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  Oriental Carpets
Ceramic Square Tiles



History of Carpets, Kilims and Tribal Rugs.



Knot Counts


Knot counts are one gauge of quality in some large carpet workshops, but with antique rugs there is little correlation between a rug's coarseness and its textile art value. Other qualities are more important: the artistry, craftsmanship, rarity, wool quality, and the weaving's importance as an historic or ethnographic object.


If you wish to identify the knots in your rug, you must first determine which end of the rug when is was woven was at the top.  The fringe yarns on the ends are the warp. Running lengthwise through the rug, these were the yarns stretched on the loom.  Stroke the pile; knots were tied with the pile inclining downward, toward the bottom of the loom. As the weaver wrapped each knot, she tightened it by pulling it down or towards her, against the woven fabric.

A novice would start by examining the most coarsely woven rug available, perhaps an Anatolian, south Caucasian, or Kurdish piece. First, on the front of the rug, fold a section along the wefts, parallel with a row of knotting. Since rugs with the lowest knot counts are usually symmetrically knotted, that is probably what shoud see. Each knot spans two warps and has a wide "collar" horizontally across its top.  Two pile tufts come from under this collar, usually merging to look like one. If you cannot see individual knots vividly, try an intricate section of the design with narrow, but lightly colored pattern parts. As you hold a flexible old symmetrically knotted rug, you will begin to see the surface as lots of small square, chunky pile sections. This characteristic is accentuated if the pile is used or worn.


Once familiarity starts with symmetrical knots, you will easily recognize those that are not, almost by default. Instead of an unbroken series of collars, on carpets with asymmetrical knots there are alternating tufts of pile and much smaller collars, each the width of a single warp. Asymmetrically knotted constructions do not separate readily into smaller square sections unless they are quite coarse, like some Chinese Ninghsia rugs. 


Asymmetrical knots can be tied so that they either “open to the left side" or "open to the right side." With some carpets you need only rub your hand over the surface to determine their direction. If the pile fibers slant obviously to one side, the knots open that way. Otherwise, look for a spot with a single knot in a light color;  the knot opens on the side of the collar where the tuft emerges. It helps to fold the rug and roll it back and forth vertically to isolate a column of knots.


The vast majority of workshops with severely depressed warps have asymmetrical knots. Persian Bijar rugs are one exception; they are symmetrically knotted. By folding a rug along a narrow vertical outline it is possible to see whether a knot has two yarn ends emerging singly or together from under its collar.



If you wish to ubderstand the knot count in your carpet, remember that each knot is "tied" or wrapped around two warp yarns. (Some North African knots are exceptions, while Tibetan structures are another matter entirely.) On a majority of village or "tribal" rugs, each knot forms two "nodules" on the back side of your rug. If alternate warps are very depressed, however, as in many workshop carpets, only one nodule may be seen on the carpet's back, while the others are not visible.  Narrow designs, like vertical borders or pattern outlines, are typically only the width of a single knot so this is a useful details to examine. If both parts of a knot are visible, like the black vertical outlines on a Caucasian rug at the left below, we count the nodules in pairs to determine the number of knots horizontally per inch. If only one nodule is visible, as in the narrowest yellow or red vertical outlines of the Persian workshop rug at the right below,  you can be sure that alternate warps are totally depressed, and we are seeing only half of the knot. Since the other part is hidden, we can count every nodule on the surface.  Carpets that are ribbed on the backside have alternate warps just partially depressed; on these we are most likely to see one nodule easily, but only part of the other, and so must be careful. 


Counting knots vertically is less of a problem, since nothing is hidden. It is best to focus on areas with a lot of color changes, especially areas where the color of the knots contrasts with the color of the wefts in between them. A knots density is cited in rug literature either in knots per square inch, or knots per square decimeter.  Allways check the density in more than one part of your carpet, since slight variations are typically found.


Ocasionally on a very tightly woven rug it is hard to see the wefts, or even count rows of knots, even under a magnifier. Here's a useful tip:  If you mark off a vertical inch on your carpet by sticking it with two pins, then you can roll the rug slightly so that the rows separate a bit, then you can count the rows of knots in between your pins. 


To determine a rug's origin, not only are the designs, colors, and knotting dintinctive, but other subtle details are telling. The difference and the distinctive ways that selvages and end finishes are constructed. Knotting idiosyncrasies, variations in the handling of wefts, and differences in the materials used in the construction of the weaver offer further incication to a rug's provenance.



