Carpet Weaving in Provinces of Iran
Iran is the origin of Persian handmade carpet. It has long been known as a fount of beautiful and legendary carpets. And its centers of carpet weaving, since ancient times, have produced thousands of rugs and carpets, many of them precious and valuable.
In the central and south eastern part of Iran there are two uninhabited deserts that cover a vast part of the country. In these deserts, particularly in the central area, there is no living creature and no sign of carpet weaving. On the other hand, on the border of these deserts there are famous cities like Nain, Qom, Yazd, Ravar, and Birjand, in which the finest carpets are made.
In North of Iran, the only cities where runners and rugs of medium quality are woven are Kelar-Dasht, Babol and Amol.
The designs of Kelar-Dasht carpets are generally geometrical and the colors are red and black, the knot being Ghiordes and pile is of medium height.
Carpet weaving along the coast of the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea is almost nonexistent and if one does find carpets, these are often shoddy and of an inferior quality
The fertile and vast province of Azerbaijan is divided into two provinces: east and west. Carpet weaving has never been popular in West Azerbaijan. However, in East Azerbaijan, the development of this industry has always been considerable and worthy of attention.
When in Istanbul (Turkey) the carpets in stock were insufficient, the merchants of Azerbaijan started to install weaving looms in the different cities of its province and throughout Iran. The result of their initiative was the glory and splendor of this industry in Iran. Both course and fine carpets are woven in Azerbaijan, i.e., they weave all types of carpets (within every seven centimeters one can count eighteen up the seventy knots along the length of the carpets.) in the past years and even recently very fine and good quality carpets have been woven in Tabriz but most of them that are produced in the other cities of the province are generally coarsely-woven.
Normally all the carpets woven in Azerbaijan have Ghiordes knots with double-weft. They are durable and hard wearing.
The colors that are most often used in the dye-houses of Azerbaijan are red, blue yellow, green, dark orange, beige and other commercial colors. It can be roughly estimated that fifty percent of the color used in the dyeing centers are provided from natural and herbal sources. For the rest, chemical dyes are used.
The most important weaving centers in Azerbaijan are:
As the capital of Azerbaijan, Tabriz is the place of origin of carpet weaving in Iran. In this city, carpet weaving has had a long record.
During the period of Mongol domination (1221-1449), the city of Tabriz, together with the city of Herat (in ancient Khorasan), was one of the outstanding trade centers where the carpet industry was in its utmost stage of evolution. For many long years, Tabriz carpets, with their interesting designs, durability, fineness, and pleasant colors have always been sought after in Iran and abroad. In the last seventy years, the prevailing designs consist of vases with flowers, trees, animals, hunting-scenes, Mehrab (prayer rugs) with candelabra, branches and leaves with scattered tiny flowers, repeated panels, overall panels, and panoramic.
Tabriz Carpet Design
The dimension of Tabriz productions varies from the smallest up to the biggest sizes. Depending on the design and the fineness of the rug, Tabriz craftsmen can tie about eight thousand to twelve thousand knots daily and those who are skilled and professional tie up to fifteen thousand knots a day.
Numerous workshops have been installed and have been active in this city, among which Sadaghiani, Dilmaghani, Tabatabai, Emand, Ala -baft, Javan and Mashayekhi can be mentioned. Due to their artistic merit, the productions of rugs in these factories were and still are in great demand by local and foreign buyers. Some of these designs have been copied by others weavers in different parts of Iran such as Qom and Kerman as well as in Pakistan and Rumania.
For many years the production of carpets has been very common in Marand. This small town, along with its neighbor Khoy, produce very similar carpets to those woven in Tabriz. It’s very difficult to distinguish the difference between them.
During the Second World War, when carpet weaving in Shirvan and other parts of Caucasia came to a standstill, the Ardabil weavers thought to seize the opportunity and take advantage of the situation. They decided to change and modify their designs and increase their sales.
The runners and the carpets woven in Ardabil are definitely under the influence of Caucasian and Tabriz designs. Recently they have copied the ” Harati” design and produced them in various dimensions.
They count from 100.000 to 300.000 knots in every square meter. They also use silk fibers to weave fine carpets. The prevalent colors of the Ardabil rugs are turquoise blue, off- white, blue, beige and sometimes green.
Sarab was one of the leading carpet-producing centers in Azerbaijan. Although situated near Heris, carpets from this town greatly resemble those of the more distant Meshkin Shahr.
At the present thick and long wearing runners with the background in red and the borders in white and red are woven in Sarab and its surrounding villages. The fields of these runners usually have lozenge and geometrical shaped medallions.
Formerly, carpets were woven with camel wool but at present sheep wool is used for this purpose. The lengths of Sarab carpets are normally two to six meters and their width are approximately one meter.
Heriz carpets has been known as long-lasting, woolen and silk carpet with pleasant and agreeable colors. Although the method of weaving these carpets is the same, yet they rarely resemble each other, they are produced in Heris and in thirty nearby villages in medium and big sizes as well as runners. The design of Heriz carpets is normally stylized with a very big medallion in the center that almost covers the field; the corners, too, resemble the center medallion. The predominant colors are ivory, brownish red, dark and bright pink and blue.
Recently the designs of Heriz carpets are copied by Indian and Rumanian weavers, but they are easily distinguished from the original ones as the texture and the colors differ a lot from those woven in Heris. The designs of old Heriz carpets differ radically from those of new pieces.
Gharajeh is another carpet weaving center of which the runners are much demanded both in Iran and abroad. This name is derived from a village that is situated on the western side of Heris. Most of the local weavers produce different sizes of single-weft carpets with geometrical motifs on the borders and in among the three medallions woven in the field of the carpets. The color that they usually apply is dark red.
The network of the warp and weft of the carpet is composed of white cotton thread for the warp and grayish blue for the weft. Other carpet weaving centers of Azerbaijan are Ahar, Meshkin, Bakhshayesh, and Moghan. As a whole, the patterns, colors and method of weaving are almost the same as that of Tabriz.
