A Brief History of Turkish Rugs

Turkish Carpets have been renowned for their beautiful patterns, vibrant natural dyes, and special weaving techniques, since the days when they lined the tents of nomadic Turkish people. Used for decoration, as well as for sleeping and other practical purposes, these rugs were ideal for nomadic peoples, since they were easy to transport and very durable. In time, weavers started to express themselves and their culture by adding elaborate designs and motifs to the rugs.

Konya (Iconium) Seljuk Turkish Carpet 13th Century


Carpet and rug weaving has been a part of Anatolia’s culture and commerce for centuries, and the practice has been traced by historians as far back as 1243 CE, in Konya. In 15th and 16th century Europe, “Turkey Rugs,” as all oriental rugs were called, were in very high demand in Europe. Turkish carpets lined the palaces and homes of aristocrats, and many famous painters included these carpets in their depictions of wealthy people and their properties.


Uşak (Oushak) Turkish Carpet in King Henry VIII’s Palace.

Sara Wolf, the director of the Textile Museum in Washington D.C. and an expert on Turkish carpets, told the Washington Post, “What inspired me was the fabulous designs and colors. They have every bit of the pizzazz as a piece of modern art. They’re straight forward and bold, and they never go out of style...There’s a lot of personality, individuality and whimsy in the old pieces. I pine for the personality that the weaver incorporated into their work when it was an important part of their culture.”

The most famous types of Turkish rugs are Anatolian, Melez, Kirsehir, Oushak, Sivas, Tulu, Kayseri, Hereke, Ghiordes, Kulah, Konya and Borlou. Most carpets from South Eastern Anatolia were highly influenced by Iran and Syria. They shared a similar use of colors and patterns, emphasizing red tones and striking a balance between positive and negative space. They also frequently featured Armenian floral and tree designs.

Ghiordes rugs are mostly rectilinear, colorful, and have multi-bordered patterns. They often display mihrabs and hanging lamps, as well as some architectural motifs.

Oushak rugs typically feature royal tones of brick red, deep blue, gold, and terracotta. They are vibrantly colorful and highly preferred by interior designers. Oushak Rugs have been the choice of artists like Holbein, Velasquez, Vermeer, and Memling. 

It is believed that Borlou Rugs were weaved by skilled Seljuks in the 13th century. Later, in the 15th and 16th centuries, they were widely treasured and collected by Europeans. The specific geographic origin of these rugs could be determined by identifying the signature design used by the weaver, which corresponded to the region from which they came. 

Sivas rugs use a limited color palette, with a maximum of eight or nine colors for each rug. Primary colors like red and blue dominate the whole design, in harmony with softer, lighter colors. Decorative antique carpets from Sivas are finely woven and they emulate the classical Persian style with centre medallions and floral infill. 

Hereke rugs are exceptionally beautiful pieces of art. They mostly have subtle, muted colors and they feature intricate designs, throughout. They were woven in the 19th century with the intention to furnish palaces, so they not only contained wool, silk, and cotton, but also featured threads of gold or silver. 

Overall, Turkish rugs are made to last, with strong materials and natural dyes. Their patterns and designs are still visible today after hundreds of years and their colors have not faded. These are some of the sources of the natural dyes that are used in Turkish rugs.


Parts that are used


Madder (Rubia tinctoria)


Browns and reds

Bucktorn (Rhamnus tinctoria)


Browns and yellows

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)


Yellow and yellow- greens

Walnut (Juglans regia)

Whole plant

Khaki and greens

Onion (Allium cepa)

Outer layers

Oranges and dark browns

Grapevine (Vitis vinifera)



Red Pine (Pinus brutia)

Outer Bark

Yellows and greens

Gum Plant (Euphorbia tinctoria)

Whole plant

Yellows and greens

Dock (Rumex conglomeratus)



Barberry (Berberis crataegina)

Whole plant


Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.)

Outer layer

Yellows, browns, and black

Mint (Mentha pulequem)

Whole plant

Yellows, greens, and khaki

Thyme (Thymus kotschyanus)

Stems and leaves

Yellows, greens, and greys

Chaste (Vitex agnus)


Yellows and greens

Elm leaved sumac (Rhus coriaria)

Whole plant

Yellows and reds

Camomile (Anthemis tinctoria)

Whole plant


Mullein (Verbascum phlomoides)

Trunk and leaves

Yellows, greens, and mustard

Sage (Salvia triloba)

Whole plant


Pennyroyal (Mentha tomentosa)

Whole plant


Sergil (Plumbago europeae)

Whole plant