Rug Weaving Countries
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There a number of countries which export high-quality hand knotted rugs, these are classified as Persian (those made in Iran) and Oriental (those knotted in the other countries of Asia) this guide gives a brief overview of some of these countries. For a guide to the rug weaving towns, cities and areas of Iran visit our Rug Origins Guide.
Want to know if your rug is Persian, Oriental or even handmade? Email us pictures (preferably of the front of the rug and a close up of the back showing the back corner including the side, fringes and backing or knots) to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to let you know what your rug is and where it comes from.
The Persian rug had a humble beginning, one of necessity, a protection against the harsh elements for the nomad or tribesman. The simple woven rug evolved into one of literary expression, depicting that which was important to the weaver or even to record a particular event.
The beauty of the Persian rug was not lost on noblemen and kings and soon the art-form progressed to a symbol of wealth and artistic values. Dating back more than 2500 years the Persians were amongst the first of the ancient civilizations to craft fine decorative rugs.
The dedication and artistry put into these rugs have them the reputation of being the best the modern world has to offer.
Persian rug designs vary from region to region however many of the rugs feature elements of nature or symbols of something special or sacred to the tribe that wove them. This could be inspiration from architecture or religious artifacts, for example many of the central medallions lend their designs from the ceilings and domes of temples and mosques. Others may be of importance to the livelihood of the tribe, hunting scenes or motifs symbolizing fish, plants, grain and flowers.
The Safavid Dynasty (1502-1736), when the art and trade of rug making was heavily encouraged, was important to the development of the Persian rug. Most rugs found in museums today come from this period.
Persian rugs are described by the region in which they were woven, most cities and towns have their own distinctive design however many (such as a major carpet weaving centre like Tabriz) create a wide variety of designs.
For more information and images of rugs from within different regions visit our rug origins guide.
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Located to the northeast of Iran, Afghanistan shares a rugged terrain similar to that of northern Iran. Because of this Afghan rugs tend to be hard wearing and robust. Afghan rugs are similar to Caucasian and Turkish designs, using only a few vivid colours and often with geometric patterns.
The rug weaving industry has been effected by the political instability and trade restrictions on the country in recent years, export has become difficult and as a result many Afghan rugs are exported from the bordering countries of Iran and Pakistan.
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Rug weaving was introduced in India in the 16th century by the Persian empire. During the Safavid Dynasty the Persian government set up professional workshops with Persian master weavers overseeing the looms and training the Indian weavers. Because of this background in rug weaving almost all Indian rugs are imitations of famous Persian designs such as Kashan and Tabriz. This is not to say that because they are imitations they are inferior in some way, the only thing that sets them apart from their Persian counterparts is the the type and wool, cut of the pile and the weave. There are good and bad Indian rugs just like there are good or bad Persian rugs. The design, dye, quality of wool and knot count are all important.
Indian rugs sometimes use coarser wool than Persian rugs which leads to them being heavy. It is often more difficult to fold Indian rugs due to the thickness of the pile making the rug stiff, however, as a result of this they sit nicely on the floor and are very durable.
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Turkey has been famous for its carpet weaving since the early 17th Century when Venetian traders introduced Turkish rugs to the European market. Town rugs with medium weave and wool pile come from areas like Milas, Dosemealti, and Malatya. Fine wool rugs on cotton and even silk rugs are woven in Kayseri, and Hereke has a reputation for producing some of the finest silk carpets ever made.
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Much like the history of rug making in India, Pakistan began making rugs under the influence of the Persian government during the 16th century.
Most rugs made in Pakistan utilize very few colours, preferring the designs of Afghan and Persian Turkoman and Caucasus Bokhara. The Pakistani Bokhara and Jaldar (often made by Afghan refugees or Turkmen origin) is made using very soft and lustrous wool (sometimes using art silk or mercerized wool) to obtain a simple yet stylish tribal design. The colours used in these rugs are generally a solid or rustic red, blue, green, beige or gold and darker details and octagonal gul motifs or diamond shaped motifs often referred to as butterfly prints.
Pakistan is the 4th largest producer of Oriental rugs.
Nepal has origins in tribal rug weaving however today they specialize in modern hand-knotted rugs. Many of the hand-knotted contemporary rugs found in retailers across the country are sourced from Nepal or Tibet. These rugs are often made to a custom design from a western designer or even a customer. Nepal rugs use thick knots and are not of the same quality as Persian or many of the other Oriental rugs but are excellent for those looking for a quality modern rug, one which will last more than a few of years.
China has become the biggest exporter of Oriental rugs. The crafting of pile rugs using wool is a relatively new practice in China, their culture and availability of silk meant that they looked down on wool as a crafting material and were more attuned to flat-weaving decorative silk rugs. While silk rugs have been made in China for 4000 years it wasn't until the 13th century that pile rugs started to be knotted.
However, as a growing industrial country China has focused on retail demand and now craft mass market designs in large quantities.