In the province of Zanjan, three different kinds of carpets are made. The first is double weft and thick-woven, the second kind of carpets are those woven in Afsharieh with double-weft and with very fine designs and colors. Although they resemble those made in Bijar yet they cost much less because the structure, unlike that of Bijar, is not well balanced. The last category is similar to Hamedan rugs. Carpets woven many years ago have had interesting colors such as light blue, light orange and black (a color rarely used in Iran). Other colors that one can find in Zanjan productions are red, blue, brown and beige. The most common dimensions are Sajjadeh and runners.
Kurdistan & Kermanshahan Province
The mountainous areas of these two western provinces of Iran are very suitable for grazing sheep and cattle. The main weaving centers in Kurdistan are Sanandaj (the capital of the province once known as Senneh) and Bijar. In the province of Kermanshahan only a few centers such as Kermanshah and Songhor-Kolyai produce carpets. The quality of carpets in these later cities is not as good as those of Sanandaj and Bijar. In Kermanshah and its surrounding villages most of the rugs are woven in the form of runners and are thick-piled.
A few centuries ago many beautiful carpets were woven in Sanandaj and Bijar. Unfortunately, the quality of the more recent carpets in Kurdistan is not as good as those woven previously. The designs of Sanandaj carpets are mostly monotonous and in these last two centuries the designers and weavers have taken many steps to improve or retouch the former designs. Floral designs are strongly stylized and differ greatly depending on the tribal style and tradition. The design that is most preferred by the weavers is the “Boteh“. This motif is repeated in a parallel line several times in row on the background of the carpet.
Anyhow this design is different from those of Qom, Arak, Kerman and Birjand.
One other design that is woven by the able craftsmen is the Harati design, also known as “Mahi Zanburi ” (fish-bee). Although the Persian knot is known as “Senneh“, the weavers of the area prefer the Turkish knot instead of using the knot that bears the name of their own town. Carpets woven in Sanandaj are very thin, short-piled and have one weft after each row of knots.
In Sanandaj, they often weave “Zar-o-nim” and “Sajjadeh” sizes. The dyers are very precise in their profession. They usually use blue, dark blue, brilliant red, yellow, brown and light pistachio colors. Synthetic dyes are found rather infrequently. The wool used to weave the carpets is hand-spun and very thin.
One of the fine weaves of Iran is Bijar carpet . Carpet weaving has been a traditional occupation for hundreds of years in there.
Throughout their history, the weavers of Bijar have used up to three and even five wefts in each row of knots. This is a much heavier carpet than the typical Sanandaj style. They should always be rolled instead of folded before being moved. There are various designs in Bijar carpets. Some of the dominant designs are as follows: Boteh, Harati, Mina-khani, Zell-e-sultan, Golfarang (flower bouquets).
The size of Bijar carpets is approximately 1.5 to 10 m2. Runners are relatively rare. All the carpets of this area have Ghiordes (Turkish) knots and are thick piled. The dominant colors in this region are red, blue, indigo, ivory and pink.
The province of Hamedan is located in the west of Iran, and the city of Hamedan, the capital of this province, in one of the most ancient and historical cities of Iran.
This province is one of the most important regions in Iran that produces large quantities of carpets, but usually they are of commercial quality. Sometimes one can find fine carpets in Hamedan. Few villages make carpets (large size) but rugs are predominant, with one or two areas specializing in runners.
In this province the carpets are woven in floral and stylized patterns. Their designs are corner medallion, flower bouquets, “Boteh -Miri “, interlaced fish design, which is also known as Harati and Zell-e-Sultan. The knots of the Hamedan carpets are often Ghiordes and they are thick-piled.
Many years ago, the colors used for weaving them was natural beige or camel wool which had a great success amidst the Europeans, as they found them very suitable to spread in the dark and narrow corridors and halls of their buildings. Nowadays they still use these natural colors.
Large dimension carpets, narrow Sajjadeh and wide runners, some Zar-o-nim with bright red and blue colors are those woven in the city of Nahavand.
The Turkish tribe of Borchalu lives between the cities of Hamedan, Tafresh and Farahan and weaves some of the best carpets in the province of Hamedan.
Floral designs with medallion and corners and Harati design with a background of red and beige are those usually woven in Sajjadeh, and Zar-o-nim size in Borchalu. Most rugs are coarsely woven and are of good quality.
In the city of Malayer carpet weaving is very popular and has a good market. The designs, especially the older ones, which are very common in Malayer, are more or less similar to those made in Arak region such as Sarugh and Farahan. Some carpets of this region are famous by the name of “Armani-bafy ” that has the same design as the Caucasian carpets. The ancestor of these weavers had emigrated from Caucasia and Armenia in the 17th century, therefore all the carpets woven in Malayer and its surrounding villages are in stylized patterns, mostly in medallion and Harati design. The sizes often demanded are runners, Kalleghi and Sajjadeh.
In Angilas, situated to the South of Hamedan, the best carpets with good quality raw materials are woven.
Generally, among Persian designs the Harati design is highly valued, especially if woven with patience, good taste and with pleasant colors as done in Angilas.
Harati design that is common in this area and which has no medallions, is triangular shaped and with turquoise colored corners gives an attractive and harmonious aspect to these carpets.
Gholtogh – Gharagoslu rugs
Two of the best types of Hamedan rugs, which one can find in the carpet market, belong to the two local tribes, by the name of Gholtogh and Gharagoslu. The designs of the Gholtogh rugs are very similar to those of Sarugh, while the rugs of the Gharagoslu tribe who live in the area between Bijar and Hamedan resemble those of Turkish carpets and are generally thin and finely woven.
Gholtogh rugs are prized by connoisseurs and sought after by collectors especially the antique and old ones.
