Archive for June, 2012

Persian and Oriental Rugs: Symbols and Designs

Floral Pattern, Persian Mashad Rug

Floral Pattern, Persian Mashad Rug

However well woven, however bright in rich transitions of color, Persian carpets and Oriental area rugs would quickly lose their fascination if there were not at least some partial expression of the simple lives of the people, their religious beliefs, and cultural feelings conveyed in designs and patterns. In all nomadic rugs as well as in many others are countless reminders of common life. It may be only crude outlines of the goat or camel, or realistically drawn rose and lily, but even these are suggestive of associations. At any rate, the patterns of Oriental rugs are primarily intended to be decorative, with a border surrounding a central field, serving the function of a frame to a picture as well as being a strong indication to the origin of the rug. This border is generally accompanied by a much narrower pair on each side, known as “guard stripes” in harmony with designs and colors of the field.

As opposed to the border, the field in an Oriental rug often displays greater diversity of pattern. They are frequently covered with a heterogeneous mass of detached and unrelated figures, as in many of the nomadic rugs. The field can sometimes be entirely covered with repetitive patterns, or with intricate and correlated designs of floral patterns in many Persian and Oriental rugs. Others consist of a background of solid color with a center medallion on which smaller figures (sometimes Herati) are displayed. Weavers have only recently started to use solid colors for large portions of the field, perhaps for savings in labor and time. However, the effect has been applauded by consumers as such pieces give more visible colors to a space and makes the task of matching a rug to its surroundings somewhat easier.

Geometric Pattern, Persian Heris

Geometric Pattern, Persian Heris

The smaller designs that appear in Oriental and Persian rugs are distinguished as geometric and floral ornamentation. The former is adopted in those regions where the population is principally nomadic, and the latter is the accepted style in regions where a large percentage of the population have enjoyed an advanced state of society. In general terms, a floral pattern would require a higher number of knots per square inch, simply because they need to display a lot more detail compared to geometric designs. Consequently, floral rugs represent the highest techniques of weaving in use.

Religion has always exercised an important influence on the character of Persian and Oriental rugs, expressed in the symbolism of both colors and designs. In some religions, the use of animal figures or certain names in writing are strictly prohibited in their production of rugs. Irregularities either in patterns or colors, which can often be observed in the majority of hand-knotted rugs are seldom accidental. These are mainly intended to avert the evil eye and insure good luck. The sun, moon, and stars have been associated with the religion among all primitive races. Yet, it is surprising that so few emblems of them are recognized in rugs.

 

 

 

Repeated Allover Design, Persian Turkeman

Repeated Allover Design, Persian Turkeman

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Persian Rugs, Oriental Rugs: Imports to Europe and America

Old Persian Tabriz

Old Persian Tabriz

Many years ago, as Persian carpets and Oriental rugs first appeared in the markets of the U.S. and Europe, they were referred to as “Turkish”, simply because importers purchased them from Turkish merchants of Constantinople. However, when it became known that they had been taken there by caravans from countries farther to the east, and that large numbers of them came from Persia, the term “Persian” which to the mind of many conveys ideas of glory and magnificent quality, was at once applied. Even today, all classes of Oriental rugs are often spoken of as “Persian”. Although their value is independent of their place of origin when used as objects of ornament or utility, it is known that the wool and dyes used in some districts are superior to those in others, and consequently, the beauty of some rugs will improve with age far more than that of others. It is also known that because in certain districts the material of warp and weft threads, as well as the workmanship are all of a higher quality, rugs made there will wear better than others. As a result, the knowledge as to the origin of a rug becomes important in determining the quality and value, which otherwise only a critical examination that few people are able to make, would show. Also, the knowledge of where a rug is made, suggesting the character and culture of people who wove it, may add immeasurably to our interest. We just might get more enjoyment from our Persian and Oriental rugs if we knew what people made them and what route they have traveled before they reached our homes.

