Hereke & Silk


We think that people write the history; the insects also write it though! You may be surprised by these words, but the truth is, that the historiographers of a period of manhood were not the armies but the silkworms! Because the trade route created by their product, silk, formed the countries, the borders and immigrations; and defined the routes drawn by civilisations. The European merchants called the route they used to transport the silk, spice, porcelain and many other Eastern products to the West ?The Silk Road?. In some sources, invention of silkworm is attributed to a queen. In 2600?s (BC), during the time of the Chinese Emperor Hoangiti, caterpillars that were seen eating mulberry leaves arose interest. The Emperor assigned the duty of studying these caterpillars to the queen, Shi-Ling-Shi. And she observed this amazing creature who makes a unique thread for years, and at last found the method to produce silk. From that time, sericulture became the major resource of China. The silkworm is blessed and the Queen Shi-Ling-Shi is given a new name: the Goddess of Silkworm... For centuries, the silk culture remains a secret and as the secret craft of the Chinese. Garments and carpets woven from silk, the effect they leave on the skin, the glitter and the lustre creates a huge demand. Silk becomes the foremost one among the gifts sent from and to the kings. Thus, even death penalty is assessed to prevent cocoons, which became a source of wealth to cross the bamboo curtain. They say that this craft of the Chinese was spread the world by the Turks. In 149 AD, the Emperor of Hotan, a province of Turkestan was preparing to marry a Chinese princess. The princess the bride was willing to give a present to her future husband. She hid seeds of silkworm in her long hair and took them outside China, to Hotan. We don?t know whether this story combined with a love story is true or not, but there are other legends on the subject. According to one of these, in 555, the time of the Byzantine Emperor Lustinianos, two Nasturi priests acquired this craft working for years with perseverance and brought the cocoons and silkworms they hid in their sticks to Anatolia. Another belief is that 400 silk masters who were sent to Bursa by Mameluke Khan, Tomanbay, spread the silkworm in Anatolia. Whichever the truth is, it?s a fact that for a period the silkworm was embraced by Anatolia. Employing conventional cocoon methods, historical Koza Han (meaning Cocoon Hostel) in Bursa has maintained its silk-dependent existence till the recent years. A century ago, siik was woven on with handlooms all around Anatolia. Just as the silkworm, we also have a story for the silk. When they hatch out, silkworms look like a coil of brown or black feathers. In time the colour fades and bleaches. Also they moult and a soft skin comes out. These silkworms, which are as small as a pin live five ages throughout their six-weeks life. Each age lasts seven-eight days; then they sleep one-two days. Silkworms sleep four times in their short lives. They get mulberry leaves when they wake up. Each silkworm is called ?alaldi? when they wake up. In the last ?alaldi?, they start to cocoon. When the insect raises its head as if looking for something, which means the silk production is beginning. In the meantime branches of trees such as oak and pine are plunged in the earth and the silkworms try to find a place for themselves among these branches with a good rustling. The production is about to begin.




While going to Izmit, the center of Kocaeli, which is a city adjacent to Istanbul, you can see a small town under viaduct laying parallel to Marmara Sea. If you don?t know anything about history and carpets, yon wili drive over the roofs. However, this small town you are driving over, is a place, which marked an era in world carpet history. Under those small roofs and in its famous carpet factory, masterworks of carpet art, are built. Factory in Hereke with its history dating back to 1843, started carpet production in 1891. Upon the instructions of Sultan Abdülmecit, it laid the foundations of a tradition with professionals brought from Sivas, Ladik and Manisa. Experts, who were aware of the significance of the need of producing unique designs, didn?t fail to accomplish that. In l9th century, while the gleam of silk in desks turned into carpet, the small town revived and became an industrial center. in 1898, this change brought German Emperor Wilhelm the Second to Hereke. Emperor, who came to visit Sultan, walked into the mansion which is seen in the oil painting above, built for him on the carpet laid down as soon as he stepped out of the train. Hereke mansion, which was built in one day, is an interesting structure. Besides German Emperor, the mansion welcomed many foreign visitors and the founder of Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Carpets, fabrics, silk-woven products, ribbon and bands produced in Hereke Factory received many national and international awards. Hereke products awarded in Paris in 1855, in London in 1862, Vienna in 1892, Lyon in 1894, Brussels in 1910 and in Torino in 1911, and became highly sought for in the world. Most of the compositions on Hereke carpets and seccade, are ?medallion? compositions. Particularly, among big carpets produced to cover rooms and halls of palaces, this composition is popular. Anatolian concepts are mostly used in carpets and traditional workmanship was used in their production. Naturalist flowers and foliage are common in ornaments of silk carpets of Hereke. Pomegranate flower, cow parsley, rose and others make the carpet one beautiful flower garden. Life tree on seccade represents immortality and heaven, while pomegranate stands for power and richness. One bouquet of lowers in mihrab, as can be seen in Topkapi example, symbolizes irem gardens. Flower bouquets in the corners is another tendency of Hereke style. Colors are red, pink, beige, light green, blue and dark blue in the background, and black, yellow, plum and brown inside the patterns. Bright colors and pastel colors are in harmony on Hereke carpets. While Hereke carpets are used in Yildiz, Dolmabahçe and Beylerbeyi Palaces in Istanbul, one giant Hereke carpet is used in Justice Palace of La Hey in Holland. When tradition of Hereke is demanded all around the world, similar weaving techniques are adopted in several places and sold with name Hereke. But none of them could achieve to match the elegance and quality of Hereke carpets. Because, thousands of years of Anatolian culture, united with the enthusiasm, love and skill of the weavers and produced the delicacy of Hereke carpets.



A silkworm shows an astonishing performance compared to its short Life-cycle and discharges about 1500 m. of silk. During production of Hereke silk carpet, only 1000 m. of it is used. Because, first and last 250 meters will negatively impact the quality of the silk, due to inexperience of the worm and its tiredness, respectively. With a special brush having a brass handier, tips of cocoons are located and after being counted, they are winded round the wheel in the back. This is the wellknown old method that has been used for thousands of years. Another important characteristic of Hereke carpet is that, its production still involves the methods and techniques of centuries ago, despite mindboggling advancement of technology. Today we produce our Hereke carpets (14*14 and above) generally with 20/22 denye threads, which means if a cocoon is about 2,5 denye, 8 layers of cocoon will render 20/22 denye.

©Korhan Halı