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Armenian Orphan Rug, the “Ghazir,” 1926 (Wikipedia)

The Ghazir Orphan Rug

In every civilization, fabric and carpets have been woven, not to mention baskets. Persian rugs are the nec plus ultra and may cost millions. With the advent of computers, it may be that making a carpet can be programmed. But will it show little animals, flowers, whirling lines, etc.

Persian carpets have pile.’ The pile, wool or silk, or other material, is knotted and it stands upwards. However, the warp is one’s first component. The warp is a vertical thread, often simple cotton, but it must be strong cotton. It holds the knots. Yet, some rugs are made entirely of silk. The weft or woof is the horizontal part of the rug or tapestry. The wool or silk can be inserted manually, with a thick needle, but a shuttle is very practical. The flying shuttle was invented by John Kay (17 June 1704 – c. 1779) in 1733. It goes back and forth mechanically.

1-2-3-4 (left to right, both rows)

Rugs with pile

  • woven rugs warp and weft (woof) (illustration, 1)
  • rugs with pile

Kilims are woven rugs. They combine warp and weft and are flat. In carpets with pile, the pile (standing upwards) is knotted around the warp  (see illustration above, 4) and one combs it down evenly. At this point, one can insert silver, gold and precious gems. There may be rows of plain weft separating knotted wefts (see illustration below, 5). That choice depends on the thickness and density one wishes to give the rug.

5-6 (left to right)

The rug’s pattern and its motifs are designed on paper (a carton). One must be very careful. If the wool, silk or other material in kilims is coloured the colours may be introduced separately. It is as if one made slits (see the illustration above, 2). One has to know exactly how many rows of weft and knots will be required to make a flower or a rabbit or a geometrical design. To make sure the surface of the rug is even one cuts the wool or silk in equal lengths. But one may shape the wool or silk after the rug is woven. Chinese rugs are often carved and the effect is stunning.

At the two extremities of the rug one leaves a few rows of cotton, or other material, woven (the weft) horizontally and a fringe (the warp). These few rows do not contain knots and are woven tightly. The fringe (the warp) may be knotted (see illustration above, 6).


There are, of course, preliminaries. One must card (comb) the wool. To my knowledge that is done before the wool is washed. There are instructions on the internet according to which one washes the wool before it is carded. Unwashed wool contains a form of glue without which one cannot spin the wool.

Spinning determines the thickness of the wool. A mere hand spindle will produce good wool. In fact, so will a pencil. But there are spinning wheels. The goal is to twist the wool into a form of thread. It is possible to produce carpet bags, or prayer rugs, sitting in one’s living-room. One builds a frame and drives in little nails (finishing nails) at both ends, or extremities. The nails hold the warp (vertical).

To colour the wool, one first uses a mordant (mordre: to bite), such as copper, to fix the dye. The wool is put in the mordant and one lets it soak. Once the wool has absorbed its mordant, it is possible to fix the dyes. They will hold. If one puts the wool in onion skins dipped in water, one produces various golds. One uses cochineal (a crushed insect) to obtain reds and pinks, depending on the mordant one has used. Indigo is popular colour.

Basically, oriental rugs are made as described above, but techniques may vary from country to country. Large carpets require large looms. They are made in more spacious facilities and the process is time-consuming. Haida Amerindians living on the west coast of Canada make waterproof textile and use it to transport water. The Haida people are superb artists.


Turkey, Carpet with Triple-arch Design (1575 -90)



The Czartoryski Carpet, 17th century


The Czartoryski Museum (above)


Armenian Carpet “Gohar”

with Armenian inscription, 1700, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh) (Wikipedia)


The Bellini Carpets (MMA, NY)

Venice and the Islamic World, 828 – 1797 (click to see the Bellini carpets)


I wish to thank our colleague Bryan Hemming for letting me know about the Gentile Bellini knot. I would have to find a manual to see how the Bellini knot is made. By and large, two kinds of knots are used in weaving carpets, which does not preclude using other knots (see illustration at the top, 3 & 5).

We’ve barely entered Venice. It is the West’s first connection with the Ottoman Orient and it is part of a trade route. Glass was/is also made in Venice or just off Venice, the lovely Murano glass. The “Silk Animal Carpet,” shown below, is housed in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

A long time ago, I learned how to make carpets and tapestries. I still have a supply of wool I made from ‘a’ to ‘z’. I have repaired damaged carpets.

Love to everyone.


Silk Animal Carpet, Iran, 16th century

© Micheline Walker
7 October 2016