Oriental rugs are some of the most beautiful carpets available.
But how are Oriental rugs made? Are those intricate designs that difficult to create?
As it turns out, years of craftsmanship and experience are poured into every oriental rug. Generations of carpet-making knowledge goes into the final product sitting in your home.
Today, you’re going to learn exactly how oriental rugs are made. Many customers ask us what goes into creating one of our rugs, so I wanted to break it down for anyone confused or curious about the process.
But first, let’s go through a little backstory to provide some context…
The Difference Between Oriental Rugs & Other Rug Styles
Where Oriental Rugs Come From
First, as far as we know, oriental rugs originate in Asia and the Middle East.
However, the exact origin of carpet-weaving is unknown, as much of the archeological evidence is spread over a wide geographical region. (The oldest known pile-woven woven carpet is the Pazyryk, dating back over 2,500 years.)
Iran, China, India, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Tibet and Nepal are some of the biggest exporters of oriental rugs in the modern era. However, the traditional styles and designs have remained consistent for hundreds of years.
Many other rug styles are more contemporary. They were designed in present-day times to fit modern design trends.
Oriental Rug Colors
Color is one of the main factors distinguishing oriental rugs from other rug types.
Different shades of the following colors are heavily featured in many designs:
Oriental Rug Color Symbolism
As carpet-weaving evolved, each color came to represent different aspects of society or emotions.
For instance, red symbolized happiness, joy, courage, wealth, luck, and life force. Blue symbolized honesty, solitude, power or the afterlife. Brown was the color of fertility, earth and soil.
We can still experience these symbolisms today, but they do not influence purchase decisions as much as they have historically.
Oriental Rug Style & Design
Oriental rug designs consistent of intricate geometrical shapes and wavy patterns, often surrounded by a thick border also containing design elements.
These designs are “busy” with continuous color changes. As your eye moves along the rug’s surface, you can envision the precision each weaver carefully deployed.
Oriental rugs are characterized by a combination of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines. These lines make up various shapes that are repeated symmetrically across the rug to create the same motif. (This motif can also be analyzed to determine the rug’s place of origin.)
Many oriental rug designs also feature a large central design element, or medallion. Typically, no two medallions are ever exactly the same.
Oriental Rug Material, Dyes, & Knot Types
The most common material used to create oriental rugs is wool. Wool is an excellent rug making material, because it’s a renewable resource (sheared from sheep and sometimes camel or goats), it feels luxurious to the touch, and it’s durable.
Silk is also used to create oriental rugs. Due to its high cost, however, silk is much less common than wool and is used to make expensive, extremely high quality carpets. It’s recommended that silk rugs be used as wall hangings or in areas of low foot traffic.
There is also the option of wool & silk blends. Learn about wool and silk rugs, we offer rugs dyed with 100% organic vegetable dyes.
Cotton is the third material commonly used to make oriental rugs. Cotton is usually used as the foundation of a rug, which is only slightly visible from the rug’s top surface.
Natural Vegetable Dyes & Synthetic Dyes
In terms of dyes (coloring) there are two main types: Natural vegetable dyes and synthetic dyes.
Synthetic dyes are man-made by various chemical compounds. While there is some merit to using certain synthetic dyes for certain types of rugs (and parts of rugs), authentic oriental rugs are colored with natural dyes.
These dyes come from vegetables, such as:
- The root of the madder plant (red to orange)
- Indigo, extracted from the indigo plant (light blue to navy)
- larkspur or isparuk (pale yellow to yellow-brown)
- oak bark (brown)
- tannin, oak tree galls (black)
- double-dye of larkspur and indigo (green)
And parts of insects, such as:
- Cochineal, or dried insect carapace (bright red to burgundy)
- Lac, or resin secreted by insect (blue-red to purple-red)
Oriental rugs are also characterized by different knot types used to weave each rug. Ghiordes, Jufti, Kilim/Flat-weave, Senneh, and Senneh/Flat-weave are some of the most common.
Different geographical regions and styles use varying types of knots, which the trained eye can examine on the back of the rug.
Oriental Rug Pricing
You may be wondering, why do oriental rugs cost so much?
First, it takes a massive amount of skill and craftsmanship to create an oriental rug. That knowledge is passed down through generations and cannot be emulated by a machine.
Authentic oriental rugs also use high quality material and natural dyes. This material and dye is more expensive, but it also helps the rug last many decades (as opposed to the 3-5 year lifespan of synthetic rugs).
Oriental rugs are difficult to craft, in general. They feature curved weavings, which take more skill and time.
