Kylyms of Ukraine (1998-1999)

The term ‘kilim’ (Ukrainian Kylym) is of Turic origin and denotes an ornamented, woven fabric used to cover floors or to adorn walls. The earliest reference to kylyms date back to the chronicles of Kievan Rus’ and link them to burial rites. Legal documents show that early kylyms were of great value and were passed on in wills. In the late 19th and 20th centuries kylyms were widely used ritualistically for weddings and funerals, and decoratively used to cover walls, benches and tables.

Schools of weaving were formed as early as 1376 in Ukraine. Master craftsmen used local and regional themes for designs. Ornament was originally divided into two main types – geometric in Right bank Ukraine and Halychyna, and plant designs in the Left bank, with some areas like Poltavschyna developing very distinctive floral motifs. Wool was dyed with natural (plant) dyes until the 1880’s. The invention of aniline dyes in 1856 caused a turnover in dyeing techniques.

Among the provisions that Ukrainian immigrants brought to their new homeland in Canada were kylyms. Due to immediate need to clear and farm land, they had less time for weaving and eventually it began to be considered a leisure activity.

The Kilims (Kylyms) of Ukraine exhibit featured over 30 kylyms from the Museum’s own collection. Their luxury of brilliant colour and design was a feast for the eyes.

Please click here to download the pamphlet from this exhibit.