In Paris, early 20th century

From obtaining quality wool, to spinning to yarn, colour dying, pattern designing, to knot tying on looms

How Are Oriental & Persian Carpets Made?

The process of making a Persian or Oriental carpet has not changed if at all. There are two ways in which these carpets are made; hand-woven (kelims) or hand-knotted (pile carpets). Both instances require a loom, which holds in place the vertical strands and which determines the overall size of the carpet. The warp and weft (referred to commonly as 'the foundation') are the vertical and horizontal strands of wool.


How Persian Rugs Are Made

Knotting a Persian carpet on a loom

Persian and Oriental rugs whether made in tribal or city surrounding are all hand knotted, the weaver ties the material (whether it be wool or silk) around the warps of the foundation using one of several different knots. Each rug is made to a design, whether that design is copied from an intricate design plate or is inspired by the weaver, their surroundings and their way of life depends on the type of rug. After each row of knots is complete, individually tied using a variation of coloured wool to form patterns, a weft strand is tightly packed between the newly completed row and the one which is about to begin, keeping each knot firmly in place. One rug can take months or even years to complete, ensuring the owner gains a unique work of art which is not only beautiful but practical and often extremely durable.

Various materials, tools and knots are used in the weaving of Persian & Oriental rugs, each explained in detail below as well as a description of the foundation and dyes used in handmade rugs:


Persian Rug Foundations

The foundation of a rug is its underlying structure. It is the foundation that the pile is knotted onto and is made up of the Warps and Wefts.

Warp

The warp is refers to the vertical strands running up and down a rug. These are vital to the rugs structure as the knots are tied to them. The wefts are also placed between them in order to keep the knots in place. The fringe of a rug is the tied loose ends of its warp.

Weft

The weft is used in order to keep the knots in place. Before and after each row of knots the weft strand is passed through the warp and combed and beaten down, this compacts the row of knots creating a tight structure.


Persian Rug Tools

The tools required in Oriental Carpet making

Comb

The comb is used to slide and beat down the weft between rows of knots. This come, moved up and down the warp, pressing the knots in place, securing them before a new row is started.

Hook

The hook is a knife-like tool that becomes very narrow on the tip. This tool has two purposes - the weavers use the tip for separating the warp strands while tying a knot and then pulling out the yarn through the warp strands. The side of the hook, which works like a knife, is used for cutting the yarn after each knot is tied.

Spindle

A rod used for spinning fibre into yarn.

Scissors

Special scissors are used to cut the long or uneven pile as the carpet is woven.

Knife

The knife is used to cut the threads after each knot is tied. This is sometimes done using the hook.


Design plate

Used as a reference when creating the rug, design plates show the weaver what colours to use. Normally on grid paper, design plates are often drawn up by master-weavers, famous designers or artists. These are used for the creation of some village rugs and all workshop rugs.


Horizontal loom

Horizontal loom with a three weavers

The loom is the frame which holds the rug together while it is being woven. Horizontal looms are the simplest type of loom. They are mostly used by nomads because they can easily be dismantled at the time of migration. Rugs woven on horizontal looms are generally small because they need to be finished in time for migration, and it is also difficult to weave large rugs on this kind of loom. Horizontal looms are constructed by four wooden bars similar to a frame. The distance between the two parallel side bars depends on the width of the rug to be woven on the loom, and the distance between the top and the bottom bars, determines the length of the rug. The bars are secured to the ground by stakes or nails. After the loom is constructed, the warp strands are secured to the top and bottom bars. The warp strands are usually very close to the ground. As the rug is woven and the rows of knots and wefts are added, the weavers sit on the woven part of the rug in order to reach the unwoven top parts.


Vertical loom with a single weaver

Vertical looms

Vertical are specific to village and workshop rugs, and their assembly is more complicated than horizontal looms. A vertical loom consists of four bars, two side bars that go from ground up and two horizontal bars--one at the bottom, close to the ground, and one at the top. This loom looks like a frame that is standing up. The warp strands are secured to the top and bottom bars. Rugs woven on vertical looms are more exact in dimensions and design. There are three different types of vertical looms although different versions of each type may exist: the Fixed Loom, the Tabriz or the Bunyan Loom, and the Roller Beam Loom.


The different types of looms in Persian carpet making

Fixed Loom

On the Fixed Loom, the weaver sits on an adjustable seat in front of the loom. The seat is raised as the rows of knots are added.

Tabriz Loom

On the Tabriz or the Bunyan Loom, the warp strands are wrapped around and behind the top and bottom bars instead of being secured to them. On this loom, as the work progresses, the woven section of the rug is pulled down and behind the loom. This way, the weavers do not have to move. These looms are used in Iran in the Azerbaijan province and in the cities of Arak, Qum and Hamadan, and also in commercial centers of Turkey.

Roller Beam Loom

On the Roller Beam Loom, the woven part of the rug is rolled around the lower beam. With this kind of loom, very large size rugs can be woven. This loom is the traditional loom used in villages of Turkey; it is also used in Iran and India. This loom is generally used for coarser weaves.