The Lors Tribes who are living in western and south-western part of Iran belong to the oldest known of the Iranian peoples. Among the tribesmen and town centers of the Lorestan region, carpet weaving has a more or less good commercial market. Weaving and dyeing, in this area go back to the Kingdom of Ghajar dynasty (1796-1925). The hand-woven carpets of the Lorestan tribesman, which are named “Lori carpets”, are mostly in geometrical designs with a row of medallions in lozenge shape and with a background of red and blue.
One of the most popular designs of the “Lori” carpet is the design composed of weeping willows and cypresses.
Near Bruijerd, in the mountainous plateau of Saraband the weavers produce beautiful carpets with Boteh Miri patterns spread all over the field, which resembles the Sarugh carpets. Another characteristic form of Saraband carpet is the lace-like, where the background is in cream color. In the Saraband region, they also weave carpets with interlaced lozenge medallions resembling those produced in Hamedan.
Shah-Abbas, chose the city of Isfahan as the capital during the Safavid dynasty. He built many magnificent buildings and mosques in the city.
Shah-Abbas, like other rulers of this dynasty patronized Iranian artists and established several court workshops. From that era until modern times, Isfahan has kept its reputation for creating fantastic pieces of art, including fine carpets.
The Second World War caused serious damage to the trade and industry of the market in Isfahan and in the world market. During this period, the raw materials used for weaving rugs such as wool and dyestuffs became expensive. In the meantime, some dishonest and profiteering weavers took advantage of this situation and began to cheat and swindle. The fame and trade of Isfahan carpets that was in the forefront of all other carpets in Iran began to decline and the business was at a standstill. Fortunately, at present, the quality of the dyestuffs and fibers used for the carpets in this area has improved.
By restarting many weaving factories and creating marvelous and fine woven pieces, Isfahan has regained its well-known celebrity.
Isfahan Carpet Designs
In the past years and even at present the artists of Isfahan often design their sketches from the diaphoretic and simple glazed tiles of the Chehel-Sotun Building, Naghsh-e-J ahan, Madreseh Chahar Bagh, Masjed-e- Sheikh Lotf-ollah and other historical buildings. The patterns mostly used in Isfahan rugs are Shah-Abbasi medallion and corner, Eslimi medallion and corner, trees and animals, overall Shah-Abbasi and geometrical medallion and corner.
Isfahan was one important center for the cultivation of various plants used in dyeing. Ronas, (Madder) as well as wild plants containing colored products can now be found in its mountains and deserts.
At the time, due to their abundance, a lot of natural colors were used in the dyeing centers. At present, however, large quantities of dyestuffs, particularly chromatic compounds are used for dyeing the fibers of the carpets. The numbers of the dyestuffs in Isfahan carpets are mostly in beige, buff-white, red, dark blue and turquoise. The wool used for weaving is obtained from Kerman, Yazd, Khorasan, Kermanshahan and foreign sources. Isfahan carpets are amongst the best of Persian products and are as hard wearing and they are very decorative.
The piles of good quality Isfahan carpets are thick and made of ” kork“, the foundation is of cotton, the finest ones are woven on silk.
In the small panel of the Iranian flag at bottom or top of the fine rugs of Isfahan, the weaver’s signature is woven. There are some other towns and districts in the province of Isfahan, where, carpet weaving has had a wide circulation. They are as follows:
In Shahreza, beautiful rugs are made with designs similar to those of Isfahan. One of these designs that is most popular is the Turreted Shah-Abbasi with medallion and corner. It is woven both in this town and in Borujen (in the province of Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari). Usually, in two different colors, the border and the field are in complete contrast, such as light blue and navy blue or white and red.
The town of Josheghan is located a hundred and forty kilometers north of Isfahan. This mall city is important in the history of carpet weaving in Iran and has gained fame for its old style weaving, for the interesting designs and the fast and limpid colors.
A wide range of rugs in geometrical designs is made in Josheghan. The size varies from Sajjadeh to larger pieces.
At present many of these designs are copied and produced in Albania. The quality of Josheghan rugs is very good. The knot density is high 500 to 2.000 knots per sq. dm. And the fresh and vivid colors are chosen from the best natural dyestuffs.
In the city of Kashan, the record of weaving brocade and velvet textiles as well as gold embroidered materials and fine-knotted rugs goes back to the era of the Safavid dynasty. At that time, each piece, in its own range, for the talent performed in dyeing and weaving was a formidable example of craftsmanship. In those days carpet weaving in Kashan reached its highest peak and the talented artists left many valuable samples of their masterpieces of which a certain number ornate the famous museums of the world. One of these is the famous “hunting scene” carpet, which one can admire in the museum of Vienna.
The highest degree in the art of weaving, dyeing and designing carpets in the world is also reflected in the gold-embroidered “Polonaise” carpets.
After this period of splendor, the art of carpet and textile weaving in both Kashan and the other areas began to decline.
Kashan produced carpets of the highest artistic craftsmanship over several centuries, especially those which were produced many years ago, are so beautiful and desirable that many carpet lovers ardently wish to possess one of them.
Not long ago most of the Kashan rugs were woven with Merinos wool, but because of its high cost, the usage of it was limited. At present the wool needed in Kashan and its dependencies is provided from internal sources such as Khorasan, Kermanshahan and Tehran. Formerly “Kork ” and fine silk carpets were produced in Kashan but nowadays Qom is the leader in producing carpets of this category.
Kashan Carpet Designs
Fast-colored, double-weft and Senneh knotted rugs and carpets most often have lacquer-red, dark blue, turquoise blue, off-white beige, brown and pistachio green background.
All formats, especially from about 1.5 x 2-20 m. up the large sizes common. Runners are relatively rare.
Shah-Abbasi medallion and corner, overall Shah-Abbasi, overall vases, Candelabra medallion, tree with Mehrab, portrait, panorama and geometrical Josheghan designs are those mostly woven in Kashan. Warps and wefts are of finely spun cotton. The carpets are dense; the quality is fine to very fine (up to 1,000,000 knots per sq. m.).
Different kinds of carpets and rugs resembling those of Kashan are woven in the Dependencies and the villages such as Nush-Abad, Aran, Fin, Natanz, Ghamsar and Ravand. Amidst these, the most popular are those of Natanz and Ghamsar.
