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Quick Glossary of Oriental Rug Terms

Background Color | Border Color | Layout | Pattern | Pile | Weave | Foundation | Manufacture Category | Age | Condition

Top | Background Color: Background Color: This is the dominant color in the background of the rug. Background color is the underlying color of the entire rug with the exception of the border. In some cases, however, the background and the border color are the same.

Top | Border Color:In many rugs, the border color is not as readily distinguished as the background color. One reason is that there are always colorful designs and patterns in the border of the rug, and hence they overshadow the actual border color. But if you examine the border carefully, you will be able to discern the dominant color in the border. Major border colors are red, blue, beige, yellow, and green. These colors come in various shades and hues.

Top | Layout
All-over: In this layout, there are no dominant or central designs. The motifs on the rug are spread throughout the rug. Sometimes they are connected and sometimes they are separate. Usually a single motif or a group of motifs is repeated throughout the rug. The motifs could be small and repeated many times, or large and repeated only a few times.

Repeating: In a repeating design, which is a very common example of the all-over layout, a single motif or group of motifs is repeated throughout the rug.

Endless Repeat: In an endless repeat, the motifs do not end and are interrupted by the borders. Some say this design is symbol of eternity.

Panelled: In a panelled design, the background is divided into compartments. The same motif could be repeated in all the compartments, or different motifs could be repeated in different compartments.

Medallion: In this layout, a large centerpiece called medallion is the focal point of the design. In Persian, this centerpiece is called toranj. The medallion layout is by far the most frequently encountered layout in every handmade rug producing country.

One Sided: In this layout, the design is woven in one direction. Therefore, the rug can be properly viewed only from one side, similar to a photograph. For this reason, this layout is also known as one-directional. Prayer and pictorial rugs fall into this category.

Top | Pattern
Pattern is one of the most helpful elements in narrowing down rug selection, especially after size and color. It is also a helpful element in finding the style and make of a rug. We could define pattern as the way lines are used to form shapes on a rug.

Curvilinear: Patterns created with smooth curving lines are called curvilinear. Curvilinear patterns can be seen in all three layouts of all-over, medallion, and one-sided. Creation of curves generally requires a higher knot density. However, a high knot density does not automatically result in a curvilinear pattern.

Geometric: Patterns created with straight lines are called geometric. Their designs are created mostly with right angles, diagonals, triangles, and other geometric shapes. Geometric patterns can be seen in all three layouts of all-over, medallion, and one-sided. With some exceptions, geometric rugs are predominantly woven by nomadic tribes and village groups. The ones woven by nomads tend to be simple and the ones woven by villagers or workshops can have either simple or very complex motifs such as geometric rugs of Heriz (Persian) style, which are very intricate. Baluchi, Turkoman, Turkish and Caucasian styles are good representations of the geometric pattern.

Pictorial: Pictorial rugs portray people and/or animals and are usually based on history and mythology. The naturalistic and realistic depiction of people and animals is not very common in the East; therefore, pictorial rugs are a special and less common pattern. Pictorial rugs should not be mistaken with all-over hunting scenes. In pictorial rugs people and animals are the main design. In all-over hunting scenes, they are the supplementary decorative motifs.

Top | Pile:Pile refers to the material (fiber) used for weaving rugs. Only natural fibers are used in handmade rugs. The main pile materials are wool, silk and cotton. Sometimes, goat and camel hair are also used by nomadic and village weavers. (Wool, Silk, Cotton)

Top | Weave: Weave refers to the technique used in weaving handmade rugs. There are two major weaving techniques: pile weave and flat weave.

Pile weave: In this technique the rug is woven by creation of knots. A short piece of yarn is tied around two neighboring warp strands creating a knot on the surface of the rug. After each row of knots is created, one or more strands of weft are passed through a complete set of warp strands. Then the knots and the weft strands are beaten with a comb securing the knots in place. Even though all pile rugs are woven with knots, different weaving groups use different types of knots. Turkish Knot, Persian Knot, Tibetan Knot

Flat Weave: Flat weave refers to a technique of weaving where no knots are used in the weave. The warp strands are used as the foundation and the weft stands are used as both part of the foundation and in creating the patterns.

Top | Foundation:Foundation refers to the basic structural components of handmade rugs. These components consist of warps and wefts. In general, the same material is used for both warp and weft, and it is often cotton. Wool is used as a foundation material in some nomadic and village rugs because wool is readily available to these weaving groups. Silk is generally used in foundation of rugs with silk piles. Rugs with silk foundation and pile are very exceptional and expensive. These rugs are light in weight and are very finely knotted. Silk is a very good foundation material because it is very strong and keeps its shape.

Top | Manufacture Category:Handmade rugs are produced in different settings referred to as category. Handmade rugs are generally woven in the settings of nomadic, village, workshop and master workshop.

Nomadic: Nomadic rugs are woven by tribes who are mostly sheepherders, live in tents and migrate to the mountain pastures in the summer.

Village: Village rugs are woven by villagers. In village settings, usually all family members or the women of the family are weavers and their home is their place of work.

Workshop: In a workshop setting, both men and women are employed, and very skillful weavers can eventually become master weavers and receive widespread recognition and financial rewards. Workshops are far more sophisticated than nomadic tents or village settings. They have more sophisticated tools such as large permanent vertical looms, and use a large variety of dyes. Also, rug weavers usually work from a cartoon (a drawing laid out on squared paper) or work under the supervision of a master weaver who calls out both the weaving and the color of each knot.

Master Workshop: Master workshops are specialty workshops run by usually a well-known master designer/artist. The rug weavers are talented students who are directed by the master designer. In this setting very unique rugs are woven.

Top | Age

Antique: Rugs over 60 years old are considered antique.

Semi-antique: Rugs between 25 to 60 years old are considered semi-antique.

Contemporary: Rugs less than 25 years old are considered contemporary.

Top | Condition

Fine: A fine rug is a rug in excellent shape with no stains, tears or holes, and no previous repair work. Since handmade rugs are very durable, most rugs are in fine condition. It is very easy to maintain a rug in its fine condition.

Average: An average rug is a rug which may have undergone or may require some minor repair because of a few broken or torn warp strands, knots or fringes. If repair is needed, it could simply be done at a professional rug retailer.

Worn: A worn rug is a rug which may have discoloration, fading, insect or foundation damage. However, rugs with no damage and only extensive pile wear are also considered worn. Worn rugs, even though worn, should not be dismissed because similar to fine and average rugs, they can still have a very good resale value. Some are even considered valuable antiques.


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