Cotton Vs Wool Vs Silk Rug Foundation Material

Authentic oriental rugs always use natural fibers in the foundation material. That’s not surprising at all if you think back to the origins of these rugs.

Oriental rugs were first woven by nomadic tribals who traveled days on end through harsh terrain in even harsher weather just to find better browsing grounds for the sheep. They wove rugs to keep themselves warm and also for a softer place to sleep on.

spinning wool for weaving
Qashqai Women Spinning Wool For Weaving

These tribes had no access to any kind of synthetic fibers neither were they looking for any alternative. What they wanted was something easily available and something that would keep them warm and what better material to use than wool. To source wool, all they had to do was go out and shear their sheep and spin the wool.

The resultant fiber was soft, warm and easy to work with. What’s more, it was easy to dye too so they could create colorful pieces with an array of patterns.

Made Of Natural Fibers

Starting from those utilitarian beginnings, the tribes saw no reason to switch over to synthetic fiber for weaving their rugs and that’s why you will find that authentic rugs are always constructed with natural fibers – wool, cotton and silk.

Foundation And Pile

Foundation and Pile
Foundation And Pile

The flat base is called the foundation of the rug and the pile is the fiber that is used in the weaving.

In some types of rugs, the pile is left long and lush and in some varieties, the pile is cropped really short so that the outlines of the designs can be more clearly visible.

The foundation is usually made up of wool, cotton or silk and sometimes a combination of any two. Cotton, wool, and silk fibers are also most commonly used in the pile. Sometimes, camel or goat hair is also used in making the pile.


Cotton Foundation Oriental Rug
Cotton Foundation

Most rug foundations are made of cotton. The cotton warp threads are strung between the horizontal beams, keeping the tension consistent throughout.

The weaver first ties a knot around two warps adjacent to each other. Then the knot is then slid down to the base and the excess yarn is cut off. The thickness of the rug depends on the length of the yarn that is left behind.


Wool Foundation Oriental Rug
Wool Foundation

Wool is the most commonly used material for the pile in hand woven tribal rugs. There are several reasons why wool has always been the material of choice for the weavers.

For one thing it is the most easily available material and in addition, it is also cheap, durable, soft and easy to work with.

The age, breed and diet of the animal are all deciding factors that determine the quality of the wool. You will find that there is a huge difference in the wool quality between the different types of rugs.


Silk Foundation Oriental Rug
Silk Foundation

Silk is an expensive fiber and to the tribal weavers, it is prohibitively expensive. The best silk fiber is imported from the south shores of the Caspian Sea.

The silk rugs that you see are all woven in the cities and they are usually only produced on order. Silk can be used by itself or in combination with wool. Rugs woven in silk are fine, elaborate and beautiful to touch and are usually used as decorative wall hangings instead of as floor coverings. Silk is most often used in high knot per square inch Tabriz Rugs and other high knots count Persian Rugs.