Near the border of the central desert and along the road from Isfahan to Yazd is the city of Nain, famous for its fabulous and splendid rugs. Many years ago, the Aba (sleeveless cloak), was finely woven with camel’s wool in Nain. Almost eighty years ago, the government of that time prohibited the wearing of old-fashioned clothes. The weavers of the Aba were forced to change their profession and they started a new enterprise. The result was the creation of the beautiful and fine rugs that gained worldwide fame both in Iran and abroad.
In the beginning, the designs were those of Bakhtiari and Yazd carpets, and especially those of Isfahan. After the Second World War, specific and determined patterns were made, which were gathered from the whole collection of carpet designs in Iran.
One of the special features of Nain carpets is the insistence of the dyers to use cool colors. Their preference is white, dark blue, light blue, beige and sometimes red.
The dimensions of the Nain rugs vary from the smallest sizes (Pushti) up to larger sizes. Warp and weft are made of cotton, the pile is made of wool, and they normally use the silk around the motifs to make the design outstanding. The designs often used in Nain carpets are overall Shah-Abbasi animal with multiple antlers, multiple armlets (Bazu-bandi), Shah-Abbasi medallion and corner. The weave varies between fine and extremely fine, 3000 – 10000 Senneh knots per sq. dm. To determine the fineness of Nain rugs the terms six ply (shesh-la) and nine ply (noh-la) are often used. Shesh-la is much finer than noh-la.
Chahar Mahal & Bakhtiari Province
The provinces of Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari are two different zones joined together. A district of this province named Bakhtiari is situated between the Zagros Mountains stretching as far as Khuzestan. On the eastern part of the dividing line from Zagros towards Isfahan is Chahar Mahal.
The district of Bakhtiari and Chahar Mahal is the main center and the summer quarters of the big Bakhtiari tribe. The route of their migration is around Shahr-e-Kurd, which extends to the border of Masjed-Suleiman and Izeh (in Khuzestan).
Carpets weaving in this area was first introduced not more than one hundred and eighty years ago.
It would be better to explain that the carpets known as Bakhtiari are not the production of the nomadic tribesmen. These are rather woven by craftsmen of the cities and villages the Armenians and nomads who have settled in the Chahar Mahal area.
The quality and the weaving technique of Bakhtiari rugs vary from locality to locality. The knots are Ghiordes and the weft can be single or double, depending on the place where it’s produced.
These rugs are relatively coarse and durable. However, one can also find decorative and beautiful carpets with interesting and pleasant designs made of natural and brilliant colors, either those woven for Bakhtiari tribal chiefs or those which are produced under the patronage of the Iranian Carpet Company.
The dyers often prefer to use natural colors to dye the fibers of the carpet. Their preference for the background is mostly red, blue, green, golden yellow, turquoise, dark blue and brown.
Small rugs such as Zar-o-nim and Do-Zar up to 12 square meters are produced in this province.
Amongst a large variety of Bakhtiari designs, the one in particular that dominates is the mosaic design or repeated panels. In this type of rug, the field appears with a regular quadrangular and hexagon network.
Each of these panels contain different motifs, woven separately, such as the weeping willow tree, cypress tree, vases full of flowers, a bird on a branch and the Boteh. In these panels, there is no similarity to each other neither in design nor in colors.
Nowadays, in Qom, Birjand and Tabriz, finer carpets are produced, imitating the original patterns of the Bakhtiari rugs.
Important centers for carpets weaving in Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari are Shahr-e-Kurd (main center of the province) and the surrounding villages, Chal-shotor, Saman, Shalamzar, the town of Borujen and the depending villages such as Boldaji, and Faradonbe. In these localities, in addition to the mosaic designs, rugs with Isfahan motifs are also woven.
Owlad, a tribe of the Lors, (South-west of the Bakhtiar district) weaves medium low-priced carpets in mosaic designs whereas another nomadic tribe of the Lors named Yalmeh produces medium fine rugs. The sizes are from the smallest (Pushti) up to eight square meters.
There is a great difference and a complete contrast in the geometrical designs with Bakhtiari patterns woven in Yalmeh. Their style is similar to that of the Qashqai rugs. Yalmeh rugs are generally traded in the Isfahan and Shahreza markets. Occasionally they are classified as Shiraz rugs.
The central province and its capital Arak (former Sultan-Abad) is one of the most important carpet producing centers in Iran.
The carpet weaving in this area dates back to the time when Shah-Abbas, gave his consent for the settling of a group of Armenians in that area. Among them there were many skilled weavers, but the main progress occurred during the reign of the Ghajar dynasty. The basic reasons for the development of the carpet weaving industry was due to the fact that many merchants from Azerbaijan invested conspicuous sums of money for supplying and exporting carpets to the German markets.
Moreover, many foreign companies opened branches in Arak, for business enterprises and exportation purposes. The most famous of them was an English firm, Ziegler, which established workshops and installed looms (in 1883 in Sultan-Abad), for producing carpets according to the demand of the European market.
After the defeat of the Germans and their allies in the First World War, Arak lost most of its best customers. Soon after that, the economic crisis in America (1929) and its extension to almost all parts of the world caused a grave setback in the carpet industry in Iran. This decline continued even during the Second World War.
Fortunately, after a very short period, with the effort and support of a great number of Persian capitalists this art regained its activity once again. The reason for the changes resulting from these wars and the depression was that the foreign companies were forced to close their branches in Iran.
It became necessary for them to transact their business activities through Persian merchants, who themselves turned over the orders to the local capitalists in different regions of Iran.
Most of the carpets woven in Arak are of medium quality but there are some valuable Sarugh and Farahan carpets that are highly regarded by buyers and collectors.
The colors used for these carpets are mostly herbaceous. Except for Farahan carpets, all the others woven in the area of Arak have Senneh knots. In this locality it is almost rare to find fraudulent knots (gereh-jufti). The wool of the Arak carpets is of the best quality.
