Hand Knotted Rugs

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Authentic Oriental rugs are hand knotted rugs--that is, they are woven on a loom with the knots of the rug pile tied by hand. Of course, perfectly good quality rugs with Oriental designs are produced by machine, but they are not genuine. Understanding how hand knotted rugs are made will help the novice collector or one-time buyer distinguish between the authentic and the look-alike.

How Hand Knotted Rugs Are Made

The foundation of a rug is always an interwoven pattern of cotton threads. The warp threads are wrapped around the frame of the loom. The knots that form the pile (surface) of the rug are usually wool, sometimes silk. They are tied around the warp threads. Warp threads are cut to form the fringe. The weft threads run perpendicular to the warp and hold the knots in place.

The knots create the pattern of the rug. There are two basic kinds of knots--all tied around two warp threads--in hand knotted rugs. In Oriental rugs, the distinguishing terms are Turkish--symmetrical knots--and Persian--asymmetrical knots. In an asymmetrical knot, one end of the wool stays above the foundation, the other goes under one warp and over the next, then back under that warp to exit between the two warps. In a symmetrical knot, the wool lies across both warps, comes under each, and back up in between the two.

The pile is dyed before the weaving process. Natural dyes seep gradually, leaving the color more pronounced at one end than the other. Synthetic dyes are evenly absorbed. Natural dyes--the oldest and most common of which are madder (orange reds) and indigo (all blues)--last the longest and in sunlight only mellow with age. Synthetic fibers can theoretically fade almost altogether.


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