Archive for April, 2012

Persian Rugs: Meymeh

Located in the central province of “Isfahan”, and to the north of the city of “Isfahan”, is a district where a century ago some of the finest rugs of Persia, known as Meymeh were woven. Even long before then the region was noted for its textile fabrics; but during the reign of Nadir Shah, who removed many of the best artisans from the Central to the Northwestern part of Persia, the rug industry received a new stimulus, and continued to flourish there until half a century ago. Since that time they have almost ceased to be produced, so the authentic Meymeh rugs of rich, deep color and intricate patterns are all sixty or more years of age. They may still be found scattered throughout the world, and should be carefully preserved; for they merit the high esteem accorded to them by collectors of Persian rugs. Meymeh and Joshaghan rugs are very similar, though Maymeh is normally of higher quality. The highest quality of Meymeh rugs are known as “Khosrowabad”.

Old Persian Meymeh Rug

Old Persian Meymeh Rug

The typical pattern in Meymeh rugs consists of repeated diamonds made up of detailed geometric motif. In a few pieces of these Persian rugs, the “Shah Abbas” pattern can be seen. In other pieces the field is covered with scrolls, or with a lattice work design in which small floral forms are the motifs. These are usually occupied by pear designs encircled by small rounded figures, which combined form the outlines  of a larger pear, while in the intervening spaces are small floral forms. The principal border stripe generally consists of floral designs, which are frequently some form of the Herati design. The secondary stripes often contain floral vines. Whatever the pattern of the field, the effect is always striking and beautiful; for the lines are never harsh, and the colors are rich. The majority of these rugs are room size. Colors are sharp and vivid, with red, dark blue, and ivory being the main ones. The colors of the border are generally the same as those of the smaller designs, so that the effect is often very  harmonious. These rugs are excellently woven, and the soft lustrous wool of the pile, which is usually longer than that of Sarabands and Farahans, has often an appearance like plush. Foundation is almost always cotton with two shots of weft inserted over each row of knots. The rows of knots are not always firmly pressed down, so that the warp may be seen at the back. In older pieces of Meymeh rugs, which can be quite valuable, the weft may be wool. Pile is always made of wool of short or medium length. Quality of the wool is very good in Meymeh rugs, making them very durable pieces of Persian rugs. The Width is usually about two thirds of the length. Average knot density of a Meymeh rug is between 130 and 200 knots per square inch (KPSI).

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Persian and Oriental Rugs: Foundation And Pile Materials

Many nomadic weavers of Persian carpets and Oriental area rugs have, traditionally, used the wool obtained from their own flocks in producing these fabrics. However, in larger communities, the manufacture of an Oriental rug involves a division of labor. Having obtained the wool from shepherds, professional dyers offer it for sale to either individual weavers or organized workshops after

Spinning Wool at a Factory

Spinning Wool at a Factory

coloring it. Weavers will also need to acquire their designs from professional artists. By the end of nineteenth century, as the demand for these masterpieces increased within the Western markets and weavers paid more and more attention to producing these rugs as cheaply as possible, larger quantities of cotton came to be used for the foundation (warp and weft). Being native to the country in which they were used, affected by its altitude, climate, and humidity, all of these materials develop certain qualities that often give to rugs a distinctly local character.

Among all materials used in production of Oriental carpets and Persian rugs, wool requires the greatest care. Cotton is more readily available, and much cheaper to obtain in many different parts of the world. In some districts, unwashed wool is dyed in its naturally greasy state, resulting in shiny hues of the pile. In other areas, the grease and dirt are carefully removed from the body of the wool. Several different methods are used for this cleansing, but large amounts of clear running water free from alkali is absolutely necessary for the process, as hard water loses some of its cleansing properties and chemicals would be required to counteract this unfavorable quality. After the wool has been thoroughly washed, it is dried exposed to natural sun light and open air. Then the darker and lighter shades of the wool are separated. Next step would be combing of the wool which causes an orderly arrangement for the material, making it ready for spinning. The wool is spun into yarn by means of either a primitive spindle or a more sophisticated spinning-wheel device. The threads spun by professionals on modern machines are of small diameter and most regular in texture and size, whereas those spun with a small spindle are of larger diameter and less regular. Yet the hand-spun wool is the most highly valued among both weavers and collectors. Two or more single threads will then be twisted together to form the yarn, as one single thread tends to break apart rather easily.

