Part 1: Oriental Rugs Overview

Oriental Rugs: An Overview

The defining attribute of all Oriental rugs is that they are always woven on a loom by hand. When you look at the mastery of the weave, it’s really hard to imagine that some of these rugs are woven by some of the most basic looms imaginable. Essentially, all that is needed are two vertical posts placed a distance apart. Two horizontal beams- an upper and a lower beam- are attached to the vertical post, forming the loom. For nomads who were always on the move, a couple of horizontal poles stretched between two tree trunks were good enough for them to weave these amazing creations.

Weavers weaving a small oriental rug with a rug loom
Weaving a small Oriental Rug on a loom

The Start of Rug Making

Rug making initially started for very practical reasons. Most of these tribes lived in the hilly regions of Persia, where the winters could be brutally harsh. The tribeswomen wove rugs for the family to sleep on and also to keep warm on freezing winter nights. The material they used was mostly sheep wool which was available in plenty and natural dyes that they extracted from plants that were native to their region. One of the reasons why these rugs usually have earthy colors such as terracottas, reds, browns and rusts is because the dyes used are natural and these are the colors most abundantly found in nature.

Creating Designs and Patterns

While you the weaving and knotting technique is similar in all rugs produced in any one particular region, the patterns and designs vary widely. This is because there is no formal structure used in creating the pattern. Weavers choose whatever they feel like – the mood of the moment, the scenic hillside in front of them, cattle grazing, camels walking on by or just an incident that made a mark on them. With so many variables that go into it, the endless design and color options come as no surprise.

Are all Oriental Rugs Persian Rugs?

This is one misconception that seems to run rampant. All Persian rugs are Oriental rugs but all Oriental rugs are not necessarily Persian rugs. The term Oriental rug encompasses all hand knotted rugs that are created in the regions of Pakistan, Persia, Afghanistan, India, Tibet, Nepal and Turkey. Persian rugs are the earliest types of rugs on record and because they have been around so long, they have a dominating influence on the rug community. This also explains why the terms “Oriental rug” and “Persian rug” are so often used interchangeably.

Persian, Indian & Pakistani rugs

Map showing different countries where Oriental Rugs are made
Countries that make Oriental Rugs

The prominence of pattern and line is unmistakable in Persian rugs. These rugs are in great demand for their bold but intricate patterns, curvilinear style and rich colors. Indian rugs are manufactured primarily in three weaving districts, Kashmir in north India, Varanasi in the east and Jaipur in the west. These rugs are influenced by Persian styles and colors. Pakistani rugs are also influenced by the Persian styles. The most well known type of Pakistani rug is the Bokhara. Today, Pakistan is considered as one of the major rug production centers in the world.