Knotted Pile


Knotted pile structures are used for the wide range of plush pile carpets typically known as Oriental rugs. But tribal weavers have also knotted tent bags and saddlebags, saddle covers, animal trappings, cushions, door hangings, tent girths and other articles. On occasion a knotted pile has been combined with one or more of the flatweaves.

To form the pile, small segments of colored yarn are attached firmly to pairs of warps. The Asian or North African weaver works with the loose end of a continuous yarn, wrapping an individual knot and then cutting the yarn before moving on to the next knot. (This is different from the processes used by European and North American weavers who weave flossa or rya pile carpets.) After each row of knotting, one or more wefts are inserted and packed down tightly. The exact manner in which this is completed determines the carpets flexibility, thickness, and durability. 


Knots have two basic types that have been used throughout Asia and North Africa: asymmetrical and symmetrical knots. The asymmetrical knot, sometimes called the "Persian" or "Senneh" knot, is superb when fine design detail is desired, reason being is that these can be closely packed. Not true "knots," each short yarn segment is wrapped around two warps, but only encircles one of these completely. Either the right or left warp can be enclosed.  Asymmetrical knots are predominate in Iranian, Central Asian, Indian, and Chinese production.  On workshop rugs, alternate warps are typically pushed behind to allow a tighter structure. This is woven by alternating a heavy, stiff weft yarn with a finer, more flexible and sinuous weft. On occasion three-weft sequences are used.  These dense constructions are usually described as having depressed warps.


Symmetrical knots are inherently more secure, and which makes them excellent for coarser weaves. The pile yarn wraps around a pair of warps from opposing directions, and the ends emerge together, between these warps. In knot-making terms, this is called a "clove hitch." Symmetrical knots are typically found in Turkish and Caucasian rugs, but they also appear in some Turkmen rugs, some North African weavings, and a good many Persian village rugs. In older rug literature, symmetrical knots have been called "Turkish" or "Ghiordes" knots. 


Other kinds of knotting has been used in more isolated carpet- weaving areas like Tibet and Morocco's Middle Atlas Mountains. Tufted rugs made with punches or tufting guns on pre-woven fabrics made in  China have sometimes have been confused with hand-knotted rugs. With tufting, no warps are encircled completely, and the backs of these rugs are typically sprayed with adhesives to secure the pile yarns.


The Origin Of The Oriental Rugs & Kilims


The origins of the hand woven oriental pile rug in existence dates from the fourth century BC. This hand woven oriental rug known internationaly as the Pazyrk Rug, this oriental carpet was discovered in 1949 frozen inside of a burial mound in Siberia. Most oriental carpet historians believe the Pazyrk rug was woven in the Caucasus where the countries of present day Turkey, Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Other oriental carpet historians note the similarity of the woven motifs in the carpet to the architectural motifs found at Persepolis, the ancient capital of Persia.

No matter where this Oriental carpet was woven, the technique of creating a soft pile by knotting and compacting wool yarn is the same method used by oriental rug weavers today. There exist various fragments of oriental carpets and textiles, but the next oldest oriental carpet still in existence originates from the 13th century.

Ancient sources describe many historical oriental carpets. Alexander the great discovered Cyrus the Greats tomb resting on fine oriental rug. Sui annals state that woolen oriental rugs from Turkey , Persia, were being transported and sold in china during the 6th and 7th centuries.

When the Arabs conquered Persia, the historical oriental rug of Khosrow  531-579 AD, the so called Spring Winter oriental rug woven with gold and silver threads and incrusted with jewels was looted by the conquering Arabs.

The Arab historian Tabari wrote that 60.000 soldiers were paid with fragments of this oriental rug. Ancient accounts exist showing that many solders sold their fragments in the Damascus bazaar. The infamous beauty of the spring winter oriental rug served as inspiration for subsequent oriental rugs for many years. The theme of the oriental rug was paradise. Paradise is a one filled with eternal moments.



Marco Polo traveled through the Caucasus and Anatolia Turkey in 1271 and described the beauty of the Turkish and Caucasian Oriental rugs he witnessed there. We know that European paintings existing from the 14th and 15th centuries. The historical reference shows that oriental rugs have been valued and traded since ancient times.

Kilims are flat weave rugs typically produced in a vilage or tribal enviroment. The designs of kilims often tend to be geometric usually incorporating various symbolic. A prominent indicator of kilim rugs is the slits along the warp of the rug wherever there is a change of color. Since older kilims were typically woven on a small portable looms it is difficult to find them in larger sizes. Today new kilims are made in a full range of sizes at very affordable prices. Kilims were typically made useful being woven into things such as storage bags, salt bags, grain bags, saddle blankets, pillows, even cradles . Kilims were also woven as treasures to be in dowries,  or to mark the birth of a child. These were typically used only for special occaisions

Throughout the Middle East oriental carpets and kilims are viewed not only as objects of daily life but as a form of investment. Beautiful oriental carpets and kilims are typically collected by families and kept in a special bank vault. These oriental carpets and kilims can be sold if money is needed. The oriental carpets and kilims are have been valued and prided by the people from Eastern Europe and Asia for generations.



