Persian & Oriental Rug Glossary: An A to Z of Rug Terms
Welcome to our comprehensive glossary of Persian and Oriental rug terms. This guide is designed to help you understand the language and terminology used in the world of Oriental rugs. From intricate patterns and motifs like Shah Abassi and Herati, to various materials such as wool, silk, and cotton, we delve into the specifics of rug construction including different knotting types like Persian, Senneh, and Turkish.
We also explore the rich history of rug making, highlighting significant eras and dynasties like the Safavid period. Whether you're a seasoned collector, a novice in rug buying, or simply an enthusiast, this glossary can serve as your handy reference to better appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship behind every Persian and Oriental rug.
- A town in southern Iran, known for producing rugs with a geometric design and a diamond-shaped medallion in the centre.
- A term used to describe colour variations that occur in a single colour throughout the rug’s field. These are due to differences in dye batches and add character and authenticity to a rug.
- Asymmetrical Knot
- Also known as a Persian or Senneh knot, this is a type of knot used in rug making where the yarn is wrapped around one warp strand and then passed under the neighbouring warp strand and brought back to the surface. Asymmetrical knots can be open to either the right or left.
- A nomadic and semi-nomadic Persian ethnic group known for their high quality and durable rugs. Bakhtiari rugs often feature bold and geometric patterns.
- Commonly referred to as the "iron rugs of Persia", Bidjar rugs are known for their durability. They originate from the Kurdish town of Bidjar in Iran.
- A common motif in Persian rugs, the Boteh is a teardrop-shaped design with a curve at the top. The design is thought to represent a leaf or a flame.
- Camel Hair
- Used in some traditional Persian rugs. Camel hair is soft, strong and resilient, and it provides a natural and lustrous texture.
- The process of preparing wool or cotton for spinning into thread. This involves aligning the fibres and removing any impurities.
- Generally refers to a heavy textile used for covering floors. While often used interchangeably with "rug", carpets typically refer to floor coverings that stretch from wall to wall. In the world of Persian & Oriental rugs, carpet is often used if the rug is over a certain size, for example 3x2m (6m2).
- A detailed paper drawing used as a blueprint for weaving a rug. Cartoons are particularly useful for complex designs and motifs, ensuring consistency and accuracy in the rug's pattern.
- Chrome Dyes
- A type of synthetic dye used in rug making for their fastness and wide range of bright colours. They were introduced in the mid-20th century and have largely replaced natural dyes in commercial rug production.
- A traditional Indian floor covering, similar to a rug but woven in a flat manner instead of knotted, making it reversible. They are typically made of cotton or wool.
- Double Knot
- Also known as a Turkish or Ghiordes knot. The yarn is passed over two adjacent warp threads, with both ends drawn through the middle so they emerge between these threads. This knot is sturdier and more symmetrical than a Persian or Senneh knot.
- Substances used to colour the yarn in rugs. Dyes can be natural, derived from plants and insects, or synthetic, such as chrome dyes.
- A technique used in rug making where parts of the design are raised above the rug surface. This is done by carving around the design, enhancing its details and giving it a three-dimensional effect.
- The sections of the rug or carpet that are perpendicular to the warp. They can be finished in a variety of ways, including plain weave, pile weave, and fringe.
- Erased Design
- A design technique where areas of the pattern are purposefully made to look as if they have been erased or rubbed out. This creates a vintage or distressed look.
- The main section of the rug that's enclosed within the border. The field usually contains the primary design elements.
- Fixed Loom
- A type of loom that is stationary and often used for producing larger, more intricate rugs. Fixed looms are typically found in rug-making workshops.
- Flat Weave
- A style of rug that is woven on a loom, rather than knotted. Flat weave rugs are typically reversible.
- The combination of warps and wefts in the body of the rug.
- The decorative edges of the rug, which are an extension of the rug's warp threads. Fringes are typically found on the shorter ends of the rug.
- Originally a tribal rug, Gabbehs are now made throughout the world. They are characterised by simple designs, bold colours, and a thick, plush pile.
- Garden Carpet
- These rugs feature designs reminiscent of a garden, typically divided into squares or compartments each filled with different floral motifs. The pattern can represent a bird's-eye view of a garden.
- Ghiordes Knot
- Also known as a Turkish or symmetrical knot. The yarn is looped around two warp threads and both ends surface in the middle of these threads. It's a robust knot used commonly in rugs from Turkey and the Caucasus.
- Guard Border
- Smaller borders that surround the main border of a rug, enhancing and framing the overall design.