The design of the carpets, which, by the way are very limited in this region, differs from region to region. Their sketches were usually composed of branches and leaves with blue borders and a rose-colored background.
The carpet weaving centers of this province are as follows:
Sarugh approximately 40 kilometers north of Arak, has a good reputation among buyers in Iran and abroad and the fame of these rugs is widely diffused in the United States. The best carpets of this district are woven in a small village by the name of Giass-Abad.
Many different designs are used for modern Sarugh, among them the medallion and corner designs, Harati, Boteh and Lattice patterns. The classic colors used in Sarugh carpets are red, blue, beige, green and yellow.
Old and antique pieces had mostly pink and pastel colors. Except in some older pieces in the Senneh knot is used in Sarugh carpets.
The single-weft carpets woven in Tafresh and its surrounding villages are of rather good quality.
Instead of big carpets and runners the weavers prefer to produce Sajjadeh sizes in red, dark blue, beige, green and orange colors.
The weave is generally medium fine to fine with 1000 to 2500 knots per sq. dm. In antique pieces the number rise up to 4000 knots per sq. dm, which has captured worldwide fame. Some of these carpets, which are of medium quality, are generally known as “Musel-Farahan“.
Among the different categories of Arak carpets, Farahan carpets are the most famous and renowned of them all. Their design, knots and method of weaving are very similar to those of Sanandaj carpets.
At present carpets and runners with very small flowers with yellowish green colors resembling those of the Harati design are produced in this area.
In Farahan as in Sanandaj, rugs resembling a folded horse saddle are woven.
Amongst the Armenian community of this district, Lilihan carpets are the most famous. These carpets have a velvety surface and are finely woven.
The design and to a certain extent the colors of Lilihan carpets resemble those of “American Sarugh”. Herewith, some explanation is given regarding the “American Sarugh” rugs mentioned above.
At the end of the First World War, a representative of an American firm, KS Taushanjian of New York, who had commercial carpet activities in Arak, chose and created some patterns that he himself selected from the designs commonly used in Arak and Sarugh. Corresponding to these designs a large quantity of two-weft carpets with long pile in different sizes, with a red field and dark-blue border, or light-beige field with dark-blue border, were woven separately from each other. The long piled and beautiful carpets woven in the villages of Vies, situated in southern Arak have geometrical Boteh and Herati designs.
Moreover, the skillful artisans have created a geometrical design that is very particular and difficult to find in the nearby villages.
Almost a hundred and fifty years ago carpet weaving started in the few limited workshops of Tehran.
The creative and interesting design of Tehran carpets with their harmonious, pleasant and attractive colors usually are not familiar to everyone, yet one can easily distinguish the origin of the exquisite handicraft.
In effect, the skillful artist in Iran preferred to establish and create their masterpieces in Tehran.
One of the main reasons for the importance of the art and industry of carpet weaving in Tehran is the presence of numerous workshops and factories for washing, spinning and dyeing the first-rate quality and standardized wool in the city and its outskirts.
Moreover, the establishment of the National Carpet Company and its endeavor to achieve and improve the quality of carpets in Iran, the Carpet Museum, and finally the big bazaar where the most profitable carpet transactions take place influences to a great deal the importance of Tehran as being the center of the art and industry of carpet weaving in Iran.
The Carpet Museum of Iran was inaugurated in Tehran in 1978. In this vast, beautiful museum with its facade showing the loom of carpet weaving one can find a collection of the most exquisite, priceless and precious carpets of Iran from the 17th century to the present time
Presenting the collections of samples of different hand-woven carpets of different areas, research of the background, evolution and improvisation of the art of carpet weaving, and the temporary exhibitions of hand-woven carpets and kilims of Iran, are the aims of this museum. This museum, in addition to introducing and diffusing this art, is trying, by opening classes to teach the weaving, repairing and darning of hand-made carpets, to fulfill its cultural and education role.
If we add to this list of distinctive efforts of the Academy of Fine Arts and its competent and talented artisans. We realize to some extent the reasons behind the renowned name of Tehran carpet.
Due to immigration and the settling in Tehran of numerous weavers from various provinces of Iran, many different kinds of designs can be seen among Tehran carpets. Most of the Tehran carpets have a light background.
Some are copied from ancient drawings and some are new and modern creations with medallion and corner, trees and animals, geometrical and multiple armlet designs. Portrait weaving is also one of the specialties of the skilled artist.
One of the most famous of these artists was Rassam Arab Zadeh, (death February 1998) in whose workshop, until recently, many of the beautiful and precious carpets of Iran have been produced.
The wool used for weaving is of the best quality and to better enhance the design the pile is cut very short.
Tehran is one of the few places where the carpets are woven both with Persian and Turkish knots.
Some carpets are also woven in the surrounding villages of Tehran, such as Varamin, Taleghan and Garmsar
Brief History of Qom Carpet
In spite of the fact that carpet weaving in Qom started almost seventy years ago, it gained widespread recognition and fame for the attractive designs, agreeable colors and nice texture of its carpet within Iran and in all the other parts of the world. For this reason, the carpets woven in the nearby cities of Saveh and Shahreza sometimes are traded under the name of Qom (or Qum).
After the Second World War, carpet weaving in Qom started on commercial grounds, and its fame increased rapidly as the colors, the fibers and the dyes used for weaving were good quality.
In the past and at present, Qom is one of the most important centers for producing silk, Kork and silk-touch (Gul-Abrisham) carpets.
Qom Carpet Designs
The size of Qom carpets are mostly Zar-o-nim, Do-Zar and the carpets of 4, 6, 7and 12 sq. m. Warp and weft are mainly of very finely spun cotton. In silk rugs the weft is also of silk.
The carpets are woven in the Persian knots with 2.500 up to 10.000 knots per sq. dm. Silk carpets even more than this. The color of the carpets woven in Qom are as vast and various at their designs.
The dyers utilize natural or steady chemical color, preferably pastel, turquoise, mustard, golden yellow, bright red, dark blue and beige.
