Buying a Turkish Rug.

By Posted in - Europe & Featured Post & Turkey & wwoofing on October 29th, 2011

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My sister Bridgette has been bugging out for a Turkish rug for a long time. Now that we’re finally in Turkey I decided this would be a perfect time to find out what all the fuss is about and see if I could buy her one. Turns out I can’t because they are WAY expensive. Well at least the real ones are.

I’ve been intimidated by most of the rug sellers in Turkey. You can see them eying you suspiciously and you know the minute you enter their shop crazy things are going to happen and you’ll be hassled until you buy something.

Because of this I have been putting off shopping for her rug. All that changed in Cappadocia because out of the trillion Turkish rug sellers there was one really nice guy who had an immense amount of passion for his craft. He was extremely friendly and offered to teach me about Turkish rugs and more importantly fill me in on why they are so expensive.

There are a couple factors that are the most important – the dyes used and the type of weave. Complicated weaves cost more because they take longer to make. Natural dyes cost more because they are natural and not made of chemicals. Sixty+ years ago almost all rugs were made of natural dyes. This means that when shopping for a Turkish rug you really want to shop for an old rug. The older the better. It’s also worth noting that if you spend several hundred dollars for a century old rug you more than likely aren’t going to use it as a rug – instead it becomes a wall hanging or a blanket to cover your couch.

I started wondering how someone would go about finding such old rugs and it basically came down to the fact that the rug seller acts as a middle man and goes out to estate sales and to homes of the elderly and offers to buy their rugs. They usually have the best rugs with more complicated weaves and natural dyes.

Unfortunately a lot of these rugs come with holes in them from lifetimes of use and I learned that it cost about 200 Euro to repair a small hole (about the size of a half-dollar) on an old Turkish rug. So you can see the cost going up and up and up.

I looked at a few more of the rugs and unfortunately all the rugs that I really liked were in the $500+ range and at that size were pretty small rugs. I couldn’t justify spending that much money on something so small. Then it dawned on me, the best way to buy a Turkish rug is to buy it yourself direct from the owner. But how? I don’t know any Turkish and I have no idea how I would go about getting my point across to anyone. Plus to get a really good deal, I’d have to be totally off the tourist path.

That’s when it dawned on me, the best way to buy a Turkish rug is to go WWOOF’ing in Turkey. Seems brilliant! You go and volunteer abroad on a farm where you get to learn about the culture and you get to know your hosts. Your hosts will almost always have family or know several people in the community. At some point you can tell your host you want to buy a Turkish rug and see if they will ask around for you. You can give your money directly to someone who needs it and in turn get a great deal on a real Turkish rug! I haven’t tried this yet but I’m thinking of giving it a go because it makes total sense and you get a great story about how you purchased your rug! Plus, a little bird told me that WWOOF’ing in Turkey is excellent for the wwoofers because the Turkish people are so accommodating that they never want their workers to do anything.

Apparently this is a real problem and they are trying to correct it so that the farmers can get the help they need without feeling bad. Everyone in Turkey has been so welcoming and lovely that it doesn’t surprise me that the WWOOF’ing hosts are over the top and friendly.

So now I have another reason to do volunteer work abroad! I can help out a local Turkish family and try to find a Turkish rug for my sister! To top it off, I can come back to Turkey which is a real bonus because I have already fallen in totally in love with this country.

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(10) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Natalie -

    October 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    I have six rugs Bethany – They are beautiful. Your idea sounds good but I wonder if you would manage to find someone as traditionally a rug would take about seven months to complete. The rural villages that I have visited also employ the women to work for a co-operative direct.

    If it does not work, the best thing to remember when buying carpets is that they are overpriced in the first place as bartering is expected. With my carpets, I have spent hours in the shop bartering and bantering with the shop owner till I get him down to a price that is acceptable for me.

    Also be aware of the fake sellers – A good American friend of mine was led to believe that she was buying an authentic Anatolian rug. She had it valued when she needed some cash and it was not. If you are not confident, take away the details of what the seller tells you about the carpet and research it on the internet before buying.

    Would love to see a picture when you do finally make the purchase.

    • Bethany -

      October 30, 2011 at 12:14 am

      Wow 6! You are so lucky!! It’s a good point you bring up too. I was mostly thinking in my head of buying an old Turkish rug that way instead of a new one. That’s also good to know about the prices. I know that bartering is expected but I didn’t realize it was a process that could take hours! Wow. Well I can’t wait to come back to Turkey – we have to leave tomorrow and I am so sad about it. I love it here! @Natalie,

  • Turkey’s For Life -

    October 30, 2011 at 4:11 am

    We have one Turkish carpet (5 less than Natalie. 🙂 ) in a very small house so it’s been walked, stomped, run on. It’s a beautiful 60-year old carpet and I wish we hadn’t abused it so.

    Ours was a long bartering process and we still got a free gift from the carpet seller at the end – indicating he had got a good price for his wares and we hadn’t haggled hard enough! It’s a skill/game we haven’t refined, yet. 🙂

    Glad you enjoyed your time in Turkey.

    Julia

    • Bethany -

      November 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm

      I need to take lessons from you for next time. I am still unsure in my bartering tactics! @Turkey’s For Life,

  • Meredith -

    October 30, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    In college, I was on a service-learning trip on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. I stayed with a family who presented me with a rug as a present as I was leaving, the mother had finished it while I was there. It’s the most amazing gift. And, yes, it goes on the wall, not the floor!

    • Bethany -

      November 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Oh wow. That’s an amazing story and gift. They must have really loved you! That’s the type of gift that is simple irreplaceable. You are so lucky!! @Meredith,

  • Charu -

    November 7, 2011 at 8:12 am

    I do agree about the dyes and your description of the rugs…in general, anything hand made is expensive. I remember paying a visit to VTI (Victoria’s Technical Institute) in Chennai, a place you would really love because they feature all hand made crafts. The thought of paying $200-$300 for a hand crotcheted table cloth seems crazy but the love, detailing and fine craftsmanship is what you end up paying for. Haven’t been to Turkey and not sure if I would get a rug because of the price–but maybe a mousepad )

  • Sarahsomewhere -

    November 9, 2011 at 6:24 am

    What an original idea! I like your thinking… I bought an old (I think) quilted wall hanging from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, which I was almost going to sell (as I getting rid of all my stuff to travel) but after reading this piece I am glad I decided to hang on to it. I bought a floor rug in Morrocco, the sellers called me a Berber woman due to my tough haggling skills ( though they were probably just humoring me), and I think I’ll hang on to that too 🙂 Great story!

  • Ellen -

    January 10, 2012 at 3:10 am

    I’ve been living in Turkey for almost two years and still haven’t bought a hand-made rug for all the reasons you mentioned: They are expensive, I probably wouldn’t know if were beung lied to, and I HATE bargaining. I realize it’s part of the culture but I still struggle with it.

    But if I were going to buy a rug, I would certainly take a Turkish person with me. For now, my machine made rug ( at about $100) with Turkish motifs serves my purposes.

  • umit -

    March 1, 2012 at 12:49 am

    nice pic. i am planning to sell some original handmade turkish rugs. if you are interested, pls contact 🙂