Turkish Textiles – An Overview

Turkish Textiles - An Overview

Turkish textiles are renowned around the world for being beautiful, well made and just a great value. We decided to dig a little deeper and find out exactly what makes Turkish textiles better.

So first – lets talk a little bit about the history of Turkish textiles.

A (Brief) History Of Turkish Textiles

Evidence of Turkish textile superiority has been popping up in scientific journals & historical records for a long time now. The oldest known carpet in the world was found in present day Turkey. It’s estimated that the carpet than 2,400 years old!

The Turkish art of textile production flourished in particular in Anatolia. Cities such as Konya, Usak, and Bergama became known as centers of silk, velvelt, cotton & wool production.

The Ottoman Empire later carried on the tradition of producing world-renowned textiles. The Ottomans were strategically located on the east-west silk route connecting Europe & Asia.  China traded Silk from the east in exchange for metals, ivory, glass, and even food products from the Ottomans. Silk was transported by caravans from Iran passed through Anatolia as far as Bursa. The silk would later be resold to Italians from Europe for a hefty price!

Bursa itself eventually became a major center for the international silk trade during the early sixteenth century. It provided substantial revenues to the state through taxes and brokerage feeslevied from the Iranian and Italian merchants. The protection of this lucrative trade was of great interest to the sultans and was in part responsible for the wars with the Safavids throughout the sixteenth century.

Where are they now?

Starting in the years 1923 through 1962, Turkey’s textile industry exploded.

The extensive growth of cotton in Turkey starting in the early 20th century allowed for Turkey to grow & develop their textile industry. The textile industry continued to grow up until the early 1980’s – when Turkey opened up their textiles to the foreign markets.Turkey is able to be a huge player in the international textile scene due to a couple of advantages.

  • Turkey is ranked 7th in the world in terms of richness of raw materials. They export 375 thousand tons of cotton a year.
  • Turkey is geographically close to their main market (Europe)
  • Turkey has a history and a very well developed textile finishing industry.
  • Textiles are a big part of the Turkish peoples’ lives. There is a large and skilled labor force as a result of this.

Turkish textile exports have increased 5x in the last 20 years.

What Textiles Is Turkey Known For?

Kilims, Rugs & Carpets.


A kilim is a flat-woven rug that traditionally has been used by nomands and villagers through Persia. They’ve traditionally been used to decorate tents as well as act as prayer mats. In modern times they’re a common decoration in Western households.

Pestemal & Turkish Towels


We go in depth on what is pestemal in another post, but a brief summary is:

A pestemal or peshtamal (pesh-te-mahl) is an authentic Turkish towel with a hand-tied fringe.

Turkish Shawls & Hijabs

Turkish Hijab Girl

Turkish women started wearing intricate Shawls starting in the 19th century. The movement started slowly in large residential regions such as Istanbul & Izmir. Gradually it became custom for Ottoman weavers to follow Parisian fashion!

What Machines Are Used to Make Textiles?

There are 3 main kinds of modern textile production in Turkey.

1) Automatic Looms – These looms can produce up to 900 towels a day. They function without serious human intervention and have a set it and forget it attitude.

2) Semi Automatic Looms – A lot of traditional textile manufacturers in Turkey pride themselves on their traditional looms, these are often machines 60+ years old that require constant supervision in order to create a textile product. They can make ~90 towels in a day.

3) Wooden Loom – These looms are completely manual, and require and expert to work for a long time to create a single textile. These are prized for their hand-made nature and for their quality.

Where can I buy Turkish Textiles?

Turkish textiles are priced from cheap to luxurious – and their quality reflects this.

Etsy has a great selection of kilim & turkish rugs.

If you’re in the market for some traditionally made yet affordable pestemal – we have a great selection here at PTSML!






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