In the past, any rug merchant would gladly classify a rug at the request of a potential buyer, but he may not have always been right. Rugs of any origin used to be transported to exhibitions and fairs regularly held throughout the Orient where they were offered for sale. Purchasing agents would then buy and ship them to major markets such as Tabriz, Tiflis, and Constantinople, where the bales were unpacked, sorted, and labeled before they were resold to importing firms of Europe and America. In the process, there used to be room for frequent errors of classification. Of course, reputable dealers would never knowingly mislead their customers. Furthermore, in many rug producing countries, weavers and artisans were drawn to weaving centers in search of job, and therefore designs and quality of workmanship characteristic of one district would be adopted in another making the task of determining their exact origin more and more difficult. However, taking into consideration the general pattern and details of the design, the material of warp, weft, and pile, the style of the weave, the knot, the dyes, the finish of sides and ends, it is possible with a reasonable amount of certainty to determine in what districts almost all Oriental or Persian rugs have been woven.

Pakistani Pishawar Rug

Pakistani Pishawar Rug

Today, the importation of rugs into Western markets has become a simplified matter of commerce, and the origin of these rugs classified with much more certainty with advanced technology and modern means of transportation. In 2009, rug imports from India and Pakistan supplied over 50% of the U.S. demand. However, revival of traditional weaving with higher quality of wool and dye in many remote parts of the world may change these statistics in the near future. The path that the rug industry is expected to follow within the next few decades would be very interesting to witness.

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Oriental Rugs and Persian Carpets: Turkish and Persian Knots

Weavers always use a "Persian" knot on Kashan rugs

Weavers always use a "Persian" knot on Kashan rugs

Although rug weavers use many different techniques in tying knots on the foundation of an Oriental rug or a Persian carpet , the two major types of knots remain as either “Persian” or “Turkish”. These are often also referred to as asymmetric or symmetric knots respectively. The deciding factor in using any specific type of knot among weavers is more a matter of tradition than anything else, as the final product does not display any noteworthy differences. By a careful examination of both the surface and the backside of a rug, experienced eyes can distinguish between these two different types of knots.

It may be helpful to learn that in an Oriental or Persian rug, each single knot is tied on a pair of adjoining warp threads. So the total number of warp threads making up the foundation of a rug is always an even number. This number as well as the thickness of the warp threads are determined according to the pattern to be followed during the actual weaving process, the tightness of the weave, and the size of the rug being produced. The thinner the warp threads and the higher their number, the more knots per square inch (KPSI). Persian and Turkish knots can be tied on any possible combination of these elements. A knot can be tied either by bare hands or a simple hook-like tool. Following is a brief description of symmetric and asymmetric knots.

The Turkish knot consists of a loop set in front of the pair of warp threads. It is closed by its two strands which come out together from the back to the front between the two threads of the adjoining warp threads under the loop. The two strands lie slightly to the side and thus form the pile: it is a “closed” knot.

The Persian knot consists of interlacing the strand with a single loop around the front warp thread while it wraps around only the back warp thread leaving each of the two ends of the strands free on either side of the warp threads: it is an “open” knot. When the Persian knot is tied by hand, the forefinger must pass through the sheet of the warp in order to select a pair of threads. This requires a certain

Persian and Turkish Knots

Persian and Turkish Knots

amount of skill and demand for the process to be performed by slim fingers. This is why this type of knot is usually performed by women rather than men.

Using the hook makes up for this inconvenience and as the Turkish knot is easier to tie than the Persian knot, it has spread all over rug producing countries, except for certain regions where weaving is mainly accomplished by women whose manual dexterity remains unparalleled. Selecting a warp thread with the help of a hook is indeed much quicker. Also, since the hook is equipped with a sharp knife at its handle, it facilitates the cutting of the wool once a knot is tied in place thus speeding up the whole process of weaving considerably.

As mentioned above, these two different types of knots do not affect the appearance of the final product to a great extent. Generally speaking, however, the light reflects differently on the Persian knot as opposed to the tight strands of the Turkish knot. The strands of the Persian-knot pile of a rug are more evenly spread compared to those of the Turkish knot which are coupled in pairs, so that light glimmers more intensely on rugs with Persian knots.

Weaving Hooks

Weaving Hooks

 

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