Oriental rugs are handcrafted rugs woven in the Middle East and the Orient – mostly regions extending from China in the east, to Turkey in the west and the Caucasus in the north, to India in the south. Authentic oriental rugs are knotted with pile or woven without pile and exclusively handwoven, which makes them unique and more exquisite, precious, and expensive than the other types of rugs. Some of the most popular and best oriental rugs include the Turkish, Caucasian, Turkoman, Afshan, Donkeybags, Prayer Rugs and Kilims rugs.
The earliest known oriental pile rugs were those found in a Scythian burial site in Outer Mongolia dating back to the fifth century B.C. The second millennium B.C in Egypt and Central Asia had already seen the evolution of the art of rug weaving so by the fifth century B.C., rug weaving had become a fairly well-developed art. When the Silk Route came into being in the 17th century during the Safavid reign in Central Asia, oriental rugs started gaining immense popularity and Europe began to import them in large quantities. The rug making art and industry in the Orient also became a lucrative, highly skilled occupation. By the mid 19th century, not only the rich but the middle class citizens of Europe also began to value and afford these exquisite handwoven rugs.
Knots and Oriental Rug Weaving:
Oriental Rugs are handwoven on looms. The pattern of the rug is created by the knot (pile). Pile knots are of two types – symmetric and asymmetric. Symmetrical knots can be tied in such a way to give the pile a left or right inclination. Knot density is measured by counting the knots vertically and horizontally within the given area along the back of the rug. The size of warp (foundation threads wrapped around the loom), warp depression, weft (thread inserted along the width of the loom) and pile threads all determine the knot density. A cartoon (preliminary sketch similar in size to the work) may be created as a guide before weaving.
The loose warp threads along the ends are knotted, woven or braided into the fringe after the weaving. The Selvage is the edge formed after a single terminal warp or a cord made of various terminal warps is wrapped with the weft threads. The side cord may also be added only after the rug has been woven and removed from the loom, and a single cord is sewn on to the side of the rug. To create a rounded finish, an overcast (warps wrapped with a separate thread in circular fashion) may be used.
Type of Materials used for Weaving Oriental Rugs:
Wool, cotton, silk and rayon are commonly used in weaving oriental rugs. Wool and Silk are generally used in the pile. Wool is the most common fiber in the Oriental rug weaving industry and silk is the most expensive. Silk, which is also the most resilient, is used for creating the most elaborate and intricately knotted rugs because of the possibility of creating unique and exquisite texture unmatched by any other. Cotton is mostly used for weft and warp. Rugs made from rayon are cheaper and less durable though they almost resemble silk.