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Elements of a rug

A hand-woven oriental rug truly is a piece of art that will live with you for a long time, but most people don’t fully realize the scope and complexity of creating the rug. The elements of an oriental rug, in a nutshell, include the foundation, the pile, the design, and the colors.


The foundation of a rug is what the pile is tied into. These are vertical (warp) and horizontal (weft) threads that essentially create a grid for the knots to be placed. Most oriental rugs are woven using cotton warp and weft threads, although fine silk rugs can be woven with a silk foundation, and nomadic rugs are often woven with a wool foundation. Having a well-made foundation is essential for a long-lasting rug. A foundation that is strung too tight can cause the rug to rip or crack. A foundation that is too loose can cause a rug to unravel very easily. The fringe on a hand-woven oriental rug is made of the warp threads being knotted together at either end of the rug and cut to the desired length.


Once the warp threads are fastened onto the loom and the weft threads have begun, the pile of the rug is knotted into place. The pile of the rug is what you see and feel under your feet. Rugs are commonly seen with a wool pile or even a silk pile for very fine rugs. The pile of a rug can come in a variety of lengths from very short to about 3 inches long. There are a few types of oriental rugs woven with no actual pile. A Kilm or Sumac rug is created with the design being woven into the foundation through different colored weft threads. These rugs are very flat and are normally cotton.


An oriental rug with no design or color would be very boring and probably pretty ugly. Therefore, the wool, or silk, used to pile the rug is dyed to add color to the piece. Different dyes include natural, chrome dyes, and aniline dyes. Natural dyes are very popular because they give a rug a very natural and organic feel. These dyes may vary between dye lots of the same color, but these small color discrepancies add charm to the rug. A chrome dye is a chemical type dye that is very strong and resistant to running or fading. Using a chemical dye, you can create virtually any color and keep it consistent throughout the entire rug. Rugs woven with these dyes look very rich and polished. Lastly, we have aniline-based dyes which are to be avoided at all costs! These dyes are often found in Iranian rugs, Moroccan rugs, and some Turkish rugs. Aniline dyes bleed and run when they get wet and fade very easily.


Oriental rugs are woven in a myriad of styles ranging from copies of rugs centuries old to very modern. Traditionally the style a rug was woven in was labeled based on where the rug was woven. For instance, a Sarouk rug was woven in the city of Sarouk, and the same thing with Tabriz, Kashan, Heriz, etc. A lot of rugs woven today will use the designs associated with those cities in their rugs even though they are woven in different places. So, a rug woven in India using a traditional Tabriz design may be called and Indo-Tabriz. Modern rugs are given names based on whatever the creator of the piece decides to call it.

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