Handmade Oriental Rugs

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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By definition, the only authentic Oriental rugs are handmade Oriental rugs, whether hand knotted or woven. The term Oriental encompasses the geographic area from Turkey in the west to China in the east, and from India in the south to the Caucasus in the north. The rug making tradition in that part of the world goes back millennia.

Now in the Hermitage Museum in Russia, the oldest known surviving example of handmade Oriental rugs was discovered frozen in a Siberian burial chamber near Outer Mongolia in 1949. Amazingly well-preserved and exquisite, this Pazyryk carpet--in fact a saddle cover for a horse buried in the tomb--dates to 500 BC. Written references to carpets in the region, however, extend quite a bit farther back.

The Basics of Handmade Oriental Rugs

Almost all rugs are made on a loom, or frame. Handmade Oriental rugs are no exception. The foundation of the rug is a cotton mesh into which the wool fibers are knotted. The warp threads are those that wrap around the loom frame. The weft threads are woven through them in a cross direction.

Wool--which is the pile (surface) of the rug--is knotted into the foundation in one of two ways, producing the design. The Turkish knot is symmetrical, the Persian knot is asymmetrical. The number of knots per square inch, or any measurement, is the knot density. Oriental rugs are colored by dye, either natural or synthetic. Natural dyes are both absorbed by gradations and softened by continual exposure to sunlight. Synthetic dyes are absorbed evenly and fade in continual sunlight.

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