Hereke carpets originated from the Palace and developed in Hereke as one of the first world-renowned products under a Turkish brand. These rarest examples of Turkish carpets and rugs woven today in 36 different areas were born in Hereke, a coastal town 65 km to the east of Istanbul, at a well-known factory that has been working almost non-stop since 1843.
The elements that were influential in the emergence of many features of Hereke carpets and initiated weaving in Hereke are closely related to this modest factory.
The factory that hosted the birth of Hereke carpets that are embraced still its unchanging ostentation today and regarded as the most valuable carpets in the world was established under the name Hereke Fabrika-i Hümayun (Hereke Imperial Factory) by the Sultan of the day, Sultan Abdülmecit, in 1843.
Having continued its production of works of art in the form of carpets until today, Hereke Factory has been producing, within an artistic harmony, various different works of silky, silky and glossy, silky velvet, fabric and silky and woollen carpets each of which is a work of art by itself.
Such production of Hereke carpets was initially aimed at meeting the demands of Ottoman Palaces for upholstery and fabric. Thus, famous carpets and various upholstery and drapery fabrics were produced that still decorate the Palaces today.
However, in later times, these products always maintained their vivacity by constantly changing in form in the face of various needs and conditions. Such adaptability is related to the fact that the factory had not been committed to any particular tradition since its foundation.
Bursa and close areas have gained a deserved fame as the traditional centre of sericulture in the history of Anatolian weaving (1). Hereke Factory, on the other hand, was able to follow the developments of this centre due to its close location. Thus, Hereke Factory has always been side by side with ‘silk’, one of its most important raw materials.
As an extension of these ideas and orientations and the silk weaving tradition, traditional Turkish carpet weaving reached quite interesting interpretations. Hereke’s silk carpet weaving tradition expresses this interaction by carrying the name of this area.
Today, ‘Hereke carpets’ carry a special meaning and are known as a high-quality representative of their own type. They are quite commonly used and have duly acquired a significant place within Turkish carpet weaving.
Hereke carpets have preserved the significant position of crown carpet weaving vividly and effectively since the day of its foundation.
The most striking features of Hereke carpet weaving tradition are its extraordinary attributes in terms of weaving technique.
These attributes are clearly defined to be at the top of the ‘extra extra fine’ class in ‘Table: Technical Specifications of Hand-Woven Turkish Carpets’ published by the Turkish Standards Institute. Compiled on the basis of woollen carpet classes, this ranking acquires a wholly extraordinary quality when it comes to silk carpets.
In carpet weaving, in technical terms, any increase in the number of knots per cm² is a very important factor for the appearance of the final woven carpet.
In another dimension, this feature expresses the ability to construct the motifs shaped on the carpet with a higher number of knots.
Such a technique complicates and products the process of weaving. However, in return, it also enables the extraordinarily fine detailing of carpet motifs. This technique made it possible for us to reach the rich world of Hereke carpets.
Since their first periods and even today, Hereke carpets have never been influenced by other carpet patterns and they have come to life with the original designs of the Palace’s own muralists. Continuing its production also during the Republic Period, Hereke Silk Fabric and Carpet Factory is still active today as a Museum-Factory and has a special place among its counterparts thanks to its location.
Colours and Patterns
Hereke carpets present the motifs of the Ottoman society that embrace the nature and the infinity theme originating from the culture of Islamic Mysticism, as is the case with other Turkish traditional arts. The patterns extend from the borders to the carpet as if extending from eternity and disappear at the opposite border as if extending to eternity.
More than two hundred motifs are used in Hereke Carpets exemplified particularly by tulips, rosebuds, leaves, clovers, hyacinths, almonds and floral bouquets.
Woven in and around Hereke by young women who, on the basis of the ability and knowledge transferred to them by their former generations, tie one million double knots per square meter to complete one carpet in ten months and who, while weaving, engrave parting and reunion, pain and joy, longing and love and their aspirations and wishes into each knot, every pattern and every motif in Hereke carpets have become a symbol in themselves.
For instance, in carpets hand-woven by young women, flowers of seven mountains represent the flowers of the city of Istanbul settled on seven hills, tulips represent love and peace, hyacinth and white rose represent love and wild rose represents longing.
With red and navy blue as traditional and dominant colours, each carpet is woven in a harmony of over thirty colours.
In the history of Hereke carpets, the most famous patterns are Yedi Dağın Çiçeği (Flowers of the Seven Mountains), Badegül, Kırçiçeği (Wild Flower), Binbir Çiçek (One Thousand and One Flowers), Lalezar, Kristal (Crystal), Karpuzlu, Zümrüt-ü Anka (Phoenix) and Çeşm-i Bülbül (Eye of the Nightingale).
Numerous attempts have been made by carpet producing countries to imitate Hereke carpets. These carpets cannot be imitated not only because of their patterns, but also because they incorporate a natural silk material of the highest quality in the world obtained from the cocoons of silkworms fed with leaves of mulberry trees in Bursa.
Carpets woven at this factory were awarded as the highest quality hand-woven carpets and gained global appreciation in 1894 in Lyon, 1910 in Brussels and 1911 in Torino.
The touch of each Hereke carpet varies with its fineness. The greater the fineness, the longer it takes for the completion of a carpet.
The number of knots in a silk Hereke carpet is calculated on the basis of the average number of knots per square centimetre. Silk Hereke carpets generally have 10x10 = 100 knots per square centimetre (This amounts to 100x100 knots per dm²). This corresponds to 10 knots per each square centimetre in vertical (on warps) and horizontal (on wefts) planes. The number of knots increases in even finer carpets to 12x12, 14x14 and even to 40x40.
On the other hand, pile heights of Hereke carpets are in the range of 1,5-2,0 mm in silk works and 4,0-5,0 in woollen works.
The total number of knots is calculated after the determination of the carpet’s total area. A Hereke carpet with an area of 1 square meter and with 100 knots per square centimetre has 1.000.000 knots. A master weaver can complete such a carpet in 1 year.
A woollen Hereke carpet has, on average, 60x60 = 3600 knots per square centimetre. The number of knots varies between individual carpets, because every carpet is different in terms of fineness.
The Most Finely Woven Carpet in the World
The silk carpet woven in 5 years by Nuriye Kıvanç in Hereke owns an unbeaten world record as the finest carpet in the world with 1024 knots per square centimetre. This carpet has been showcased in exhibitions around the world.
More information on the various periods of Hereke Factory from its foundation to modern day and on sericulture in Bursa, see...
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Önder Küçükerman, Hereke Halıcılığının Doğuşu,Antika Dergisi, S.3,1989
Hüseyin Alantar, Dünyaca Ünlü Has İpek Halılar, Hereke Halıları, Antika Dergisi, S.3,6, 1985
Hakan Çiloğlu, Milli Saraylarda Bulunan Hereke 'Yazılı İpek Halılar',Antikdekor, S.59,2000
M. K. Kaya-S.Boynak-V.Gezgör-Y.Yılmaz, Milli Saraylar Koleksiyonu’nda Hereke Dokumaları ve Halıları, TBMM Milli Saraylar Yayınları;
Milli Saraylar Kolleksiyonundaki Yıldız Porselen ve Hereke Dokumalarından Örnekler 1996 [Takvim], TBMM Milli Saraylar Daire Başkanlığı Yayını, İstanbul 1999
Orhan Aslanapa, Türk Halı Sanatının Bin Yılı,
(1) Fahri Dalsar, Türk Sanayi ve Ticaret Tarihinde Bursa'da İpekçilik, İstanbul, 1960