Tina Almost Buys a Turkish Carpet

May 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm 3 comments


One of the approximately 24 zillion activities listed on our Legendary Turkey itinerary was a minor mention that, on the day we left Izmir and began heading south to Göcek, we would make a stop at a carpet factory to see how Turkish carpets are made. I didn’t give it much thought, but the excursion proved to be one of the most memorable activities—and almost the most expensive activity on the trip for me.

Turkish-CarpetsTurkish carpets are spectacularly beautiful, and learning about how they are made was fascinating—way more interesting than I think any of us expected. At the carpet factory in the village of Çamlik, we met some of the young women who make the carpets by hand, and watched as they did their work. We also met some of the silkworms that produce the silk and saw how their cocoons get turned into silk threads. And we saw some of the dyes: a cauldron of simmering sage plant, to produce a greenish yellow, and one of walnut shells, to make brown, and something called rose madder root, which produces a terra cotta color.

Then we were led into a big showroom with specially balanced lighting and hardwood floors, where our host, a guy named Çan (pronounced “John”), served us tea and raki (a very strong Turkish drink—something like 47 percent alcohol). Then he gave us an informative, entertaining combination of educational lecture and sales pitch. Several of the men of his staff would bring in various carpets, each more gorgeous than the last, to illustrate the points he was making, until the floor was just covered with beautiful carpets in all sizes and designs.

Turkish-carpetsHe taught us about how wool-on-cotton carpets are better quality than wool-on-wool, and how silk carpets are the best of all. He taught us about how the number of knots per square inch is an indicator of how much labor went into the carpet—and also influences the clarity of the design: The more knots per square inch, the sharper the detail on the pattern. It seemed like the minimum number of knots per square inch was 90, and anything more than about 1,000 knots per square inch is considered museum quality.

When we started asking about prices, he said, “I’m going to wait for the drinks to take effect first,” and we all laughed. But some of the carpets were surprisingly affordable: as low as $500 to $750 for, say, a small wool-on-wool carpet—a “door to door” price that included shipping and duty and all that.

Turkish-carpetsThen again, Çan showed us a small silk carpet—just 18 inches by 24 inches—that had a stunning 1,200 knots per square inch and sold for an equally stunning $52,000.

Once the presentation was over, a small army of salesmen appeared out of nowhere and quite a few members of our group got to work selecting a carpet to buy. Even I gave it some serious thought—I certainly hadn’t woken up that morning expecting to buy a Turkish carpet, but the works were just so beautiful and the prices were much more affordable than I would have guessed.

So I pointed out a couple of designs I liked and the salesmen led me to a private showroom, where they brought in one carpet after another and I’d say, “No, too monochromatic,” or “I want a more detailed design than that,” or “Like that, but with more greens and blues.”

By the time I had found a few that were starting to be in the ballpark of what I pictured for the hardwood floor in my living room, I said, “Can you give me just a rough idea of what kind of money we’re talking about?” The salesman pulled his calculator out of his back pocket, checked some numbers on the tag on the bottom of the rug, and announced to me: “Seven thousand dollars.” Oops. Way out of my price range—even with a little bargaining.

Plus I suddenly had visions of my three cats using the new carpet as a scratching pad, or worse. So I said no and wandered off.

It’s hard for carpet salesmen to take “no” for an answer, though, so they kept trying to bring me more carpets. I briefly considered a smaller one that would work as a wall hanging, but even that would have cost close to a thousand bucks, and I don’t see myself spending that kind of money on a wall hanging. So I wandered off again.

About 10 minutes later, while some of us were standing in the courtyard of the building waiting for everyone to gather, two salesmen came out of the building toward me, rolling out more carpets at my feet, in one last effort to change my mind. But by then I had fully regained my senses, and I just said “No, thanks,” and they finally gave up.

Afterward we had lunch outdoors on the grounds next door, and several members of the Penn State group were showing off photos on their cameras of the carpets they had just bought. A few of them were wondering if they’d soon be getting a call from the bank that issued their credit card, inquiring whether the big purchase was indeed theirs. But everyone, whether they made a purchase or not, seemed happy, and several said that the experience was one of the highlights of the trip.

Tina Hay, editor

P.S. You can see more photos from our carpet-factory visit at the Penn State Alumni Association’s Facebook page.

Entry filed under: Alumni Association. Tags: , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jo Prostko '75  |  May 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Every day when I walk on my beautiful carpet I recall a similar experience years ago. My only regret is that I didn’t know then about fair trade and try to ensure the artisans who made mine were fairly paid. I hope they were.

  • […] our visit to the carpet factory in Çamlik a week or so earlier, the pottery excursion in Avanos was one of those sleeper things: […]

  • 3. Cute Turkish Carpets Prices Gallery | Ottoman Rug Ideas  |  September 5, 2017 at 4:41 am

    […] tina almost buys a turkish carpet the penn stater magazine Turkish Carpets Prices Size: 1000 X 617 | Source: pennstatermag.com […]

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