Instead of drawing and designing their own patterns, the weavers prefer to change slightly the design of the carpets which has a great demand in other weaving centers of Iran. In this case, one can mistaken in identifying a rug or a carpet of Qom as a carpet of Kashan or Isfahan but this error never occurs in Tabriz carpets as these are always woven with “Ghiordes” knots whereas the weavers of Qom utilize the “Senneh” knots.
The designs which are mostly used are: repeated panels, paisley (Boteh) profusion, tree design, Shah-Abbasi medallion and corner, overall Shah-Abbasi, Moharramat open ground medallion, inscriptive Mehrabi repetition.
For thousands of years, two third of the population in the province of Fars, composed of different tribes, have lived in this vast land and all the year around move constantly to find a mild climate and green pastures to feed their sheep and cattle.
The Qashqai tribe, who had immigrated to this territory many centuries ago, is the biggest tribe in Fars and even in Iran.
According to historical testimonies, different groups of this tribe moved to this land from the western and eastern regions of the Caspian Sea and the northern province of Khorasan.
The main occupation of the Qashqai tribesmen is animal husbandry, and the art of carpet weaving is customary only among women and young girls.
The rugs woven by them are called Turki-Shirazi and are rarely offered for sale. They prefer to weave these rugs for their own use or give them as dowry to their daughters when they get married.
Like other tribesmen, Qashqai, too, weave their rugs without copying from any pattern on horizontal (flat) looms secured to the ground. Normally, they get their inspiration by referring to another rug.
The wife of a French orientalist, a certain Madame Diolafoi, who together with her husband had lived for some time among the tribesmen of Fars (1884), has written in her diary regarding the carpet weaving of these people:
“The tents of the tribesmen in Fars protect them from the sun but not from the cold. The weaving loom is spread on the ground at the end of the tent.
Whenever this tribe gets ready to move, they roll up the loom and load it on a mule or donkey. When they reach their destination, they once again spread the loom on the ground and start weaving.
This constant moving sometimes causes color change and distortion of the rug. These women receive their training for color blending and weaving from the family, especially from their mother.”
The Design of Carpets in Fars Province
No patterns are used to weave these rugs which are solid and fast as the dyes applied are extracted from vegetables; neither sun nor rain change their colors and these last for generations.
The flat woven rugs of Qashqai are usually small, the standards size being Zar-o-nim and Pardeh.
The wool used in Fars is of the best quality. The rugs are woven in double-weft, with Senneh knots and long pile, the prevailing colors being red, blue and golden yellow, the dye which extracted from the Dyer’s-weed (Esparak) plant.
Synthetic dyes have been adopted since the Second World War. Geometrical and stylized designs are woven into the old carpets partially being influenced by Caucasian designs, those of the Shirvan area, in particular, are preferred. To distinguish the old textured carpets of the Qashqai rugs is dark brown and almost black, whereas those of the Caucasian rugs are lighter in colors.
In the province of Fars one can find a variety of repeat patterns as well as medallion compositions. Geometrical animal and bird drawings are also a common feature and are used both as a part of repeat patterns or as filler ornaments.
Another specific rug which is attributed to this tribe is “Lion rug” (Gabbeh-Shin). A small rug coarsely woven with a multi-weft structure decorated with lion figure.
A big lion or a few small lions are woven in parallel rows in the center of these rugs. Referring to historical records, the religious and traditional beliefs and importance given to a lion by the people of this region, it seems that the design and texture of the “Lion rug” is the initiative of the tribes in Fars, among them in Qashqai’s.
To confirm this statement there is the presence of the figure of a lion in the inscriptions, on many coins and textiles of Sassanian dynasty, which has remained in Persepolis for many years. The people of this territory pay honor and respect to their distinguished and famous personalities, by placing lions made of stone on their tombs.
Gabbeh is one kind of rug produced by Lor tribesmen of Fars province for their own use Rustic simplicity of design and coloring give the rugs an unaffected freshness. The Gabbeh are often made with non-dyed yarn of white, brown, grey and black.
Generally, the pile is long and the number of wefts in each row can reach even ten threads. The majority of the warps in Gabbeh rugs are made of goat’s hair and sometimes of the sheep’s wool.
In one or two borders of the Gabbeh rugs a single and simple geometrical design is woven repeatedly.
There is either a big medallion in a plain field or a very simple tree or a few small lozenges woven along the length of the rug.
Only one basic size is made approximately 1.00 m. to 1.20 m. width and 2.00 to 2.30 m. in length. It’s difficult to find smaller sizes.
Brief History of Shiraz Carpets
The history of carpet weaving in Shiraz goes back ten centuries ago. But during the reign of the Safavid dynasty this art gained considerable fame.
Although during the Zandieh dynasty (1750-1779) the art of carpet weaving was not equal to that of the Safavid dynasty, the art continued to progress.
Some rugs, which have remained from the era of Karim-Khan Zand in Shiraz, are proof of the importance of this art during that period. However, it should be remembered that Shiraz production has never had a top rank among the other fine and exquisite ones produced in Iran. In fact, there are very few carpet workshops in Shiraz and this city is only the center of marketing the rugs woven by the tribesmen and those made in the villages.
The Design of Shiraz Carpets
The rugs produced in some of the villages surrounding Shiraz are woven on horizontal looms. They are of low quality, and are not to be compared with those made by the tribesmen who settled in this area.
The dyes are natural and the predominant colors are red, brown, yellow and blue.
Shiraz carpets have a large design repertoire that includes a variety of floral repeat patterns as well as medallion compositions.
A famous design, which is attributed by some to weavers of the Qashqai and by others to the old and skillful artists of Shiraz, is cypress and lily of the Valley design.
Many experts recognize that as “millefleurs” design. The field of this rug is designed as a Mehrab (Altar).
