Oriental rugs are made by individuals, by families, and by employed rug factory workers. historically oriental rugs were made either in formal rug making factories in cities and large towns, or in rural settings, such as nomadic communities, or very small villages. often the long tedious labor was done by women and children.
History of Oriental Rugs Although historians have not been able to pinpoint exactly when knotted rugs were first made, it seems probable that they have been around since human civilization began. Man first began using animal furs as clothing and flooring, but as animals became domesticated and farming increased, the use of sheared wool and silk became mediums for weaving.
There are theories about the weaving of rugs originating with the Egyptians, Chinese and even Mayans. What is clear, however, is that as with most things in nomadic life, the origins were based on clothing and shelter not ornamentation.
The nomadic people would have used wool from their own flocks of sheep to weave makeshift floor coverings, blankets and even tent coverings. The style of these coverings has changed little over thousands of years, but the designs have changed dramatically.
Oriental carpet weaving as an art form, however, has now been accurately traced back to the 5th century BC. In 1947, Russian archaeologists excavating in the Pazyryk Valley of Siberia, near the outer Mongolian border in the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia unearthed a carpet from a burial chamber belonging to a Scythian Chieftain.
It had been frozen in ice and was in remarkably good condition. Modern carbon dating has placed it as 2,500 years old. This carpet which measures about 6'7" x 6' is now in the Hermitage Museum at St. Petersburg, Russia.
Unfortunately, wool textiles oxidize and crumble with the passage of time. There are carpet fragments dating from the 5th century that have been found throughout the Middle East. This seems to indicate that that the weaving art was highly perfected by that time.
In China, carpet making dates back to the period of the Sung Dynasty (960 to 1279 AD). The Chinese produced rugs in factory workshops controlled by the emperors. The designs were characteristic of Buddhism and Taoism. Marco Polo discovered some of the earliest examples of carpets while travelling through China and Turkey in the 13th century
The Romans adorned their palaces with rugs, both on the floor and on the walls. They were highly valued and were even used as payment for taxes. They were clearly perceived as better than money. It is well recorded in history that Queen Cleopatra was presented to Caesar rolled up in a carpet.
Oriental rugs made their way to America in the late seventeenth century. They were used as floor coverings and wall coverings. The nineteenth century Victorian era saw a dramatic increase in demand for the rugs. The bold colors and designs complemented the dark and heavy Victorian furniture. An Oriental Indian rug owned by Cornelieus Vanderbilt sold for $950,000.
Perhaps the only thing that all real Oriental rugs have in common is that they are woven by hand. Oriental pile rugs are constructed by first stringing warp threads, which will run the length of the finished rug, onto a loom.
Weavers often choose cotton for the warps, particularly for larger carpets; because it stretches less than wool, cotton can be strung on the loom more easily and evenly.
Some areas traditionally use wool to produce their warps, however, which is generally satisfactory. The number of warps per inch of width largely determines the fineness of the rug. The rug is started by passing wefts through the warps to produce a grid-like fabric called a flat weave that stabilizes the end of the rug. The weavers create the pile of the rug by tying pile knots around adjacent pairs of warp threads across the width of the rug.
The two most typical types of knots used in Oriental carpets are called Turkish (sometimes called a Ghiordes knot), and Persian (sometimes called a Senneh knot). These terms generally have nothing to do with a carpet's ethnic or geographic origin.
the number of knots per square inch is a way to measure the quality of the rug: the more knots, the finer the rug.
Persian Knot In the Persian knot, the supplementary weft yarn passes behind one warp yarn, and the two ends emerge on either side of a warp yarn. The Persian knot is sometimes called a Senneh knot; it has an asymmetrical structure.
Turkish Knot In the Turkish knot, the supplementary weft yarn passes over the two warp yarns, and emerges to form the pile coming between them. The Turkish knot is also sometimes called a Ghiordes knot; it has a symmetrical structure.
Local custom determines which type of knot weavers use, as there is no great advantage of one over the other. For example, many areas in Iran actually use the symmetric (Turkish) knot. When trimmed, the ends of the knots become the pile of the rug. The design of the rug is produced by using different yarn colors to tie pile knots.
After the weavers tie a row of knots across the width of the rug, they pass 1 to 3 weft threads of cotton or wool between the warps, then pound them down to secure the knots in place. Above these knots, they tie another row of knots; then more wefts, more knots, and so on until the rug is completed.
Together, the warp and weft threads form a grid which serves as the foundation of the rug. A selvage constructed along each side, usually by wrapping a bundle of warp threads with wool or cotton yarn. A narrow band composed of only warp and weft threads is often woven at the ends of the rug to anchor the knots. The weavers then take the rug off the loom and finish it by knotting or weaving the warp ends together to prevent it from unraveling. The loose ends of the warps become the fringe
The other major class of Oriental rugs is the flat weave. Different flat weaving techniques such as Kilims, durries, sumak and chain stitch produce rugs with different thicknesses and surface textures
Oriental rug designs may be geometric or curvilinear (floral), depending on the type of lines used to construct the design, but all gradations between the two types exist. Modern floral rugs descend from rugs woven in the medieval court workshops of Persia, Turkey, and India.
Many tribal and village rug designs were passed along simply by daughters watching mothers weave. Intricate floral rugs must be woven from a "cartoon" or plan, a schematic drawing that shows where knots of different colors should be placed. Floral rugs must be fairly finely woven -- more than 100 knots/sq. in, and often more than 200 knots/sq. in -- in order to carry off the intricate design
Oriental rug designs usually contain two elements: the border and the field. The border typically consists of a wide main border and 4 to 6 (or more) subsidiary or guard borders, each displaying a repeating design motif.
The field generally contains either a medallion, with or without related corners (spandrels), or a repeating (all-over) design. Since the field is the background for the design, its color determines the overall color tone of the rug.
Rug designs are usually symmetrical; only certain tribal pieces, folk art rugs, and prayer rugs are intended to be viewed from one direction. Most modern rugs are woven from some sort of cartoon, but in a number of the smaller villages in Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan, weavers produce from memory the same designs their ancestors used.
Dhurrie Rugs Dhurries are flat woven rugs from India and Afghanistan. They are made of cotton or wool and come in a huge variety of combinations of light pastels or bright colors. Their patterns are unique and reversible. The best ones have five or six ply wool yarn twisted together to make the weft threads. The tighter the weave, the more durable the rug.
Kilim Rugs These are also flat woven rugs. The threads in a kilim are woven across the warp, not edge to edge. The threads are woven so closely together, that the threads are invisible. They are made primarily in Turkey and Persia. The material used in these rugs is wool with a wool foundation. The patterns are geometric.