A Beginners Guide to Persian and Oriental Rugs

AD | So you have decided to buy a handmade rug with a wool or silk pile – a beautiful handmade artisan floor covering that will give years of pleasure, comfort and practicality. Where do you start to decide what is best for you?!

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Rugs are made in tens of thousands of different permutations combining qualities, sizes, materials, designs, colours and price points. The layperson can narrow the options down to types rather than country of origin; many Persian rugs (made in Iran) are copied across the rug weaving world so this fact negates shopping for a ‘Persian rug’ as they are marketed by design. If you ask for a Persian ‘Kashan’ rug, after doing your research on the internet or at a retailer, always ensure you know where it was actually made. However, to confuse the issue some copies made in Pakistan are actually superior in every respect to many of the Persian examples!

City/Workshop Rugs

City/Workshop rugs are the finest qualities in terms of knots per square inch or metre (kpsi/m2). They are generally formal designs, having a central medallion and four corner spandrels – triangular corner decorations mirroring the central medallion. Outside of these areas will be a pattern of flowers, trees or animals connected with curvilinear connecting tendrils. A border will enclose the whole. Many of these finer rugs are woven indoor gardens and interpretations of Paradise.

The colours can be a little garish for more northerly daylight and some of the wool is hard and brittle but the number of ‘kpsi/m2’ offers great detail, as the finished pile can be trimmed very low to give clarity, and a certain longevity. The dyes are almost always chemically made as they give a regularity of tones. Expect to pay more for a good example, especially with a silk pile, than most other types. They are well suited to any room in the home but do not have a country/cottage/farmhouse feel.

However, they look highly decorative and surprisingly so in a contemporary room! They are made in all sizes and shapes – mats to massive, narrow hall runners, octagons and hexagons and squares.

Village Rugs

Village rugs are hand woven in a cottage industry which largely produce the floral formal designs but with larger motifs, often hand spun rather than machine spun wool, a longer pile with a softer, more comfortable feel. There are more examples of geometric designs as the more angular layout suits a larger, looser knot with fewer ‘kpsi/m2). You will also find more vegetable dyes in these rugs as the natural discrepancies in how the dyes are fixed to the wool are very attractive. Silk is almost never used.

These rugs are woven largely from memory, rather than a set written or chanted design, so have a more individual feel than the finer City/Workshop rugs. Although mostly a looser weave too they make up for it with more naturally processed wool and dyes. They are the best of both worlds and are often a better all-round rug than any other type. Available in all sizes but not octagons and hexagons.

Tribal Rugs

Tribal rugs are still made in large numbers but now by settled tribespeople rather than migratory. The prices should reflect the qualities, which are often pretty poor if bought for longevity. They offer far less structured designs- the border and medallion (s) are set by tradition but the infilling of angular stylized flowers, animals, trees and sometimes people are decided by the woman weaver. This can make them highly charming naïve art forms.

There are very few finer, tougher tribal rugs – most are soft and floppy made with long stapled, hand spun wool. You can use these rugs as bed covers, over the backs of chairs and sofas and as table cloths! They are beautifully warm with lovely lanolin soaked wool and are mostly available in red – with secondary colours of blues, blacks, creams and some quote zingy hot pinks and greens. Available in regular rectangular sizes but only up to about 12’x9’ (3.74×2.96).

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Twenty-something lifestyle blogger from Essex. Book lover, Slytherin, organisational wizard and enjoys Motorsport, Disney and Yoga.

4 thoughts on “A Beginners Guide to Persian and Oriental Rugs

  1. It is interesting to see how rugs are made. There are so many different types out there for different themes. I admire the skill it takes to make one by hand. Thanks for sharing these tips!

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

  2. It’s rare to find a green Persian rug, as green is holy in Islam and would never be trodden upon 😊

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