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Oriental Rugs

Nov 09, 2010 04:07PM ● By Anonymous

A look in the dictionary shows a definition of the term as “a handwoven or hand-knotted one-piece rug or carpet made in a country of central or southern Asia.” Yet many rugs woven by machine are called Oriental rugs in reference to the style of their design. Hundreds of years old or brand new, Oriental rugs never go out of style though various designs and colors fall in and out of favor. How do you distinguish among all the different types of Oriental rugs?

Oriental rugs are usually identified by the village or town in which they were made or by the name of the tribe whose members made them. Kazakh, Heriz, and Daghestan are all place names. Rugs made by nomads and in villages feature tribal patterns. Tribal designs feature geometric patterns that are nondirectional and can be viewed from either end of the rug. The one exception is the prayer rug, which has a niche design, called a mihrab, in the center of the weaving. The end of the rug is where the person in prayer kneels facing Mecca. The mihrab is either triangular or centered by a square that is open at one end. When not in use, prayer rugs are always rolled up and put away so that they remain clean.

Urban rugs are made in cities. Some designs were created exclusively for export. The patterns of these rugs also are nondirectional but feature curved designs that include stylized flowers, animals, and birds that are more graceful than their geometric interpretations. The color palette is also more extensive and includes paler colors impractical to use in a rustic setting.

The value of an Oriental rug is contingent upon many factors, including the current trends in interior design. From a collector’s viewpoint, rugs made by tribal nomads and villagers for their own use are more rare and interesting than rugs woven for export.
When evaluating an antique rug, sellers and buyers frequently talk about the rug’s pile. Is it thick or is it badly worn? The piled weave is created by the process of knotting. There are two basic types of knots used: one is Turkish (also referred to as a symmetrical knot), and the other is Persian (also referred to as an asymmetrical knot). The concept is to encircle each strand of the warp in a certain knot configuration repeatedly; when the row is completed the weft is beaten into place with a specially designed metal comb. Because this is a long, laborious process completing a rug can take years.
Not all rugs have a pile texture. A kilim is made with a flat weave technique, meaning it has no knots. The weaver passes the weft of cotton or wool between the strands of the warp, crossing each one from selvage to selvage. When a new color is needed the thread is run part of the way across to the point where the design changes. A new weft of a different color is then introduced. A vertical slit is created with each color change. These are usually sewed up later. In most places kilims traditionally are made of wool. But in India they are made entirely of cotton. And the Kashgai of Persia also make cotton kilims. Some tribes highlight a specific portion of their rug by using cotton in that area. The Kurdish town of Senneh made kilims entirely or partially of silk.

A type of weaving with some texture is called Soumakh. In this technique the weft is wrapped over four strands of warp before it is drawn back under the last two strands. Design changes occur as with the kilims. Finely woven, they are stronger than kilims but not as durable as piled carpets.
Varneh rugs use both kilim and Soumakh techniques and are common in several areas of Caucasus and Anatolia.

The rugs made by members of the Indian nations of North America, made primarily of wool and woven, are always a flat weave. Their designs tend to be geometric.

Oriental rugs have been made for thousands of years. They were not popularly imported into the United States until the late 19th century. Antique rugs are 100 or more years old, and the more desirable ones were made before the advent of synthetic dyes in the 1860s. A semi-antique Oriental rug is more than 50 years old.

Many of the new handmade Oriental rugs on the market today are made in the urban centers of India, China, and Pakistan. Due to the strained relations between the United States and various countries in the Middle East, not as many rugs made by members of nomadic tribes and in small villages make their way across the Atlantic as once did. Plus, with the advent of “progress,” lifestyles in rural areas are changing and not so many rugs are being produced.

Whether your Oriental rug is old or new, remember to keep your curtains or blinds closed when the room is not in use because sunlight fades rugs. Rotate your rug each year and make certain there is a pad underneath it to help it wear evenly. The best way to vacuum a rug is to turn it face down and vacuum the back side so that the dirt falls out onto the floor.

With proper care, an Oriental rug can be enjoyed by many generations.