How Oriental Rugs Are Made (Part 1)

Today the beginning of a two part series on how Oriental rugs are made from our favorite Oriental rug broker, Sam Ramazani of Sara’s Oriental Rugs.

Rugs are essentially three parts: the warp, the knots, and the weft. The warp is the rug foundation and can be made of wool, wool and silk, silk, or cotton. Many clients want to know if one material makes a rug more valuable – for example, is a rug made out of silk more valuable than a rug made out of wool? The answer is always, “it depends.” Silk is a very fine material, but a new silk rug is not necessarily more valuable than a very old wool rug of rare style. Value is always situational.

Once a size and pattern are determined, the weaving loom is set with what is called the warp. This is a series of rows of stranded material, made out of cotton, wool or sometimes silk. The material is wrapped onto the loom and the end of the warp will eventually make the fringe on each end of the rug when it’s finished. This is the beginning of the foundation of the rug.

When the warp is set on the loom, the weaver creates the end of the rug, which is called kilim. How it’s made varies depending on where the rugs are from. Some weavers use fringe only on one end. Some have fringe on both ends. Some areas create rugs that have a small kilim end and then the other end will have fringe. As you begin to recognize different rug ends and different kilim and fringe styles, it will help you identify the origins of a rug.

Warp, Weft & Weave: A Life Collecting and Investing in Handmade Oriental Rugs (available now on Amazon)

With the warp on the loom and the kilim in place, the weaver can now begin to tie the knots of the rug, of which there will be thousands in an individual piece, all done by hand. Each one of the little squares on a pattern is colored to signify the color of the knot that needs to be put in the rug. As the weaver starts, whatever row is being worked on – for example, three red knots, three white, one blue, repeated to the end – when the row is finished, the pattern is established.

When a row of knots is completed, the weaver will add what is known as the weft, a thread that runs between the warp threads, horizontally on top of the knots. The weft ultimately holds the rug together and gives the rug its density. It’s also where a lot of variation in rugs happens, because the weft tension can differ dramatically, weaver to weaver. While the warp is what the knots are tied on, the weft is what packs the knots into the rug and holds them in place. In some weaving regions like Bakhtiari, the weavers will take a hammer and pack the weft down so tightly, creating such a strong, dense and durable rug, that it can be placed in the busiest entryway of the world’s most popular hotel and still look brand new after 50 years.

Sam Ramazani is an Oriental carpet educator, appraiser, broker, and skilled repair craftsman. With his daughter Sara, he owns Sara’s Oriental Rugs in Louisville, KY, providing beautiful handmade rugs, as well as expert rug cleaning and repair.


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