Have you ever wondered about Persian and Oriental rug construction? The process is rather complicated and can take months. Some large, complicated rugs can take several artisans over a year to complete. Some basic information follows:
Warp, Weft, Weave
First, there is the backing. On fine, hand-made rugs, the backing is usually made of wool, although it can be cotton or silk. It is like normal woven fabric, with threads woven at 90-degree angles. The threads that run the length of the rug are called the warp. Weavers choose warp threads for strength. Threads that run cross-wise are called the weft. Weavers string warp threads on the loom at the beginning of construction, but usually add weft threads after each row.
Work begins with a base using several rows of weft. After the artisan adds knots by hand to the warp threads, he strings one or more weft threads to hold those knots in place. He uses various tools to ensure the tightness of the weave. These knots become the pile of the carpet.
For most types of rug construction, the rugs are woven on one of several types of looms. The smaller horizontal loom can be taken apart and reassembled easily, which makes it easy for nomadic weavers to use them. Larger vertical looms are stationary. More sophisticated vertical looms position the weaver so that he can work comfortably. Vertical looms can produce much larger rugs than horizontal looms.
There are two primary types of knots used in hand-made rugs. With symmetrical knots, or Ghiordes knots, the artisan wraps the yarn around two warps and pulls it back through between the two. With asymmetrical knots, the yarn is wrapped around one warp, and one end is pulled through the adjacent space, while the other end is pulled through the next space over. Additionally, weavers use a less common type of knot, Jufti knot. This type uses four warps instead of two, and can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Asymmetrical knots might be chosen for fluid, curvy designs. Symmetrical knots are good for bolder, more angled or square/rectangle designs. In normal rug construction, one or both types of knots could be used, depending upon the design.
In addition, there are techniques where the weaver weaves the design into the warp and weft rather than using knots to create rug pile. These are flat-weave rugs. The most popular type of flat weave rug is Kilim. The name comes from the Persian gelim, to weave tightly.
Most hand-made rug construction is done with sheep wool. Quality wool has qualities of softness and durability, and the lanolin within the wool enhances the color over time. Some wool rugs also contain cotton, and some contain silk. In addition, some rugs use cotton or silk in the warp and weft. Cotton can be packed tighter, making for a denser weave, while silk has great strength qualities.
Creators of vintage hand-made Oriental rugs used plant-based natural dyes. These dyes tend to be more color-fast than synthetic dyes, and more traditional. Some traditional dyes, particularly red dyes, are made from insect shells such as cochineal. When a weaver dyes wool the same color at different times, the colors can be inconsistent. As a result, there can be variation in a single color within the same rug. This is known as abrash, and is often a sign of quality, not a defect.
For more information about rug construction, or to choose a hand-made rug for your home or your design client, call RenCollection at (214) 698-1000 or send us a message.
Photos courtesy Marzbani Rug.