Image of messy rooms full of clothes, papers, threads.

Real.m’s journey to Denizli, Turkey. Understanding the process of Peshtemal making with our Turkish partners and collaborators alongside Cotton One Threads.

The love people have for Peshtemals (also fondly known as ‘handloomed’ towels), have proven to be an everlasting textile since the Ottoman period till present day. What used to be predominantly hammam bath towels have now evolved to a lifestyle commodity, especially amongst the growing trend-goes who are avid travellers and sailing enthusiasts in Europe, USA and Australia.

Double image of a lady wearing a large comfy peshtemal over her shoulder in a chilly forest.

So what’s the story behind these handloomed towels? Are they 100% handmade today?

Upon Real.m’s return from Denizli, the motherplace of Peshtemal making in Southwestern Turkey, it was an eye-opener to see a process that has outgrown traditional methods, yet still a breathing activity reliant on villages weaving network.

Image of a warp lying at the side of a street in a Turkish village.Empty warps can be found all over the nooks and crannies of Kizicaboluk village.

100% handloomed Peshtemals are rarely made today, mostly due to the fact that it is an extremely intensive labour process which cannot compete with semi-electric looms. To make one by hand requires 4-6 hours. One can only complete 4-5 towels a day as compared to a semi-electric loom which produces up to 15-20 Peshtemals a day.

Image of peshtemal being loomed.

QUICK FAQ: Traditional weaving methods began in Denizli as early as 800 BC druing the Roman times and was a prized product even during the Ottoman Empire. However by the 1980s, the use of pure handloomed table saw its end. The remaining traditional cloth weavers are now in their old age and are disappearing rapidly.

 An image of an old Turkish women manually weaving the authentic Turkish Pestemal.
One of Realm’s maker’s great grandmother, who was known as a great weaver.

Semi-electric looming machines came about in 1953 and by 1960s, the use of electricity became widespread, resulting in the adoption of electrical looms.

image of the author experiencing the real method of looming pestemal.

There are 3 types of looming machines often employed by Peshtemal makers today in Denizli:

  1. Tezgah (semi-electric loom). Capacity to make 15-20 towels per day. Some of the looms are up to 50 years old.
  2. Sulzer (an electrical loom with digital coding system). Capacity to make 60-200 per day.
  3. Jacquard Loom (full electrical loom). 3D machines usually utilizes larger warp producing larger cloth width and are able to construct complex patterns and prints.


Image of a pattern on Turkish peshtemal

Image of a real original loom.

Image of another loom.

QUICK FAQ: Another factor contributing to the dying traditional method, was when in the 1980s, Turkey established a social security system which raised costs for the employer and rendered the traditional production system unprofitable

Image of a Real maker overseeing the looming process.

Even though Peshtemals are not 100% handmade, many of the villages in Denizli rely heavily on the production as their main source of income and have converted to semi-electric looms. In some villages, up to 80% of the village homes own a loom, not to mention the tying of fringes by hand!

Image of looming and weaving.
Catch our next post to learn more about the Fringes! Realm’s treasured feature!