The Oriental Rug Terminology

Warp threads 

Warp is attached to the upper and lower beams of the loom. The warp threads must be strong as it forms a large par to of the rug’s structure. They type, thickness, colour of warp threads varies with each breed of rug. 

Warp threads materials include wool, cotton and silk. Wool is first hand or machine spun then piled, the thickness of the ply depends on the breed of the rug. Cotton is more commonly used in finer rugs. Machine spun cotton warps were introduced in the rug-weaving industry as result of industrialisation. Machine-spun warps are much more uniform with generally five plies or more. Hand-spun warps have much more character and much more coarsely spun with only three or four plies. Silk is reserved for the finest of the fine rugs. I tis the most expensive but is also the strongest warp in relation to its diameter and allow for much more detailed design. 

Weft Threads

Weft is also forms part the structure of the rug. A pass of a single weft between two rows of knots is a ‘shoot’. The number of shoots used between rows of knots depends on the breed. As with warp threads, weft threads are made of wool, cotton and silk. Weft is usually un-died, but could be dyed in red, pink or blue depending on rug breed. 

The Knots

The knots are responsible for the colours and patterns of the rug. Two basic types of knots are the Turkish/symmetrical knot and the Persian/asymmetrical knot. Turkish knot is formed by encircling two warp threads with a strand of yarn, then looping the ends tightly between the two warps. The Persian knot is formed by first encircling one warp thread with a strand of yarn, then winding the strand around another warp, and finally pulling one loose end between the two warps. The other loose end emerges outside the pair of warps either to the left or to the right. 

The Pile

The pile of a rug is to describe the knots collectively. The pile height, achieved by the type of knots and raw material, is one of many ways to identify the breed of a rug. The quality of the pile depends on the quality of the yarn. Wool yarn varies greatly from region to region, as well as the source. Kurk/Kork wool is the best wool; only the first ever shaving of a lamb on the belly and nape of the neck are considered kurk status. The poorest quality wool is often called ‘dead’ wool. As the name suggests, such wool is removed from butchered sheep, which is often dry and brittle. Camel hair, goat hair are sometimes combined with wool to give the pile a bristly texture. Finally, silk threads make the finest pile in the finest rugs. Silk is sometimes combined with wool to achieve a certain effect or to accentual parts of the designs (highlights). 

The Fringes

To remove the rug from the loom, the warps, which are connected to the top and lower beam of the loom, must be cut. This portion of warp that remains is known as the fringes. The fringe must be knotted to prevent the knots from coming loose. The fringes are the first clue that give away the game of how fine the rug is; coarse fringes normally belongs to a rug with lower knot count/knot density. 

Side finishes

To protect the rug, the side edges are secured in a number of ways. Weaving several of the warp threads with the weft threads forms a simple selvage. Or the selvage can be reinforced by adding an overcasting stitch with one or two colour yarn, long the entire rug. In some regions, the side cord is sewn onto the edges of the rug. 

Shaving the rug

When a rug is completed and taken off the loom, the final step is to shave off all the tufts left hanging. Sometimes the weaver will shave the rug to 2 inch (5cm) in length, which will reveal a blurry design. It is the master shears that shaves the rug to the correct pile height. The best master shearers are most celebrated for their delicate skills at shaving the rugs. The entire rug must be even, if the shearer slips, months of dedicated labour will be ruined.  

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