Nain Rug Restoration

This page was created to show an example of the major restorative work which can be carried out on Persian and Oriental rugs. That no matter how badly a rug is damaged there is always hope. This was a huge project taking several months. Most projects we are able to carry out at our premises in Scotland but for such a large rug and fine weave it was more cost effective to use our contacts and send the rug back to its place of origin (Nain, Iran) to be restored by the weavers who make these rugs day-in day-out.

At Little-Persia we perform preventative rug repairs and restoration in-store such as repairing the selvages (the sides of the rug), tears and holes, small areas of re-knotting if there are small patches that can be repaired, moth damage and fringes where the fringe has worn away over time or been chewed by an animal.

For more in-depth work where large areas of the rug has to be re-woven, the only practical solution is to send the rug back to its place of origin to be repaired using the same wool and by the same weavers who made it. Below is a step-by-step case study of a large Nain rug, in Iran for repair:

Stage of Repair:

1. Background
2. Damage
3. Preparation
4. Knotting
5. Shaving
6. Washing
7. Finished Rug


1. Background

The fine Nain rug had been rolled and placed in storage, unfortunately while in storage water or dampness from the ground got into the rug affecting a large area along the length of the border. Water and dampness are a hand-knotted rug's worst enemy, in this case it completely destroyed much of the pile and foundation along the length of one border, leaving a large area where the wool was simply crumbling away with rot. The only option for such a major project was to send it back to Nain where they are used to working with the design, wool and dye found it these rugs.

*** Major repair and restoration is not for everyone or every rug. The costs involved in sending a rug back and forth to Iran to be repaired on top of the lengthy and difficult re-weaving process is expensive and time-consuming. While rugs can often hold sentimental value, many simply aren't of a high enough standard for it to be worthwhile repairing at source and could often be replaced at a similar cost. It's always best to speak to an expert before deciding what to do.***

The rug in question was a large Nain rug, some of its warp strings being as low as 4 LAA. LAA is a measurement used for Nain rugs and is the number of fibres used to make up each warp string, or what you can see as the fringes at the top and bottom of a rug. 4 LAA rugs are the finest of Nain rugs, this means there are only 4 fibres of cotton spun to create each warp string, meaning more warp strings (as they are finer) across the width of the rug which in return allows more knots to be tied in the same area as thicker weft strings. The rug measured around 900 knots per square inch (KPSI). This means over one million knots were required to be tied whilst repairing the rug.


2. Damage

The damage was down the length of the rug (3.5m) affecting much of the border. The following pictures show the extent of the damage:


Persian Nain Rug rotted edge restoration

Here you can see the damage spread across the length of the rug down the entire border of one side.



This picture shows the damage that water can cause to a rug, the pile and foundation has rotted and is crumbling away.


3. Preparation

The rug had to be un-woven around the damaged area. The pile was untied and removed from the weft (the horizontal strings of wool, cotton or silk, depending on the rug, used between the rows of knots keeping them tight and in position) until it was clear that the weft was healthy and had not been weakened by the dampness. Once this was done, the new weft was intricately tied to the existing healthy weft extending it to its original size. This process is shown below:


This is the start of the "re-wefting" process, sections are un-tied and cut away and the foundation is replaced.


A completed section of the rug where the carpet pile has been removed back until the healthy weft strands are visible.


The rug in the process of re-wefting where new weft is attached to the healthy existing foundation


Once the preparation work was complete our weaver had to search the bazaars of Nain to find as close a match as possible to the existing wool and colour of the carpet. There are 8 different colours used in the rug which had to be closely matched, these can be seen below:


Nain rug restoration wool selection

The different shades of blue, ivory, green and burgundy.


With the wool used for the pile and foundation ready the rug was then attached to the loom in preparation for knotting:


Persian Nain Rug Repair warp restoration

The rug, attached to the loom, has thousands of warp strings added, these are the foundation that the knots are tied to.


4. Knotting

Now that the preparation work of removing the damaged materials, re-wefting, purchasing the materials and attaching the rug to the loom has been completed, our weaver will begin the long and careful process of knotting the rug. Each row knotted, one knot at a time, carefully matching the pattern to that of the original rug:


Nain rug re-knotting

The weaver starts from the bottom and ties one row at a time, at this stage the pattern is simple as each row is a solid colour.


Close up image of a knot being tied on a Persian Nain rug

This picture shows how the wool is pushed behind and wrapped round the warp before being knotted.


Repairing a rug is much more difficult than knotting it in the first place, this is due to a number of complication: the foundation has to be interwoven as most of the rug is already made, it would be the equivalent of taking a rug off a loom half way through knotting and then trying to re-attach it to start again. The materials used are more difficult to find as you want as close a match as possible to the original wool and dye colours. The design or pattern is also more difficult to achieve as the weaver is effectively trying to match up with someone else's design which takes careful measurement to get right.


The design from the opposite border is reversed to make a design plate for the weaver.


re-knotted section of Persian Nain rug during repair before clipping

The front of the rug before it is sheared and shaved to the correct pile height.


Persian Nain rug repair shown from the back

The back of the rug shows the design more clearly, the bottom section of the border has been repaired closely matching the original.


Large section of Persian rug re-knotted during repair

The knotting of the rug at this stage is around a third of the way complete.


With only 40cm remaining to re-knot the rug will soon be shaved and washed.


Green Persian Nain rug with border fully reknotted before being shaved.

The knotting at this stage his finally been completed.


5. Shaving

Unfortunately we weren't able to get pictures of the rug as it was clipped to the correct pile-height. The process involves shearing the rug with clippers to an approximate height, in this case to match the same level of the existing rug, then using angled scissors to hand-finish the rug picking out any irregularities. This method ensures a level and smooth surface.


Handmade rug shaving or shearing - clipped to the correct pile height

A rug being sheared with clippers before being hand-clipped.

6. Washing

Again the rug was washed before we were able to get pictures. The rug is soaked in soapy water, the benefit of cleaning in Iran is that there tends to be more sunlight, rugs are dried naturally rather than machinery being used which can often dry up a rug. Any stains are removed and the luster of the wool is restored. In this case the washing and drying process would have been more difficult as the weavers tried to ensure a perfect colour match to the existing pile.


7. Finished rug

The finished rug, after 8 months of careful and dedicated work looks brand new. This lengthy process has brought the rug back to life and even an expert would be hard pushed to spot the repair. With time and wear and a slight natural fading of the dyes and materials will make the repair impossible to detect, whereas just now it would only be possible if you were really looking for it close up.


restored Nain rug

The rug is finally repaired back to its former glory.


Close up of repaired corner border of Persian Nain rug

Close-up of the corner of the rug showing the detail and how well the pattern and colour has been matched.


Reverse of Persian Nain rug showing symmetry of knotting and repair

The back of the rug shows the symmetry achieved in the repair,
such a delicate task could only be left to a master weaver.