Carpet Weaving Techniques
Carpet weaving is a process of creating textiles by interlacing threads. It is done on a loom, which is a frame, like a piece of equipment that holds two types of thread: warp and weft.
Parts of a Carpet
The four main parts of a Persian carpet are as follows:
- Warp – It is the main backbone of a carpet and it consists of yarn strands that stretch from top to bottom, vertically. These strands are stretched on the loom before weaving begins. Once the rug is completed and cut from the loom, the ends of the warp make up the fringe. The warp is normally made of wool, cotton or silk.
- Pile – It is referred to as the collection of knots of yarn that are twisted between the warp strands. The knots are weaved in either the Turkish (Traditional, Ghiordes, Symmetrical) knot, or the Persian (Commercial, Senneh, Asymmetrical) knot.
- Weft – These are yarn strands that are inserted perpendicular (width-wise, horizontally) to the warp strands, and woven in and out of the warp strands during weaving. It is normally made up of the same material as the warp but is only visible from the back of the rug. The number of weft strands that pass between the rows of knots is referred to as shoots, and sometimes the weft strands are dyed.
- Edge Finish – Both edges of a woven rug are covered with overcast (a simple running stitch) or selvage (finished with a woven band) in order to reinforce the edges, as they are particularly susceptible to wear.
Looms vary considerably in size and sophistication but the basic principals remain unchanged. A secure frame is required to which the wrap strands are tied. It is either fixed or adjustable. On adjustable looms, the vertical beams are fixed but one or both of the horizontal beams that hold the warp strands in place can be moved up or down the frame. The loom is a crucial factor in the structural quality of the carpet.
The carpets are generally divided into two types: Horizontal looms (flat); Vertical looms (upright).
As the name suggests these are used exclusively by nomad weavers. The fact that the loom is horizontal means the weavers have to do much of their weaving from the sides, which becomes very difficult if the rug is too wide. Thus the nomadic rugs tend to be small, narrow and long. Despite the limitation of the nomadic loom. It is perfectly suited to the nomad’s way of life, being easy to assemble and take down, and not too large or too heavy to be carried by donkey or mule.
These looms can only be used in cities and villages. The structure of these, to some extent, is more complicated than that of the horizontal ones. The design and the measurement of the carpets woven on these looms are more precise than those woven on horizontal looms.
The different forms of vertical looms are as follows:
One kind has the shape of a frame and is composed of two wooden horizontal beams, which are joined from both upper and lower sides. The two other beams connected vertically which run across the horizontal beams.
The warp is stretched between the two horizontal beams. The village loom, which is rather more upright than horizontal, is almost primitive and resembles the nomad loom a lot. The weaver sits on a plank facing the loom and as the weaving advances; the plank is gradually raised higher. In this kind of loom, the length of the carpet is usually shorter than the length of the loom.
In all of the main carpet weaving centers of Iran, the fundamentals of carpets weaving are the same. The warp and the weft are often referred to as “Foundation”. The warps are the strands of the material that run from top to the bottom of the rug and form fringes at the ends. The weft runs width wise.
Normally both the warp and the weft are made from cotton material and white color. Some nomads such as Qashqai, Baluchi, Lori, Bakhtiari, etc. use wool as a foundation.
Stages of weaving
In the early stages of carpet weaving, the first two centimeters (maximum 4 cm.) were woven as ordinary textile and in Persian terminology was called “Kilim-baft”.
After this phase, the basic part of carpet weaving begins. According to the design selected, the fibers that could be the wool, silk or cotton and composed of colored and numbered skeins are laid adjacent or hung from the pile.
After the first row of knotting is executed every other line, one or two weft threads are passed through the warps. As a hook has separated the warps from each other, it is, therefore, easier to pass the weft through the warps.
The function of the weft is to press together and firmly unite the knotted parts to the body of the carpet.
The knots are combed downwards by means of a special metal comb, to press the knots into the carpet. Most of the Persian carpets are usually two wefted and the tribal carpets are one wefted. After weaving a few rows, the senior artisan carefully cuts the head fringes with special scissors.
When the knotting of the carpet is completed, again a few centimeters of the carpet is woven as “Kilim-baft” as was done at the beginning. Then the wraps are cut just a little. Following this, the carpet is laid on the ground or on a flat cylinder where the surface is sheared and smoothed. Machines do the shearing at some of the modern weaving centers of Tehran and Kerman.
The height of the pile, the width of the selvage, number of wefts, length of the fringes, etc. are variable depending upon the local custom and traditions.
The beginning and the end part of the warps that protrude out of a carpet are called fringes. The length of these fringes depends on the local practice and preference.
In Persian Carpets, tying a short length of yarn around two adjacent warp strands so that the ends of the yarn protrude upwards and form the surface (pile) of the carpet creates the pile.
This process is referred to as knotting. The proximity and density of the knots contribute to the fineness and the long wear of the carpet.
With more knots, the pattern and design of the carpet are highlighted.
In the Persian Carpet weaving two main types of knots are used, the Ghiordes Knot or (Turkish) and the Senneh (Persian) knot. Each has it own advantages and disadvantages. In practice, both are considered equally good and the choice of the knot does affect the overall quality of the carpet.
Ghiordes or Turkish knot (symmetric)
The knot is formed by looping the pile yarn across two warp strands and then drawing each end back through the inside of both the warps. This type of knotting produces extremely compact carpets. The Turkish knot is used in north-western parts of Iran; mostly by the tribes and in the provinces of Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Kermanshah, Hamedan, and Zanjan.
Senneh or Persian knot (asymmetric)
The knot is formed by looping the pile yarn through warp strands and then drawing back through one. It’s also referred to as an “asymmetrical” knot. That’s because the pile yarn may be drawn to either the right or left of the warp strands. The Persian knot is mostly used in Eastern, South Eastern and the Central Provinces of Iran and in the cities of Mashhad, Yazd, Kerman, Arak, Ghom, Isfahan, Kashan, and Tehran.
It’s a fraudulent knot used by some dishonest weavers. The knot is produced by tying the pile yarn around four or six warps strands rather than the customary two. It improves the carpet weaving speed, but results in poor structure and is less compact and durable.
Fineness of knotting
The number of knots is one of the main indicators of the fineness of a carpet. The higher the number of knots per square meter, the finer the weave is. Carpets are often classified based on their fineness based on the following scale:
- Coarse carpets (Khersak): 36,000-50,000 knots/square meter
- Medium coarse carpets: 50,000-100,000 knots/ square meter
- Ordinary/medium carpets: 100,000-200,000 knots/ square meter
- Medium/fine carpets: 200,000-325000 knots/ square meter
- Fine carpets: 325,000-500,000 knots/ square meter
- Extra fine carpets: 500,000 – 1,000,000 knots/ square meter
- Rare carpets: Woven with silk filaments and have more than one million knots per square meter.
Rural and Urban Carpets
The vast majority of Persian Carpets are made in the rural and urban centers where looms are positioned permanently. The carpets woven in the village workshops are generally hick and those woven in the urban centers are very fine. Skilled artists produce several beautiful carpets and designs in their private workshops, and sometimes in government-based carpet centers.
Reference: “The Persian Carpet” by Javad Nassiri
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