Oriental Rug Reference Library
ORIENTAL RUG TERMINOLOGY
Warps – these are the strings that stretch between the beams and on which the knots are tied. Cotton is mostly used for warping as it is simpler to weave straight; flat rug using cotton warps than wool warps. However, where cotton is not available especially among pastoralist communities wool is used instead of cotton.
Weft – this run across the rugs width. They go under and over the warps and in between knots. Wefts are usually made of silk, cotton or wool. They hold in place rows of knots and strengthen the rugs structure.
Knots – tied by making loops of yarn round paired warps and cut the standing end off. The knot ends make the rug nap or pile.
Edge bindings – several warps are wrapped at the rug’s edge together with yarn to make the edges of the rug strong.
End finishes – hold wefts and knots in place so that they do not work off the warp strings of the rug. The edge of many rugs has woven selvedge at the ends.
Fringes – This is done by gathering warp strings into bundles and then knotting them. This is done after removing the rug from the loom. Knots in these warp bundles keep knots of the pile. They also provide tight finishing at the end of the rugs.
A Rug Weavers' Tools....
The tool that is used in rug weaving is called ‘gollab’. This is a hooked knife which the weaver uses to hook the yarns at the rear of the warps and then pulling them to the front of the rug. The knot is then tied, and with the knife’s flick, the yarn is cut. When a number of rows of knots have been made they are consolidated by the weaver using a combo beater. This is a wood or metal tool used in weaving. After weaving a strip of about one inch in width weavers use a pair of scissors to trim the nap to almost the final height. The handle of these scissors is bent to allow the blades to cut in line with the rugs face. Most of the tools used by the weavers are locally made. These tools can always be taken back to the weavers whenever these tools need to be repaired, or to be sharpened.
ORIENTAL RUG KNOTS
There are basically two kinds of "knots" used to make most pile-woven Oriental rugs: "Persian" and "Turkish" knots (but see also how Tibetan rugsare made). Both Persian (Senneh) and Turkish (Ghiordes) knots are usually tied around pairs of warp strings (but see "jufti knots" below).
The Persian or Senneh knot is asymmetric and may be open to either the right or left. These four Persian knots are open to the right.
Turkish or Ghiordes knots are symmetric. This example shows four Turkish knots.
Jufti or "false" knots can be either Persian or Turkish style. Jufti knots are tied around four warps instead of the normal two. A rug made with jufti knots uses half the material and takes only half as much time to make -- but probably will only last half as long! It is common with some rug types (such as BOKHARAS) to find areas of jufti knots interspersed with regular Persian knots.
Who uses which knot type? Most weaving areas use the Persian knot. Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and some areas of northwestern Iran use the Turkish knot.
Counting Rug Knots....
Knot density (knots per square inch) is an important indicator of rug quality. Most weaves are measured simply by counting the number of knots per linear inch along the warp (i.e., along the length of the rug) and the number of knots per linear inch along the weft (across the width of the rug) and multiplying to get the number of knots per square inch (or per sq. cm.). Unfortunately, this simple concept can be tricky to apply in practice.Because of the ways in which rug structure can vary, individual knots can be difficult to isolate from the back of the rug (it's impossible to distinguish separate knots from the face of the rug).
This is one Turkish knot, even though the wool wraps around two warps.
Often the warps of the rug lie on the same plane. If the warps of the rug lie on the same plane, each knot (whether Turkish or Persian) will show on the back of the rug as two tiny squares of the same color next to each other across the width of the rug.
The warps of this Turkish-knotted rug lie on the same plane.
You are looking at one cream-colored Turkish knot (surrounded by navy knots and red wefts) from the back of a Turkish rug. Can you see the two side-by-side elements of this knot? If you are counting the knots in this rug, the two cream bumps count as one knot.
Sometimes the warps are offset so greatly that from the back of the rug alternate warps are hidden. If this occurs, each knot (whether Turkish or Persian) will show on the back of the rug as a single tiny square of color.
The warps of this Turkish-knotted rug are offset.
You are looking at one light blue Persian knot (surrounded by pink knots) from the back of a Pakistani rug. Because alternate warps are so strongly offset, you can only see one element of the knot across the width of the rug. If you are counting the knots in this rug, the one light blue bump counts as one knot.
How do you know when to count one bump on the back of the rug as one knot? It's easy -- look carefully at the individual areas of color across the width of the back of the rug. If you only see colored elements in pairs, you need to count each pair as one knot. If you see lots of single colored elements, the rug has offset warps and each element should be counted as one knot. Many country rugs from Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iran show both knot elements on the back of the rug, as do Bokharas from Pakistan. Most rugs from India and China have strongly offset warps, and so show only one knot element on the back of the rug.
In the Varanasi area of India, rugs are graded using two numbers, like "5/40," "9/60," or "12/60." The first number represents the knots in 9/10 of an inch of the rug's width. The second number represents the knots in 4 1/2 inches of the rug's length. 0.9" x 4.5" equals 4.05", almost four square inches, so an easy conversion is to multiply the two numbers together and divide by 4 (sq. in.) to get the approximate weave in knots per sq. in. For example, with a "9/60" quality rug, 9 X 60=540 and 540/4=135 knots per sq. in. Note that most rugs from India have strongly offset warps, so you will only see one element of the knot on the back of the rug.
In Pakistan, indicated qualities like "16/16" or "16/18" for rugs in Persian design represent the number of knots per linear inch across the warp and weft counted in the normal way. For example, a "16/18" quality Kashan has 16 X 18 weave, or about 288 knots per sq. in. Note that these rugs have strongly offset warps, so you will only see one element of the knot on the back of the rug.
So-called "double" Bokharas from Pakistan in qualities like "9/18," "10/20," "11/22," and "12/24" are different. In this type of rug, warps lie side-by-side and are not offset, so both elements of the knot show on the back of the rug. Be sure not to double-count the weave across the width when examining a Bokhara.
China uses a completely different nomenclature, with "line counts" like "70 line," "90 line," or "120 line." The line count equals the number of knots in a linear foot measured across the width of the rug. Thus a "90 line" rug has 90 knots per linear foot across its width. A "90 line" Chinese rug has about 56 knots per sq. in.; a "SINO-PERSIAN" (a Chinese rug in Persian design) in "160 line" quality has about 177 knots per sq. in.; a "240 line" rug has about 400 knots per sq. in. Chinese rugs have strongly offset warps, so you will only see one element of the knot on the back of the rug.
Try our Knot Counting Quiz....
Think you've got it? Test yourself by counting the knots per square inch in the samples below. Each sample represents a 1" x 1" section of the back of a rug.
How many knots do you count per square inch?
How many knots do you count per square inch?
(this information is curtesy of Jacobsen rugs)