Knot count (or knots per square inch) is also high in oriental rugs. The higher the knot count, all else being equal, the higher the rug’s quality.
Oriental rugs are priced based on a combination or their history, aesthetic beauty, difficulty of craftsmanship, and quality of material used.
Who Makes & Sells Oriental Rugs
Oriental rugs are manufactured and shipped across the World.
We manufacture our rugs in Pakistan and the United States, and we sell to primarily U.S. based homeowners and interior designers.
But there are many other manufacturers and retailers out there, as well. You can read about where to buy oriental rugs in Maryland and Virginia.
Check out his video for more information on where to buy an oriental rug:
How Long Does It Take to Make an Oriental Rug?
Oriental rugs can take anywhere from a couple months to a few years to put together.
However, the majority of rugs are manufactured within two to five months. Let’s see what happens during that two to five month period...
How Oriental Rugs Are Made - Step by Step
Step 1: Tools & Setup
Creating an oriental rug starts with the loom.
The loom consists of a structure with two horizontal beams parallel to each other that are held up in front of the artisan. The distance between each one depends on the width of the rug being made.
A “warp,” or vertical strands of wool, cotton, or silk that make up the rug’s foundation, is then attached to the beams.
The main material (for the purpose of this article, we will describe the process using wool, but silk and other material can be substituted as well) is coated in sea salts. This helps the dye stick and set.
Step 2: The Wool is Dyed
The dye is put into separate containers based on its color. Then a large amount of wool is submerged into each container.
This allows the dye to stick and set onto the wool. It must be checked every so often by an expert artisan to make sure the correct shade is achieved. It takes years of practice and skill to know when the material is dyed the correct amount.
The longer the wool stays submerged, the deeper the color. Overdyed rugs are very popular for people who love deep, vibrant colors.
Step 3: The Wool is Hung Out to Dry
The wool becomes soaking wet during the dyeing process. Thus, it must be dried before an artisan can start weaving the wool into a beautiful rug.
The wool is usually hung out in the sun, if possible. Otherwise, it is placed in a special drying room.
Step 4: The Wool is Coiled
Once dried, artisans coil the wool in preparation for weaving.
The coiling process can take a long time, but it saves time down the line. It’s much easier to pull wool onto the loom and manipulate it if it has been pre-coiled.
Step 5: The Rug’s Design is Drawn
Artists draw out the rug’s design so that the weavers can follow along during the creation process. This is commonly referred to as the “cartoon.”
These days, software like Photoshop can be used to make changes on the fly.
The entire rug does not need to be drawn out. It only needs to be drawn out enough so weavers understand the design and can continue it.
(At RugKnots, we also use Photoshop to give customers a preview of the rug in their home before buying it. Contact us about the Ask A Designer service to utilize this service.)
Step 6: Coiled Wool is Loaded Into The Wool Room
The colors needed for each particular rug are loaded into the wool room, a special room for storing the manufacturer’s wool inventory.
Every time wool enters or leaves this room, it is weighed to keep an accurate account of how much is available and whether more wool needs to be dyed and stored.
Step 7: The Rug is Weaved
The coiled wool is then loaded onto the loom, which has already been set up with warp (vertical strands of foundational material).
Starting at the bottom of the rug, weavers feed wool in between the warp and tie knots on each one to secure it. This is also known as “weft.”
Each knot is tied using a small knife that’s used to both cut the wool and tie the knots. As it usually takes multiple artisans to create one rug, they work together to make sure the design comes out correctly.
Step 8: The Rug is Washed, Blocked and Stretched
Once weaving has finished, the rug is washed, blocked and stretched.
Washing helps to remove any loose material. The blocking and stretching process helps to flatten out the pile (fiber) and remove any wrinkles.
The rug is then dried and stretched in the sun to create an even surface.
Step 9: Wrinkles Are Ironed Out and the Pile is Sheared
If wrinkles persist, they are ironed out.
The pile is sheared to remove any stray material. However, each artisan must be very careful, as one mistake could ruin the rug.
This is one instance where years of experience come in handy.
Step 10: Ends Are Secured
A weaver then secures the ends of the rug to keep the material in place.
Step 11: Final Trimming
Finally, the rug goes through a final trimming process to make sure any loose strands are removed.
The Work of Art is Finished
As you can see, the intricate designs of an oriental rug are evident in the detail and precision that goes into the rug making process.
An oriental rug is not only a decorative piece. It’s a work of art that brings with it a history of craftsmanship.
If you have any questions about this process or how our oriental rugs are made, feel free to comment below or get in touch with us here.