spinning wool by Hand

spinning wool by Hand

The spun wool is not always ready for the dyer, and in order for it to properly absorb colors, it is often washed and rewashed. In most instances, wool is first soaked in warm water and carefully rinsed in cold water. It is then placed in boiling water of a copper pot containing “carbonate” or “sulfate of soda” and stirred for about an hour, followed by a thorough wash and complete drying in the open air. The wonderful sheen of so many Persian and Oriental area rugs is due

Dying the Wool

Dying the Wool

almost entirely to their material as well as the hard work going into preparing such material. Perhaps, rug owners come to raise their appreciation of these floor coverings as they learn more and more about all the detail that goes into preparing these works of art.

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Persian Rugs: Kurdistan (Senneh) Rugs

Old Persian Senneh Runner

Old Persian Senneh Runner

Having borders with Iraq and Turkey, Kurdistan is located in Northwestern Persia and is inhabited by over five million Kurds. Sanandaj (formerly named Senneh) is the capital city of Kurdistan province, a relatively major producer of some of the most desirable Persian carpets. Some old Kurdish rugs are among the most valuable, collector pieces of Persian rugs. Woven by the tribes settled in the rich valleys of this region, Kurdish rugs demonstrate a strong influence of association among weavers through their weave, colors, and pattern, which differ widely from those seen in their counterparts of Turkey. The warp is generally soft, brown wool in older pieces and cotton in more recent production of Kurdish rugs and the pile is often shaved shorter than similar types of Persian rugs. Likewise, the colors are more varied and of more delicate tones so as to include lighter shades of green, rose, and ivory with the darker reds, blues, and browns. But the main distinction consists of the more artistic pattern in Persian Kurdish rugs as opposed to Kurdish rugs of Turkey. The medallion in the center of the field with corner pieces in which appear some form of repetitive pattern is most common. Rather than large figures, the more elegant Herati designs borrowed from the “Farahan” and the “Malayer”, or the pear design from the “Saraband” and “Arak” are often included in the design. The ivory and yellowish flowers, connected by a diamond-like pattern of brown or olive, sits on a field of dark blue, that in accordance with a feature peculiar to rugs of Kurdish weaves varies from one end of the field to the other. This is, perhaps, to suggest that their wandering life often made it difficult to acquire the roots and herbs needed to produce similar shades. As is rarely the case with other patterns, the naturalistic flowers that are hanging from the wavy vine of the main stripe and the flowers of the field have nearly the same drawing. The two remaining stripes of the narrow border have most simple vines.

Persian Senneh Kilim (Flatwoven)

Persian Senneh Kilim (Flatwoven)

The high quality of hand-spun wool as well as natural dyes used in Senneh rugs result in very durable pieces. Kurdish rugs are, almost without exception, stoutly woven. To assure firmness, one thread of warp is depressed below the other in tying the knots, and the weft that is thrown across for filling is of fair quality. On account of the firm texture, excellent wool, and good colors it is still possible to obtain moderately old pieces, that as objects of utility as well as ornament are desirable for their authentic qualities. A similarity exists between the Persian-Kurdish, Hamadan, and Bijar rugs; but a precise, even if easily overlooked, difference in the weave serves to distinguish one from the other. As may be seen by examining the backs of typical examples, in rugs of Hamadan, every thread of warp lies in the same plane parallel with the surface of the pile, in the Persian Kurdistans one of the two threads of warp encircled by a knot is depressed at an acute angle to that plane, and in Bijar rugs, one of the two threads of warp encircled by a knot is doubled under the other so as to be at right angles to that plane.

The principal colors of Persian Kurdish rugs are red, blue, navy, yellow, green, and ivory. Knots are of Turkish (Symmetric) type with their number to each horizontal inch from seven to ten, and to each perpendicular inch between eight and twelve. The yarn is woven relatively loose, resulting in each separate ply to be distinct. The rows of knots are pressed down, so that the warp is largely covered and the weft partly hidden at the back of the rug. These rugs are usually protected in the sides by a heavy double selvedge binding in darker colors. They come in all different sizes, sometimes woven in pieces as large as 12 by 20 feet. Very long runners are sometimes possible to find in Senneh rugs. Two shots of weft are inserted on top of each row of knots. The density of knots starts around 150 and can reach 500 KPSI (knots per square inch).

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