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How Oriental Rugs Are Made

Rug Terms

Rug Looms

 

Rug looms are frame like structures that secure warps, consisting of cotton, wool, silk or possibly even synthetic materials, so that knots, making up the pile of the rug, and wefts can be added to produce an oriental rug.

 

Looms come in many different sizes and shapes, some vertical and others horizontal, depending on where the loom will be used.  Looms can be small and transported by nomads and tribes, while medium sized ones can be used in home or small villages and large one in workshops and master workshops.

Rug Loom

Fringe

A rug's fringe is the tasselly section of the rug, also known as the warps, or foundation of the rug that extend out the ends of a handmade rug. 

The fringe may be cut short, long or overcasted in the same manner as the selvedge, which can give the rug a more symmetrical appearance, similar to machine made carpet.

Rug fringe.jpg

Selvedge

The selvedge, or side edges of the rug, consist of four or more warps || running vertically and wefts, running horizontally to make the outside edges of the rug. The selvedge is then wrapped with a thread of similar material, recognized as overcasting.

Rug selvedge.jpg

Warps

The warp of the rug are the vertical strands, typically cotton, silk or wool in which the knots are tied, making up the pile of the rug. These strands hold the knots in place and are then secured with wefts.

Wefts

Rug wefts are horizontal strands, typically cotton, wool or silk that makes up part of the foundation. Once the knots of the rug are tied to two or more warps and the row is completed, the weaver runs one or more wefts along the row of knot, weaving between the warps of the rug. 

This process, squeezes each knot, securing it, almost like being placed in a box with four sides.

Rug warp.jpg
Rug weft.jpg

Rug Overcasting

How Rugs Are Made

Overcasting is the material that's used to wrap the end warps, on both sides of the rug, making up the selvedge. Any material can be used, but common materials are wool, silk, goat hair or camel hair.

Pile

The rug's pile is the top surface of the rug that is used on a daily basis. Common pile materials for hand-knotted rugs are wool, silk, wool & silk, goat or camel hair, cotton or numerous types of artificial fibers, typically resembling silk.

The pile of the rug may be cut to different pile heights depending on the type of rug or location in which it was made. Lower pile height can accentuate the higher detail in a rug, such as many rugs from the city of Tabriz in Iran. This city is well known for very high end, curvilinear designs and typically have a lower pile height than rugs from the city of Hamadan in Iran.

Abrash

Abrash is an interesting feature in Oriental rugs where the colors change throughout the rug. This feature is most often done by the weaver and can be both intentional and unintentional at times. When a weaver runs out of wool in a particular color, then next batch of dyed wool, may be slightly different than the last batch, creating a color change in the pile of the rug. 

Abrash can have both a positive and negative effect on how a finished rug might look. Some abrash can have a nice reflective quality to the rug that gives it a different dimensional look, or it can come across as being hideous.

While abrash can be nice, it can often be like an acquired taste, taking time to visualize the real beauty of the rug and the process for which it was made.

Unfortunately, there are those who frown at abrash as if it's a defect, but abrash isn't new, and it's been occurring in rug production for hundreds if not thousands of years. I wouldn't expect to find abrash in a fine workshop piece, but many villages and tribes produce amazing works of art with this beautiful and interesting characteristic.

    All handmade rugs, whether woven or hand-knotted, are made on a loom.  A loom is a frame like structure used to secure warps (vertical strands) made of cotton, wool or silk which make up the length of the new rug.  Wefts (horizontal strands) of cotton, wool or silk will be used at the beginning and end of the rug as well as between each row of knots (making up the pile).

    Most rugs are made using either the Persian (Senneh Knot / asymmetrical), or the Turkish (Ghiordes Knot / symmetrical). The Persian knot is also known as the Asymmetrical knot as it wraps under one warp and over the next.  The Turkish knot is known as symmetrical and wraps over two warps and is then pulled up between the two warps. 

    Once an entire row of knots is woven then a weft thread is run back across the knots to secure them in place.  One pass of the weft is known as single-wefted, also known as Hamadan Weave.  Two passes of a weft thread are referred to as double-wefted.  More than two passes may be made but the weft is still referred to as double-wefted.  This process is continued until the entire rug is complete.  In this process weft threads are also tied into the selvage warps that are on the outside edge of the rug making the selvage (side edge).  The selvage may consist of two warps or four or more and are typically covered with wool or goat hair with what is known as overcasting.

    Once the rug has been completed; it will be cut down from the loom and the ends tied off making the fringe.  Fringe can be done in many different styles and acts as a hint to the rug's true origin.  Rugs may have the pile re-cut to create a nice even pile.  Typically, rugs will be washed and set out in the sun to dry.  Some rugs may be washed with chemical or tea washes to add artificial age to a rug.  These washes may add a beautiful effect to a rug but overall weaken the integrity of the wool.  Once the rug has been dried it can be used or sent off to a market for sale.

Knots

Your rug is a rug because of knots. Not really, while we call them knots, none are actually tied into knots, but merely wrapped around warps in the rug. The most common knots used to make hand-knotted rugs and carpets are the:

 

1.) Asymmetrical Knot / Persian Knot / Senneh Knot

These knots have many names, but keep in mind the terms asymmetrical and symmetrical knots. These are the most widely used terms as they excellently describe the two knot types.

Asymmetrical - isn't symmetrical on both sides, just like the knot which goes under one warp, over the second warp, tucked under the warp and pulled down between the middle of the two warps. 

2.) Symmetrical Knot / Turkish Knot / Ghiordes Knot

Symmetrical - is the same on both sides, just like the knot that goes over two warps, wraps underneath on both sides and then pulled down between the two warps.

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