face when he wrote down the number was probably enough for the salesman to know that he needed to show me a different rug if he was going to make a sale. After much deliberation, I narrowed it down to two wool-on-cotton rugs. When I entered into earnest negotiations, I glanced over at Todd, who now had a larger glass of Raki in hand. This salesman was definitely working with me on softening Todd up! When negotiations seemed to stall, I pulled Todd outside to confer (that means: beg him for approval to spend more than I really intended). Our friends who were waiting outside started snickering â the rug followed us outside! And a bottle of Raki was sitting on the corner!
At that point, I think we all knew I was going to buy the rug; we just had to determine who was going to give the last bit in the negotiations. In the end, we shook on a final price (shipping included) and I was the proud new owner of a lovely Turkish carpet! I bargained hard and think I got a good price on an exquisite rug that took a craftswoman in nearby Usak two years to weave. But who knows? Price is so subjective. I do know that had I walked away, that rug would have haunted my dreams, so it was a reasonable price for me.
How to Not Overpay for a Turkish Carpet:
Here’s my Travel Maestro tip on how to not overpay: Whether the price is a couple hundred or a couple thousand (or even more!), if you canât live without it and you have negotiated a price you are comfortable paying, make the deal and donât worry about it. If you are hesitant, even at what you consider a low price, itâs not the rug for you and you’ll be overpaying.
If youâve also had the fun of a Turkish carpet buying experience, please share a picture on our Facebook page. If you havenât yet but want to, contact the Covington Vacation Experts to plan your trip.