Archive for April, 2014

Persian and Oriental Rugs: The Technique of Rug Weaving

Typical Persian Isfahan rug

Typical Persian Isfahan rug

The weaving of an Oriental carpet or a Persian rug is a sophisticated and time-consuming process. However, in this article, we will be trying to explain it in a more simple form by ignoring the preparation of the loom, and concentrate on the weaving itself which always starts at the lower edge of the carpet with the selvedge. A certain number of weft threads are inserted across the vertical warp threads so as to form a stout edging which will keep the carpet intact, prevent fraying, and keep the knots tight. The weaving of the pile begins once the selvedge is prepared. Each single knot, either symmetric or asymmetric is tied on two adjoining warp threads. The number of knots per square inch (KPSI) is an important factor to consider when determining the price. On average, a trained weaver will tie around 14,000 knots each day. For example, a six foot by nine foot rug with a KPSI of about 200 will take over five months to make, and it will only grow by less than an inch across the whole width after a day of hard work. The weaver will tighten the knot by pulling it in a downward direction, thus creating a direction to the nap. This is why a handmade rug will appear lighter if you look at it with the direction of the pile, and darker if you look against it. When laying a rug in your room, it is important to try it out in different positions. When a row of knots across the width of the warp is finished, the weaver passes one or more shots of weft thread over the knots in and out of each of the vertical warp threads. When two weft threads are being used, one is generally tight and the other loose. The number of weft threads depends on the weaving style of the region, and thus helps identify the origin of hand-knotted rugs.

Each row of knots is cut individually. Often, the pile is given its first cropping after four or six rows of knots have been tied onto the foundation. The final cropping will not take place until the carpet is finished and washed. As a rule, very fine rugs are cropped very low, while a deeper pile is left on pieces with a lower KPSI, because if these carpets were close-cropped the poor quality of the fabric would be revealed. According to the demands of the market however, the style and the height of the cropping may be adjusted. Millions of differently colored knots are patiently aligned one against the other to form the patterns and motifs of these beautiful works of art. Patterns are sometimes geometric, sometimes floral, but always full of imagination and style. Colors and designs often grow instinctively out of the basic traditions of the nomads. There is no prearranged plan, but rather just a general idea which takes into account the shape of the rug to be woven, the symbols and motifs which are to appear on it and the colors available. All the rest is imagination, skill, and the natural creativity of the weaver. In the cities on the other hand, where rugs are often produced at organized workshops, the rug is born of a precise project by specialized artists who create the design on a squared cartoon on which each square represents a knot. When the rug is to be made by one person on his own, the cartoon is fixed to the loom at the worker’s eye level. When two or more people are involved in the task, one of them reads aloud the number of knots of each color. Often, this sounds like a harmonious song. In organized workshops where there are many workers, the weaving is led by the “master” who supervises the entire production of the rug and is personally responsible for the most important parts of it.

The rug is finished with a selvedge just as it was begun. The surplus warp threads on each end of the rug are used for the fringe which can be knotted or kept in place by means of what is called a chain stitching. When the rug is removed from the loom, it is given a careful wash and a final cropping of the pile. Then point of the washing process is to remove the stiffness from the rug and to restore the wool and the colors to their full purity. The rug is then spread out to dry in the sun and this is the last test of color fastness. The rug is now ready to be shipped to a retail store and purchased by its new owner to be enjoyed for many years to come.

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