Archive for April, 2011

Persian Rugs, Oriental Rugs: Wool, The Natural Fiber

Wool is the main component of higher quality pile area rugs, and is widely used in different parts of the world. Although most wool comes from sheep, it can also come from goats and llamas. Wool is generally a creamy white color, but some breeds of sheep produce natural colors such as black and brown. Wool is a resilient material and has greater durability than synthetic fibers. It can absorb and retain dyes amazingly well. Wool is also naturally resistant to fire, water and stains. A major characteristic of wool area rugs is that they naturally resist dust mites which can aggravate allergies. In fact, wool is considered by the medical profession to be hypoallergenic.Wool is flexible, durable, readily takes on dyes and is easy to handle when it is spun or woven. Perhaps the most important fact about wool is that it is found in abundance in rug and kilim-making regions of the world. As an example, the Qashqae nomads of Central Iran who are considered as a major producer of Persian rugs and Gabbeh, breed sheeps and goats, so the finest quality of wool is always available to them. There are certain breeds of sheep which are more desirable for spinning, like the “Merino” due to its fleece’s special luster and length of fiber. Nevertheless, the domestic fat-tailed sheep bred is the provider of much of the exceptional fleece used in rugs of today. High quality of wool provides buyers with a beautiful, long-lasting rug or kilim.

Wool’s scaling and crimp make it easier to spin the fleece by helping the individual fibers attach to each other, so that they stay together. Because of the crimp, wool fabrics have a greater bulk than other textiles, and retain air, which causes the product to retain heat. This is why blankets have traditionally been made of wool. The amount of crimp corresponds to the fineness of the wool fibers. A fine wool like “Merino” may have up to 100 crimps per inch, while the coarser wools like “Karakul” may have as few as 1 to 2. Hair, by contrast, has little if any scale and no crimp, and little ability to bind into yarn. On sheep, the hair part of the fleece is called “Kemp”. The relative amounts of kemp to wool vary from breed to breed, and make some fleeces more desirable for spinning and use in rug weaving.

Wool fibers are hollow and easily absorb moisture. Wool can absorb moisture almost one-third of its own weight. Wool absorbs sound like many other fabrics. Wool ignites at a higher temperature than cotton and some synthetic fibers. It has lower rate of flame spread, low heat release, low heat of combustion, and does not melt or drip, it forms a char which is insulating and self-extinguishing, and contributes less to toxic gases and smoke than other flooring products, when used in carpets. Wool carpets are specified for high safety environments, such as trains and aircraft. Wool is usually specified for garments for fire-fighters, soldiers, and others in occupations where they are exposed to the likelihood of fire. Wool is resistant to static electricity, as the moisture retained within the fabric conducts electricity. This is why wool garments are much less likely to spark or cling to the body. The use of wool car seat covers or carpets reduces the risk of a shock when a person touches a grounded object.

It seems like there is no better material than wool to be used in the rug industry as of yet. Or perhaps the durability of natural wool is a major disadvantage for those involved in selling wool rugs. A rug buyer is unlikely to return for the second piece due to the fact that the first piece he bought is going to last a life-time.

Persian Carpets & Oriental Rugs

Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes

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Persian Rugs, Oriental Rugs: Persian Nain Rugs


Nain is a small town in the center of Iran, located in Isfahan province, and about 85 miles from the city of Isfahan. Some of the finest Persian rugs are woven in Nain and its neighboring cities and villages, such as Toodeshk, Neyestanak, and Biabanak. Nain rugs have the formal, floral “Shah Abbasi” pattern with the flowing flowers and traditional colors of red, blue, and ivory. In a typical Nain rug, the color of the background is Ivory. Any design other than the “corner and center medallion” would be very rare in these rugs. Nain rugs are in great demand and large quantities of them are exported to countries all over the world. In Nain rugs, every single strand of the warp (fringe) consists of three separate threads (exposed when spun counter-clockwise), and if each one is made up of two threads, then you have 3*2=6 making the rug a finer “6 LAA” Nain, equivalent to around 400 knots per square inch. If each thread of the warp is made up of three threads, then you have 3*3=9 making it a “9 LAA” Nain, equivalent to about 250 knots per square inch. Higher quality rugs of “4 LAA” are also produced in Nain. Any other quality of Nain rugs would be considered rare, unless they are woven in other cities such as Tabas, Amol, Kashmar, and Najafabad. In these rugs, although the pattern remains the same, the quality will be either “9 LAA” or “12 LAA”.