Turkish Kilims


The Turks have created the largest kilims, typically in two narrow pieces joined, as well as small ones and a multitude of prayer kilims. On a prayer rug, which is carried about with the Muslim worshiper, the light and extremely flexible kilim offers obvious advantages. In Turkish kilims, cotton is often used for the white areas, and small details may be brocaded. The kilims of the southern Balkans began as close copies of Anatolian types but have gradually developed into individual styles, such as the black, red, and white kilims of Pirot. In Romania,  the local fashions, progressively less Oriental in colour and pattern as the distance from Turkey increases. The name kilim is also given to a variety of brocaded, embroidered, warp-faced, and other flat-woven rugs and bags


Here again we question: Are kilims just floor coverings? No, some are hangings, some are bench or divan covering. Once more a trusted source of information turns out to be at least a bit misleading.


There are other definitions, some much less accurate, others quaint or curious, but their very profusion shows that more people are interested in our favorite subject, the kilim. Not many years ago the word 'kilim' was not found in the English dictionary or encyclopedia! What's more,  your computer spell-check tool probably won't recognize kilim as a legitimate word. I assure you it is.


Studying in some detail in numerous sources we have arrived at the following definition for Kilim:


Kilim, a word of Turkish origin, denotes a pile less textile of many uses produced by one of several flat weaving techniques that have a common or closely related heritage and are practiced in the geographical area that includes parts of North Africa, the Balkans, Turkey (Anatolia and Thrace), the Caucasus, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia and China.


We believe this definition to be correct though incomplete, because, as all kilim lovers know, no words can convey the beauty of the kilim. We try to fill this void by providing as much information as possible about the traditions, culture and heritage of kilim-making to make the culture rich people come to life - and we hope you enjoy it.




Middle Eastern nomads and villagers have used a wide variety of techniques to create exquisite masterpieces.  The most common of these are shown below.


Slit tapestry this is the technique typically used for the flat woven carpets and hangings called kilims. Slit tapestry is also used for bags, pictorial tapestries, and other articles.  The fabrics are usually weft-faced, meaning that the warp is covered completely; the surface is ribbed in a vertical direction.  Warp weavs are those that were affixed to the loom; weft yarns are those that were woven with the warps. In all of the photos here, the fabrics are oriented as they were on the loom--with the warps running vertically.


In tapestry weaving, weft yarns are discontinuous; the weaver interlaces each colored weft back and forth in a small pattern area.  With slit tapestry, at each point where colors meet, a small slit occurs if the pattern boundary is vertical.  Other tapestries, in which wefts are dovetailed or interlocked, overcome this potential problem but have their own disadvantages.  Slit tapestry produces the sharpest pattern delineation and the smoothest weave.  It also permits the most freedom and spontaneity; thus it is a favorite technique among  weavers worldwide.  Slit tapestry is a favorite for weavers. 


You can see in the loom photo that slit-tapestry kilims are woven in separate sections, in a very free-form sort of way.  Rarely are pattern parts woven with single wefts, one and then another, right across the loom.  Usually tapestry designs are bolder and more dramatic than those produced with other nomadic weaving techniques. 


Since the weaver avoids long vertical lines in her pattern to avoid long slits, designs are composed primarily of diagonal and horizontal elements.  To construct a strong piece, intersecting diagonal pattern lines are also avoided.  Because most kilim designs have been shaped significantly by structural considerations, most tapestry desighns have developed directly on the loom; they have not been copied from other sources.  This is why we find designs similar in character wherever slit tapestry is produced around the world--whether by Anatolian, Turks, Navajo, Pre-Columbian Peruvian, or other weavers. 


Tapestry weft yarns ar not allways horizontal.  They can be pushed about as the weaver wishes, to easily form curved or slanting designs.  Egyptian weavers who put animals, plants, and human figures into their tapestries, use the same techniques as Anatolian, Persian, and Caucasian kilim weavers, but simply do not restrict themselves to geometric or quasi-geometric designs. When we compare Senneh kilims from western Iran which have erratic wefts, with the Harranian folk art tapestries of Egypt, the structural similarities are distinctive. 