- A type of motif used in rugs, particularly Turkmen rugs, also used in regional flags.
- Haji Jalili
- A renowned master weaver from the Tabriz region, active in the late 19th century. His work is highly esteemed for its fine craftsmanship and artistry.
- A city in Iran known for its rug production. Hamadan rugs often feature geometric patterns and a medallion layout.
- A method of rug-making where individual knots are tied to the warp threads. The density and type of knot contribute to the rug's quality and durability.
- Herati Pattern
- A common motif in Persian rugs, consisting of a rosette enclosed in a diamond with a leaf on each side. The Herati pattern is also known as a fish pattern.
- Horizontal Loom
- A type of loom that lies flat on the ground and is often used by nomadic weavers. The horizontal loom is simple in design and can be easily assembled and disassembled, making it ideal for travel.
- Hunting Carpet
- A type of Persian rug featuring scenes of hunting, often with hunters on horseback chasing animals. These carpets were traditionally made for royalty and nobility.
- A dyeing technique used to pattern textiles. The design is applied to the warp or weft threads before weaving, creating a distinctive feathered edge to the pattern.
- A natural dye derived from the Indigofera plant. It produces a range of blues, and is often used in traditional rug making.
- A city in central Iran known for its finely knotted, elegant, and high-quality rugs. Isfahan rugs often feature Shah Abassi motifs and intricate designs.
- A type of loom for weaving complex designs into fabric. Jacquard-woven rugs often have intricate patterns woven in many colours.
- A type of Persian rug made in the village of Jozan, known for their high-quality wool and craftsmanship. Jozan rugs often feature a central medallion and elaborate corner designs.
- Jufti Knot
- A type of knot used in rug making where the knot is tied over four warp threads instead of two. This technique speeds up the weaving process but results in a less durable and less dense rug.
- A city in central Iran known for its high-quality, finely knotted rugs. Kashan rugs often feature a central medallion and floral motifs.
- A type of flatweave rug with no pile. Kelims are often reversible and are typically less expensive than hand-knotted rugs.
- Kork Wool
- The finest grade of wool obtained from a sheep. It is extremely soft and shiny, making it a preferred choice for high-quality rugs.
- KPSI (Knots Per Square Inch)
- A measurement used to determine the density and quality of hand-knotted rugs. A higher KPSI indicates a more finely knotted rug.
- LA (Loom Ajar)
- A term used in rug making to denote a situation where the loom's tension has been unevenly released. This can result in a rug with uneven tension and a skewed shape.
- A device used to weave cloth and rugs. The basic purpose of any loom is to hold the warp threads under tension to facilitate the interweaving of the weft threads.
- A type of Gabbeh rug made by the Luri and Qashqai tribes of Iran. Loribaft rugs are known for their high-quality craftsmanship, plush pile, and vibrant colours.
- A plant-based dye that produces a range of red and orange hues. Madder has been used in rug making for thousands of years.
- Manchester Wool
- Also known as 'Kashmir' wool, this is a type of merino wool that was imported from Manchester, England during the 19th and 20th centuries. It is finely spun and has a high lustre, often used in high-quality rugs.
- A large, enclosed portion of a design, usually located in the centre of the rug. Medallions can be geometric or intricate, floral-based designs.
- Mina Khani
- A traditional Persian floral pattern often used in carpets. It consists of flowers arranged in a trellis pattern.
- A general term for rugs produced in the 20th and 21st centuries. Modern rugs can be machine-made or hand-knotted and feature a variety of styles and designs.
- A city in central Iran known for producing high-quality, finely knotted rugs. Nain rugs often feature intricate designs and a high knot count.
- Natural Dyes
- Dyes derived from plants, insects, and minerals. Examples include madder (red), indigo (blue), and pomegranate rinds (yellow).
- Nomadic Rugs
- Rugs woven by nomadic tribes. They are usually small in size, feature geometric patterns, and are woven on horizontal looms.
- Oriental Rug
- A general term for rugs produced in the "Orient" or Asian countries, including Iran, Turkey, and India. Oriental rugs are typically hand-knotted and feature a variety of designs and motifs.
- A rug-making process where a rug is dyed again to create a deep, saturated colour. Overdying can help to unify a design or give a rug a modern look.
- A type of motif shaped like a lotus palmette.
- Persian Knot
- Also known as the Senneh knot. This is a type of knot used in rug making, where the yarn is looped around one warp thread and then passed under the adjacent warp thread. This creates an asymmetrical knot, which allows for more fluid, intricate designs.
