Persian rugs, oriental rugs: The Production Process

Although some of the special techniques involved in weaving a Persian carpet or an Oriental rug may vary from country to country, and even from one region to another, the main principles of weaving rugs – from dyeing the yarn to shearing the finished piece – are practically the same throughout the world and have remained within its traditional boundaries over the centuries. Still, a basic understanding of the construction of an Oriental rug can be extremely valuable to you when selecting a handmade carpet for your home. In general, most Persian rugs feature a wool pile, originated from sheep, whose quality depends on factors such as the animal’s breed and diet, local climate, altitude of its habitat, and shearing season. After shearing, the wool is washed, carded (to straighten the fibers), and then either hand-spun or machine-spun into yarn. Next, the yarn is dyed in desired colors and then dried slowly in the sun. The wool may get washed several times before it is ready to be utilized by weavers.

Super Fine Persian Tabriz Rug

Super Fine Persian Tabriz Rug

A detailed illustration of the design of the rug to be made, commonly called a cartoon, guides the weavers throughout the entire process of making a rug. The design is rendered to scale on graph paper. For centuries, looms have remained relatively unchanged. While the most primitive is the nomadic or horizontal loom, the type most generally used today consists of two vertical beams of either wood or metal, and two similarly made horizontal beams forming a frame. The distance between the vertical beams determines the rug’s width. As to the length of the rug, the weaver can normally roll the bottom part of the rug as the work proceeds, thus extending the length of the rug beyond the limits of the horizontal beams. Warp threads, which are usually made of cotton, are strung between the horizontal beams at a consistent tension. This work is done by professionals; otherwise, at the hands of inexperienced individuals, the final product may show bubbles and creases. The thickness of the warp threads and the closeness at which they are strung are two of the elements that will determine the fineness of the weave (knot density) of the carpet that is ultimately woven.

There are two types of knots used in rug weaving. The symmetrical Turkish, and the asymmetrical Persian knot. With the average weaver able to tie about 14,000 symmetrical or asymmetrical knots per day, several weavers working together can only complete 1 or 2 inches of the rug each day. Before the actual knotting of the pile begins, the rug is secured at the bottom of the loom by a short “flat weave”, which is woven by passing several rows of weft threads through alternate warp threads. The weaver will begin weaving the rug by reading the design from the cartoon and using the appropriately colored yarn for each individual knot, which is tied around two adjacent warps. Then the knot will be pushed down to the base of the weft and the excess yarn is cut, thereby producing the pile. After each row of knots is completed, one or more threads of the weft are inserted to secure the knots and are beaten down tightly with a comb-like tool. At this point, a new row of knots will be started and the process will continue until the rug is finished. Before removing the rug from the loom, another “flat weave” is woven at the top. As the rug is cut from the loom, the fringe at both ends will be formed.

Now it is time to perform the final finishing steps. A wool binding or overcast, usually the same color as the main color of the field, will reinforce the edges of the rug. Then the warp threads are knotted or braided to form the rug’s fringe. The rug is then washed to eliminate dust and dirt that may have accumulated during weaving. The wash will also give the rug an exquisite sheen and luster by softening the colors. Once the rug is dried, the pile is sheared to create a uniform height. The rug is now complete and ready to be placed on the market. Now you have a better understanding of the time-consuming process of weaving a rug.

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