How an Oriental Area Rug is Made

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Learning a little about how oriental area rugs are made will be your first step on the road to becoming a carpet connoisseur.

For the novice buyer, the purchase of an oriental area rug can be an intimidating experience. Oriental carpets come in such a range of colours, styles, and sizes; the wealth of choice can be overwhelming. Doubts about authenticity can give a buyer pause. Gaining knowledge about what to look for when buying a carpet will help cut down on this confusion. The first thing you need to know is how a carpet is made.

Buy an Oriental Area Rug and Connect to an Ancient Tradition

An art form with ancient provenance, the market for oriental carpets continues to thrive. To buy an oriental area rug is to connect with a living, breathing tradition.

An area rug’s link with the past begins with weaving techniques passed down through generations. The simplicity of the weavers’ technique is one reason why it endures, and accounts for the prevalence of carpet making as a cottage industry every area of the Asian world.

The Weft and the Warp: Area Rug Weaving Techniques

Essie Sakhai, is a London-based Persian carpet dealer whose family has been in the trade since 1776. In his book, Oriental Carpets: A Buyer’s Guide, he discusses how rugs are made, noting that using mundane methods, weavers will manage to create a carpet that is “artistically sublime.”

Little equipment is required. Weavers’ construct a loom, which in its simplest form can consist of “nothing more than two stout poles, often poplar trunks.” Between these poles, a weaver stretches long threads of wool lengthwise, to form the warp of the carpet. Weft strings are then threaded crosswise through the warp. Eventually, the shaggy pile ends of the knots will be cut off at a length of approximately one inch (2.5 centimeters) to create the pile of the carpet.

The Two Different Kinds of Knots

A weave of weft and warp threads forms the foundation of a rug, called a kilim. Next, a weaver begins the process of tying the thousands of knots that will eventually form the pile of the carpet. As carpet expert P.R.J. Ford notes, “aside from a distinctive knot used in Tibet,” rug weavers use only two kinds of knots: the Turkish and the Persian.

According to Essie Sakhai, knowing the two different knot types will be important to establishing a carpet’s provenance. “Although Persian weavers do not always use the Persian knot, nor Turkish weavers the Turkish knot, individual weavers will always use the same kind of knot.”

Persian and Turkish Forms of Knots

Turkish knots are also called symmetrical knots. Persian knots are also called asymmetrical knots. In general, the distinction between the two knots is that the Persian knot half staggers the warp, while in a Turkish knot, the warps remain side-by-side. The regularity of the Turkish knot produces a flatter carpet; a Persian knot allows for a more complex curvilinear carpet design. Otherwise, the distinction between the two types of knots has no bearing on the value of the carpet.

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