Weavers sometimes choose to weave slit-tapestry pieces sideways.  The loom's width is always a limitation, but the direction can also be shifted for design purposes.  An Egyptian artist who wishes to portray a group of long-legged animals and still avoid long slits, logically produces her piece sideways on the loom.  Indeed, the internal rhythm in such pieces is nearly always prodiminately verticale in the designs.  On the other hand, pieces woven right-side-up display a predominance of horizontal forms.  When tapestries like these are designed directly on the loom, with no preliminary drawings, the natural tapestry processes help to shape graceful imagery.



Soumak more intricate patterning can be done by wrapping colored yarns around the warps--usually single warps or pairs.  Most commonly, rows of this pattern-yarn wrapping alternate with thin, plain-weave ground wefts.  Because the technique is time-consuming, it has frequently been used for bags and other small, sturdy weavings.  Soumak wrapping typically covers the entire surfaces, although occasionally figures are scattered about on open, plain-weave fabrics.  Exquisite examples come from the Caucasus, from northwestern Iran, and from a few other areas.  Kurdish weavers in eastern Turkey have sometimes produced weftless soumak bags--with no intervening ground wefts.


Variations in soumak structures occur when the direction of wrapping is altered, or when the weaver outlines her design in diagonal directions.  Sometimes the yarn segments are offset; other times the structure is reversed, so that the usual back side serves instead as the front.  There are few design restrictions with these techniques, and so motifs have often been borrowed from other weaving traditions.  The hooked motif on the soumak Shahsevan mafrash (bedding bag) is an old standard slit-tapestry kilim design.


Weft substitution weaves Fine designing have been done by Turkish; Moroccan, Algerian, Baluch, Turkmen and Persian Afshar weft-substitution weavers; they substitute variously colored wefts as desired in otherwise perfectly plain weaves.  Although there is no popular label for this technique, the structure is distinctive.  Complex geometric designs are executed entirely by hand.  The loom does not, in some magical sort of way, help with the patterning.  Moroccan weavers work from the fabric's back side, Oriental weavers more often from the front.
Like tapestry, this is a weft-faced weave:  we see the warps only where they emerge at the end of a weaving as fringe.  As the weaver uses first one color, then substitutes another in the intricate patterning, she either lets the unused yarns float on the rug's back side, forming a thick padding, or she cuts her yarns and lets the ends hang loose on the back. 

Turkish ,Afshar, Baluch, and Turkmen weavers have most often arranged intricate weft-substitution patterns in series of crosswise bands.  The structure is also used commonly in small borders at the ends of Baluch pile rugs, providing an effective textural contrast.  Moroccan Berbers have pushed the design possibilities of weft substitution to an extreme, producing allover patterning with incredible detail. 


Brocading although they are often mistaken for embroidery, brocaded designs are produced entirely on the loom, as the fabric is woven. Soft, lustrous pattern yarns are interlaced entirely by hand, and these pattern rows alternate with thin, plain-weave ground wefts. With most kinds of brocading, the weaver works facing the back of the textile. She interlaces each pattern yarn back and forth in its own pattern area, using small finger skeins which dangle on the back when not in use. The inlaid brocading on Turkmen tent bands is an exception; it is worked from the front, and is often combined with knotted pile



A wide variety of brocaded articles have been made by Middle Eastern weavers, especially Yoruk tribes, Turkmen, and Kurdish tribal weavers in Anatolia. Elaborately ornamented storage sacks called ala cuval have been made with brocading, as well as saddlebags, tent panels, hangings and covers.


Unfortunately, as nomads have settled into village life and have taken up pile carpet weaving, the old brocade skills have gradually disappeared. Only in a few small remote villages do tribal weavers continue to produce this wonderful, but rather difficult textile art. Several different types of brocading have produced a rich variety of patterning.


Warp substitution weaves this construction is the exact opposite of weft-substitution.  Both structures are plain weaves in which yarns are substituted to make designs, but warp-substitution fabrics are warp-faced and it is the warps that substitute, one for another.

The warp yarns are spun and plied tightly, so they are tough and elastic, then they are jammed so closely together on the loom that when the fabric is woven, the wefts are hidden.  Warps are left loose on the back of the fabric where they are not part of the pattern.  This weave has been used primarily for tent bands and sturdy striped covers called Jajims.

The design options with warp-substitution are severely limited, since warps of contrasting colors must be incorporated in nearly equal proportions to maintain proper warp tension. Many designs which originated in this ancient technique have become important in pile-rug design repertoires. Designs tend to migrate from restrictive techniques like this one to less restrictive techniques. 


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