From the pillars of this Mehrab two half-length cypress trees are included in the inner part of the border (the cypress tree being the symbol of Shiraz). At the tip of these trees or in the other words at the top of the pillars there is a turreted bow. From a big vase placed in the lower part of the rug covering the whole field some flowers emerge together with lily of the valley twigs and narcissus (there are plenty of these in the fields of the Shiraz area). Another turret or bow, which is situated under the vase, connects the pillars to each other. Depending on the locality of its production, the border of the rug is decorated with Harati motifs or repeated designs of birds facing each other on both sides of the Harati flowers. Most Shiraz carpets are coarsely knotted and may be either in the Senneh or Ghiordes knot. Warps and wefts are mainly of sheep’s wool.
In Abadeh and its surrounding villages small and medium size rugs and runners are mostly woven. More recently a small proportion of room size carpets up to 7 m2. Heibat-lu, Moharramat, Zell-e-Sultan and sometimes Boteh. Kurdistan designs are woven into the carpets produced in Abadeh.
Abadeh carpets are good furnishing, the colors are generally a brick red or beige and various shades of blue, yellow and green.
The weave is fairly fine and the woolen pile, on cotton warps and wefts clipped quite thin. The knots are generally Persian from 1500-3000 knot per sq. dm.
Kerman is both the name of the province and its capital. Although carpet weaving in Kerman precedes the Safavid dynasty, yet the flourishing period was during the reign of the same rulers. After the fall of the Safavid dynasty, carpet weaving began to lose its importance.
Another hard blow was the rise to power of Agha Mohammad Khan Ghajar (1786-1797) whose frightful slaughter of the population destroyed the security and economy of Kerman, including its carpet industry. During this period, in spite of the scarcity of carpets, those available are so fine and of such a good quality that the exquisite taste and remarkable skill of the artists and weavers were evident. Towards the end of the Ghajar dynasty, carpet weaving once again obtained its former splendor.
At present, some beautiful Kerman carpets of that period can be seen in some of the museums of the world. In the 19th century, Kerman was one of the leading producers of a type of cloth named “Shawl”, which gained fame in Europe, particularly in England.
After a while the Shawl became out of fashion and the Shawl weavers of Kerman began to weave carpets. Even now the Boteh (Paisley) patterns that originally were used in shawl cloth are in demand both in Kerman and the other carpet centers of Iran.
Kerman was one of the first cities in Iran where many foreign companies installed carpet workshops to supply the needs of the Western markets. The demand for these fine and desirable carpets increased after they were exported to the farthest corners of the world. The essay and the articles written by various researchers also contributed to their fame. During the First World War and afterwards, due to the financial crisis in America, the trade of Kerman rugs became somewhat shaky, but after the crisis was over, it regained its former fame and splendor.
The Americans became fond of carpets with high pile and large flowers. After a short period, their taste changed and they preferred carpets with a plain background and design with small flowers.
So, the Kerman designers complied with the wishes of the Americans and produced beautiful carpets and rugs with harmonious and attractive colors. Every now and then one comes across old Kerman carpets which are even more interesting. This is why the old and antique Kerman have become favorite collectors’ pieces. The dominant patterns which are mostly used in the Kerman workshops are Shah-Abbasi medallion and corner, turreted Shah-Abbasi, Boteh, Eslimi medallion and corner, hunting scenes, Gobelin or heap, overall flower, Eslimi chain or repetition, tree of Life profusion,
About a hundred years ago portrait weaving in Kerman became very popular. Thereafter, the skillful artists started to weave rugs of famous political, historical and religious personalities.
Among them the carpets and rugs commemorating the reign of Ardashir-Babakan, the founder of the city of Kerman (226 A.D.), can be mentioned.
The Design of Kerman Carpets
Almost all the carpets in Kerman are woven with local wool and some other with the wool obtained from the provinces that produce wool which are Rafsanjan, Barn, Jiroft and the areas surrounding Kerman. In spite of the spinning factories that exist in this province, the weavers still prefer to use their own hand-spun wool.
The wool is glossy but sometimes very soft. Kerman carpets are double-weft with Senneh knots. Once in a while double or false knots can also be found here.
In the Kerman carpet there are many varieties of color. Even fifteen to thirty colors can be seen in one single carpet. The fields of most of them are red. Light green, indigo blue turquoise, pink orange and beige. Until recently, in the dyeing factories, these colors were used to dye shawls and carpets.
After the Second World War, synthetic dyes found their way into these factories. Since then, except in some limited cases, the wool used to weave Kerman carpets is always dyed with natural or with fast chemical colors.
The quality and the fineness of Kerman carpets are divided into four categories, which are generally known in the market by the double number 35/70, 40/80, 45/90 and 50/100. The explanation of these numbers is that the figures 70, 80, 90 and 100 represent the number of warps in seven centimeters of the length in a carpet. As each knot is tied over two warp threads, a carpet of 35/70 is 35×35 knots in 49 (7×7) sq. cm. And a carpet of 40/80 is 40×40 knots in 49 sq. cm. And so on. On the basis of this classification, the numbers of knots in each sq. m. in these groups of Kerman carpets are as follows:
An important carpet-weaving center of this province other than the cities of Kerman, Rafsanjan, Sirjan and Mahan is a village by the name of Ravar that many erroneously call Lavar. It’s situated to the North-east of Kerman, the carpets of this village that are very famous are known as Kerman Ravar.
The ancestors of the Afshar tribesmen were the Turkmen, who first dwelled in the Caucasian area and around Lake Orumiyeh (north-west of Iran).
Successively by order of both Shah Esmail Safavi (1502-1524) and Nader Shah Afshar (1736-1747) they emigrated and settled in the villages surrounding Kerman. At present these people live in the towns of Sirjan, Neyriz and Shahr-e-Babak, in the heights of Bafgh, on the slopes of the Lalehzar Mountain and in the South and West of Kerman.
The Caucasian design is still dominant among these nomadic weavers. Most of these carpets with their geometrical and stylized designs have enriched the collection of Iran ‘s carpet designs.