- The surface of the rug, made up of individual knots tied onto the warp. The height of the pile can vary, affecting the feel and look of the rug.
- Prayer Rug
- A small rug used by individuals for prayer. In design, these rugs often have a niche at one end, representing the mihrab in a mosque.
- A nomadic Persian tribe known for their high-quality rugs. Qashqai rugs often feature geometric designs and vibrant colours.
- One of four equal parts of a design. In rug design, the field is often divided into quadrants that mirror each other.
- A Persian term used to measure knot density in rugs (similar to KPSI). Raj is determined by counting the number of knots in a 7-centimetre line along the warp of a rug.
- A round design or pattern used in rug making, typically formed by a symmetrical arrangement of repeating floral motifs radiating out from the centre.
- Rug Pad
- A pad placed under a rug for several reasons, including to prevent slipping, add cushioning, protect the floor beneath, and extend the life of the rug.
- A long, narrow rug typically used in hallways or staircases.
- Safavid Dynasty
- The Safavid dynasty ruled Iran from 1501 to 1736 and was instrumental in the development and refinement of Persian rugs. Many of the most famous Persian rugs were produced during this period.
- A type of Persian rug made in the village of Sarouk. Known for their high-quality wool and craftsmanship, Sarouk rugs often feature a central medallion and elaborate corner designs.
- The edge of a rug, where the weft threads are wrapped around the last warp thread to reinforce the sides.
- Senneh Knot
- Also known as a Persian knot, the Senneh knot is a type of knot used in rug making where the yarn is looped around one warp thread and then passed under the adjacent warp thread. It creates an asymmetrical knot, allowing for more fluid, intricate designs.
- Shah Abassi
- A type of motif often seen in Persian rugs, featuring large palmettes and curvilinear floral designs. This motif was popular during the Safavid dynasty.
- A type of flat weave rug that originates from the Caucasus region. Soumak rugs have a distinctive herringbone texture.
- The process of twisting fibres together to create yarn. In rug making, wool, cotton, or silk fibres may be spun by hand or machine.
- A city in North West Iran, Tabriz has been a centre of Persian rug production for centuries. Tabriz rugs are known for their fine workmanship and diverse designs, including medallion, floral, and pictorial schemes.
- Turkish Knot
- Also known as a Ghiordes or symmetrical knot, the Turkish knot is looped around two warp threads, with both ends surfacing between these threads. It is a robust knot used commonly in rugs from Turkey and the Caucasus.
- A town in Western Turkey that has been a major centre of rug production since the Ottoman period. Ushak rugs often feature large-scale motifs and a soft palette of colours.
- Vegetable Dyes
- Dyes made from plant materials. Examples include madder (red), indigo (blue), and saffron (yellow). Vegetable dyes are lauded for their unique, rich colours and eco-friendly nature.
- Vertical Loom
- A type of loom where the warp threads hang vertically. Vertical looms can be fixed or mobile and are common in workshops and village settings.
- Village Rugs
- Rugs that are woven in villages, as opposed to city or nomadic rugs. Village rugs often display more primitive designs and have a more tribal and rustic appearance.
- War Rugs
- These rugs originated in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. They feature motifs such as guns, tanks, and other military imagery. The meaning and symbolism behind these rugs are widely debated, with some seeing them as pro-war and others viewing them as anti-war symbols. They have become collectible items.
- The vertical threads on a loom. In a finished rug, these become the fringe.
- Warp Depression
- A term used to describe the displacement of the warp threads in a rug. High warp depression results in a rug with more visible weft threads, giving it a ribbed appearance when viewed from the side.
- The horizontal threads interlaced through the warp in a woven rug.
- A natural fibre obtained from sheep and certain other animals, used in making woven and knotted rugs.
- An ancient Persian king, known for his opulent lifestyle. Although not directly related to rugs, the opulence of the Persian court is often mirrored in the intricate designs of Persian rugs.
- A type of Persian rug made by the Yalameh tribe. Yalameh rugs are known for their high-quality wool, dense pile, and geometric designs.
- A long, continuous length of fibres that have been spun or twisted together. Yarn can be made from a variety of materials, including wool, silk, and cotton, and is used to make rugs.
- A type of Persian rug that was designed by the Ziegler company for the Western market in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ziegler rugs often feature muted colours and less intricate designs than traditional Persian rugs.
- A type of flatweave rug similar to a kilim, but with a thicker weave. Zili rugs often feature bold, geometric designs.