Before the beginning of the 20th Century, Nain was well known for producing high quality handmade wool cloth. However, due to a decline in that business, weavers from the city of Isfahan were commissioned to create handmade rugs. Consequently, the result was a close resemblance between Isfahan and Nain rugs. However, Nain rugs exhibit a style of their own, using traces of blue with cream or ivory backgrounds.

In Nain rugs, the foundation is cotton with two shots of weft inserted over each row of knots. The pile, almost always, has highlights of silk in detailing parts of the pattern. Average knot density for Nain rugs is between 200 up to over 800 KPSI. Nain rugs are constructed using the Persian (asymmetric) knot. The pile is usually very high quality wool, clipped short. Some pieces are made entirely of silk. Nain rugs are often made in the areas surrounding the town, not necessarily the town itself. Most of the world’s largest rugs come from this region. Some master weavers such as “Habibian” and “Mofidi” have made valuable contributions to Nain rugs for the past 60 to 70 years. Today, a lot of beautiful Nain rugs cover the floor of many homes around the world.

Persian Rugs, Wool Area Rugs

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Persian Rugs, Oriental Rugs: Persian Kerman Rugs

Kerman rugs are one of the most classic types of Persian rugs. They are named after the city of Kerman, both a city and a province located in south central Iran. Kerman has been a major center for the production of high quality rugs since the 15th century. In the 18th century, many people considered the rugs from the province of Kerman, to be the best quality Persian rugs, mainly because of the high quality of the wool from this region, known as “Carmania” wool. Still, in the 19th century, the city of Kerman had a reputation for its rugs, due to the artistic superiority of local designs and the fact that it had many skilled master weavers at work. In the later years, Nasser al-Din Shah commissioned rugs from Kerman, because of their high quality, durability, and astonishing beauty.

Unique Facts: Dye and Design

A distinguishing weaving technique in Kerman rugs, known as the “Vase technique”, is described as insertion of three shots of weft over each row of knots. The first and third are usually woolen and at high tension, while the second one, is at low tension, and is normally made of cotton. Warps are placed at a 45 degree angle against each other and the “Persian (asymmetric) knot” in Kerman rugs is open to the left. This technique distinguishes Kerman rugs from both the Safavid (1501-1722) and subsequent (1722-1834) periods of the Persian history. Most Persian rugs, in contrast, used the “Turkish knot” (symmetric). Kerman rugs made during and after the 18th century, very often use “lattice” patterns, with the central field divided by a lattice design resulting in many small compartments. A good example is a Kerman rug on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Later, many large figurative rugs, and other types of Kerman rugs were massively produced in the province as well.

The process of dying the wool for Kerman rugs occurs while the wool is still in flock and before spinning, allowing for a more uniform color. The palette for Kerman rugs is as brilliant as it is varied. Tones can range from ivory, light blue and magenta to a more golden and saffron cast. The design patterns of Kerman rugs are also a distinct feature. Vase carpets, a type of Kerman rugs, distinctive of the 16th and 17th centuries, display an allover pattern of stylized flowers and oversized palmettes with vases placed throughout the field. Kerman rugs are artistically made, making the colors very pleasant and the rug, very beautiful.

Antique Kerman rugs can boast fine woven reproductions of European paintings, as well as curvilinear, dense allover floral patterns. Floral patterns woven into Kerman rugs are derived from shawls for which Kerman was also the center of producing in the early to mid-19th century. Another interesting characteristic that makes Kerman rugs very unique, is the fact that most “Ravar” Kerman rugs include a signature, either that of the weaver or the person for whom the rug was woven.

Main characteristics of Kerman rugs

Kerman rugs and carpets were woven in all sizes. In fact, some of the largest Persian rugs come from Kerman. Typical manufacturing used an asymmetrical knot on cotton foundation, but rare examples include silk or part silk piles, or silk foundations with wool pile. Kerman rugs are very similar to Yazd rugs, with the main distinguishing factor being blue wefts in Yazd versus white in Kerman. These rugs are very much appreciated in international markets. Different Persian patterns are woven in Kerman, using lighter and softer colors of blue and red compared to other Persian rugs. The quality of the wool used in Kerman rugs, is the finest, making them very durable. Some antique pieces can be quite valuable. Knot density varies from around 130 up to over 500 KPSI (Knots per Square Inch), mostly depending on whether the rug is made in the city itself or in surrounding villages.