Red, blackish blue, purple and ivory are the predominant colors of Afshar rugs. The designs most common are Boteh, Vase (Goldani), latticed lozenge, overall flowers and the five-medallion design. Sirjan rugs have mainly geometric designs with large repertoire of ornaments based on polygons, plain and hooked diamonds. Normally the sizes of Afshar rugs are small and one can rarely find carpets that exceed four sq. m.
Yazd is located on the road that leads from Isfahan to Kerman and is also on the border of the Central desert of Iran (Dasht-e-Kavir).
Long ago this city was one of the most famous hand-weaving centers in Iran. After the installation of textile factories, the textile weavers, to earn their living, were obliged to work in the carpet workshops.
In design and pattern the carpets of Yazd are very similar to those of Kerman. Normally the difference between these two is the quality of Yazd carpets, which is better than those of Kerman.
The weavers of this area select the best quality natural and chemical colors for the carpets. They obtain the red color from madder root and cochineal. Craftsmen of Yazd mainly weave room size carpets up to 3×4 m. Brocade and silk has been produced in Yazd Nowadays there is a great demand for the woolen and silk carpets of Yazd in particular for those woven with Harati and medallion designs.
The dominant patterns in the Yazd workshops are Shah-Abbasi medallion, tree of life, Harati and Paradise designs.
The vast province of Khorasan is one the most important weaving centers in Iran. The art of carpet weaving in this province dates back to the Sassanian period (241-641 A.D.). When Shah-Rokh Mirza (Timurid Dynasty), was in power (1405-1447), Harat the capital of this dynasty, which is now is Afghanistan was one of the most important weaving centers in Iran.
The famous design of “Harati” that is very popular among the Persian weavers, is attributed to the designers of this city.
Like other weaving centers in Iran, its progress is related to the period of the Safavid dynasty, but the real boom in the carpet industry began when the merchants of Tabriz installed many looms in this region for exportation purposes.
In this province, carpets are woven both with Persia (Senneh) and Turkish (Ghiordes) knots, (majority in the Persian knot).
The designs that are mostly used are Shah-Abbasi, Boteh and Harati.
The dyers utilize natural colors such as mauve red, dark blue and some other classic dyes.
Mashhad, the capital of the Khorasan is the largest weaving center in north east of Iran. In Mashhad there is a tradition of weaving in the style of Kerman or Yazd.
Mashhad has the reputation of not being very hard wearing, owing to the weakening of the yarn in the dyeing process. Mashhad carpets belong to the middle category, but some interesting carpets are found.
Typical designs of Mashhad carpets are Shah-Abbasi Medallion Arabesque and Harati. The dominant colors are red and brown.
Many of Mashhad carpets bear the weaver’s signature.
Some of them are Amoghil, Saber, Shesh-Kalani, Zarrineh, and Kafi.
The finest carpets of Khorasan come from the Birjand region; the designs that are most preferred by the weavers of this region are Harati (bee fish) and Boteh.
Orange-red, used with a contrasting blue are characteristic shades of Birjand rugs. Beige is often used as a ground color of the field.
Birjand rugs are woven in the Persian Knot. Unfortunately, fraudulent knots can be found in Birjand workshops very often.
The town of Kashmar about 150 km South-west of Mashhad produces a great number of large sizes with different designs from Kashan, Kerman, Tabriz and Varamin. The main colors are red, dark blue. There are also many subsidiary colors such as: beige, green and ivory.
Kashmar carpets are woven in the Persian knot, and the weave is like that of Mashhad.
A great number of mediocre rugs are made by the Baluchi tribes which have been settled in the region of Khorasan since the 18th century around Mashhad, Torbat-e-Heydariyeh, Torbat-e-jam, and Sarakhs and in the Province of Sistan-Baluchistan around Zahedan and Iran-Shahr. A number of Baluchi Tribes in Afghanistan also weave rugs.
All the Baluchi rugs are geometrical and stylized in design and they are influenced by Turkmen and Caucasian designs. One of the designs, which the Baluchi weavers like to produce, is in the shape of a tree that is generally known as “The Tree of Life”.
The designs of Harati, Boteh and Mina-Khani are woven in stylized patterns too.
Baluchi rugs are very light in weight with Senneh knots. They are often made of local wool.
In the old times, the Baluchi tribesmen also used camel wool. The weft and warp of these rugs were taken from the wool of goats and sheep, but now cotton is normally used for this purpose.
Preferred colors are red, brown, black and beige and the dyes used are mostly natural. The dimension of Baluchi rugs is rarely more than 6 sq. m. and the most sought after and requested sizes are between “Pushti, Zar-o-nim and Kalleghi”.
The Turkoman tribesmen, whose ancestor were the Mongol Turks, years ago, settled between Bojnurd and Gonband-e-Kavus (towns located to the south-east of the Caspian Sea). Some of the tribal weavers of “Tekke”, who after the October Revolution, fled from Turkmenistan and took refuge in Iran, continued to weave their famous rugs. Thereafter, they joined the “Atabay” and “Jafarbay” tribes who actually belonged to the “Yamut” group. As is customary amongst the other tribesmen, the Turkoman carpet producers also weave their single-weft rugs on horizontal looms.
There are three well-known designs woven in this tribe. One is the “Turkoman Ghashoghi” (spoon) design.
The other is the “Turkoman Akhaf “(Bokhara) or Ghazal design as the repeated polygons resemble the deer’s eye. The last is the “Chahar-Fasl” (four seasons) design, produced by the Tekke craftsmen, composed of a small cross in the center, dividing the rug into four parts. Normally, in the lower and uppers parts and beyond the border of the Turkoman rugs, extra pieces by the name of Shanneh (comb) are woven, which are not utilized in the other carpet weaving centers.
The sizes of Turkoman rugs vary from one meter up to twelve sq. m. The colors widely used are lacquer-red, green, white and beige. Formerly the dyes used for the wool in Turkoman area were obtained from natural sources, but at present chemical dyes have partly begun to come into use.
Reference: “The Persian Carpet” by Javad Nassiri