The Best of Persian Carpets & Oriental Rugs

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Area Rugs: Machine-made or Handmade

Once, in the rug market, there was

A customer who found all rugs satisfactory,

Even though some were hand-made,

And some were made by machines in a factory.

“I choose the machine one, for it seems

More precisely, and accurately done, in my eyes.

In addition it seems that it has much stronger

Of a loom, warps, wefts, stitches, and ties.”

The owner, who was turning pale,

From the man’s unwise decision, was speechless and in shock.

Because he saw the man choose the machine rug even though,

They had both types of rugs in stock.

“Sir, can you not tell how big of a difference,

There is in between both these pieces of art?

Can you not tell the obvious reason why,

The weaver made one from the bottom of his heart?

Both rugs are beautiful, I completely agree.

Though, this one is made by the weaver’s own hands.

He made it with his own blood, sweat, and tears,

To make it stand out from the other rug brands.

He made it, over years and years of hard work,

So that to you he could present on the loom,

All the hard times that he has been through,

To get his rug on the floor of your living room.

The handmade rug stands for something,

In its meaningful heart, deep down inside

Though the other rug, has no more beyond its loom.

Now it is time for you to decide.”

Wool Area Rugs

Persian Malayer rug

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Persian Mashad rugs

Mashad, the second largest city in Iran, is located in the northeastern province of Khorasan, and has been a major producer of Persian rugs for a few centuries. The only major Iranian city with an Arabic name, Mashad is located 550 miles east of Tehran. Its population was 2,427,320 at the 2006 population census. Geographically positioned in eastern Iran, Mashad is considered as a major historical trading center for goods to and from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Pakistan. These factors have made the city of Mashad a very important producer of fine Persian rugs, with some concentrated workshops in the city itself, as well as local weavers in neighboring villages.

In Mashad rugs, a Persian knot is used, which is asymmetrical (as opposed to the Turkish, or symmetrical, knot.) The patterns tend to be very consistent, with curving lines, called “Shah Abbasi”, which have in common a large central medallion and corners with large pendants, within the surrounding border. The colors of Mashad rugs are almost exclusively a deep red background, with dark blue accents in the medallion, corner pendants and borders. This red color of background is a distinguishing sign for Mashad rugs. However, many colors are used in the repeating background motifs of these rugs. For Mashad rugs, and as a general rule, dark red and blue are the dominating colors, with ivory as a contrast.

In addition to these common patterns, you can find Mashad rugs in a ‘herati’ or ‘boteh’ motif. These are characterized by smaller repeating patterns, without neither the central medallion nor the corners (allover designs). With these designs, you will find rugs that do not hold so strongly to the traditional reds and blues of Mashad rugs, but utilize shades of brown, some as light as beige. The wool used in Mashad rugs, whether from the city or surrounding tribal villages, is acquired locally, and generally of a very high quality. They are cut in a tight pile, making Mashad rugs relatively thin yet durable. With its strong use of reds and blues, and distinctive floral patterns, the Mashad region produces some of the most attractive and high quality rugs in the world.

Mashad rugs have a formal, floral, and symmetric pattern, often with a center medallion in the same color as the border. The majority of Mashad rugs are room size, and some very large pieces have been woven as well. In many Mashad rugs, the wool is dyed using insects rather than plants. Foundation is almost always cotton with two shots of weft inserted over each row of knots. In these rugs, several rows of pile are woven at both ends, using the same different colors used in the field and border of the rug. Most probably, this is to help selecting the correct colors of wool in case repairs are needed in the future. Mashad rugs are very long-lasting, and some of the old pieces, especially if they have a well-known signature, are among the most valuable Persian rugs. Those signed by master weavers such as “Amoghli”. “Saber”, “Sheikh Borangi”, and “Sheshkalani” hold a particularly high value just because of the signature. Knot density of Mashad rugs is in the wide range of 120 up to around 500 KPSI. In some higher quality pieces, the KPSI can be a much higher number.

Persian Rugs, Oriental Area Rugs

Old Persian Mashad Rug

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