About Oriental Rug



An authentic oriental rug is a handmade carpet that is either knotted with pile or woven without pile. Oriental-design rugs made by machine, made through hand-tufting or any method other than hand-knotting or hand-weaving are not considered authentic oriental rugs.

These rugs normally come from a broad geographical region extending from China and Vietnam in the east to Turkey, Maghreb countries, Cyprus and Iran in the west and the Caucasus in the north to India in the south. People from different cultures, countries, racial groups and religious faiths are involved in the production of oriental rugs. Oriental rugs are organized by origin: Persian rugs, Arab rugs, Anatolian rugs, Kurdish rugs, Caucasian rugs, Central Asian rugs, Turkestanian rugs, Chinese rugs, Tibetan rugs and Indian rugs.

  • Persian rug
  • Azerbaijani rug

Persian carpet

The Persian carpet (Pahlavi bōb Persian farÅ¡ فرش, meaning “to spread” and qāli) is an essential part of Persian art and culture. Carpet-weaving is undoubtedly one of the most distinguished manifestations of Persian culture and art, and dates back to ancient Persia. In 2008, Iran’s exports of hand-woven carpets was $420 million or 30% of the world’s market. There is an estimated population of 1.2 million weavers in Iran producing carpets for domestic markets and international export. Iran exports carpets to more than 100 countries, as hand-woven rugs are one of its main non-oil export items. The country produces about five million square meters of carpets annually — 80 percent of which are sold in international markets. In recent times Iranian carpets have come under fierce competition from other countries producing reproductions of the original Iranian designs as well as cheaper substitutes.The designs of Iranian carpets are copied by weavers from other countries as well. Iran is also the world’s largest producer and exporter of handmade carpets, producing three quarters of the world’s total output. Though in recent times, this ancient tradition has come under stiff competition from machine made products. Iran is also the maker of the largest handmade carpet in history, measuring 60,546 square feet.Persian carpets can be divided into three groups; Farsh / ‘Qālii’ (sized anything greater than 6×4 feet), Qālicheh (meaning rug, sized 6×4 feet and smaller), and nomadic carpets known as Gelim (گلیم) Kilim, (including Zilu, meaning rough carpet).

History

The art of carpet weaving existed in Iran in ancient times, according to evidence such as the 2500-year-old Pazyryk carpet, dating back to 500 B.C., during the Achaemenid period.The first documented evidence on the existence of Persian carpets came from Chinese texts dating back to the Sassanid period (224 – 641 AD).This art underwent many changes in various eras of the Iranian history to an extent that it passed an upward trend before the Islamic era until the Mongol invasion of Iran. After the invasion, the art began to grow again during the Timurid and Ilkhanid dynasties.

With the passage of time, the materials used in carpets, including wool, silk and cotton, will decay. Therefore archaeologists are rarely able to make any particularly useful discoveries during archaeological excavations. What has remained from early times as evidence of carpet-weaving is nothing more than a few pieces of worn-out carpets. Such fragments do not help very much in recognizing the carpet-weaving characteristics of pre-Seljuk period (13th and 14th centuries AD) in Persia.

Zoroasterian period

In a unique archaeological excavation in 1949, the exceptional Pazyryk carpet was discovered among the ices of Pazyryk Valley, in Altai Mountains in Siberia. The carpet was found in the grave of a Scythian prince. Radiocarbon testing indicated that the Pazyryk carpet was woven in the 5th century BC. This carpet is 283 by 200 cm (approximately 9.3 by 6.5 ft) and has 36 symmetrical knots per cm² (232 per inch². The advanced weaving technique used in the Pazyryk carpet indicates a long history of evolution and experience in this art. Pazyryk carpet is considered as the oldest carpet in the world. Its central field is a deep red color and it has two wide borders, one depicting deer and the other Persian horseman.However, it is believed that the carpet from Pazyryk is not likely a nomadic product, but a product of the Achaemenid period.Historical records show that the Achaemenian court of Cyrus the Great at Pasargade was decked with magnificent carpets. This was over 2,500 years ago, while Persia was still in a weak alliance with Alexander the Great, who would later betray her. Alexander II of Macedonia is said to have been dazzled by the carpets in the tomb area of Cyrus the Great at Pasargade.

By the sixth century, Persian carpets of wool or silk were renowned in court circles throughout the region. The Bahârestân (spring) carpet of Khosrow I was made for the main audience hall of the Sasanians imperial Palace at Ctesiphon in Sasanian province of Khvârvarân (nowadays Iraq). It was 450 feet (140 m) long and 90 feet (27 m) wide and depicted a formal garden. In 7th century CE With occupation of the Sasanian capital, Tuspawn, the Baharestan carpet was taken by the Arabs, cut into small fragments and divided among the victorious soldiers as booty.

According to historians, the famous Tāqdis throne was covered with 30 special carpets representing 30 days of a month and four other carpets representing the four seasons of a year.

Islamic period

In the 8th century A.D. Azarbaijan Province was among the largest centers of carpet and rough carpet (ziloo) weaving in Iran. The Province of Tabarestan, besides paying taxes, sent 600 carpets to the courts of caliphs in Baghdad every year. At that time, the main items exported from that region were carpets, and small carpets for saying prayers. Furthermore, the carpets of Khorassan, Sistan and Bukhara, because of their prominent designs and motifs were on high demands among purchasers.During the reigns of the Seljuq and Ilkhanate dynasties, carpet weaving was still a booming business so much so that a mosque built by Ghazan Khan in Tabriz, northwestern Iran, was covered with superb Persian carpets. Sheep were specially bred to produce fine wool for weaving carpets. Carpet designs depicted by miniature paintings belonging to the Timurid era lend proof to the development of this industry at that time. There is also another miniature painting of that time available which depicts the process of carpet weaving.During that era dyeing centers were set up next to carpet weaving looms. The industry began to thrive until the attack on Iran by the Mongol army.

The earliest surviving of the Persian carpets from this period is of a Safavid (1501–1736) carpet known as the Ardabil Carpet, currently in V&A Museum in London. This most famous of Persian carpets has been the subject of endless copies ranging in size from small carpets to full scale carpets. There is an ‘Ardabil’ at 10 Downing Street and even Hitler had an ‘Ardabil’ in his office in Berlin.

The carpets are woven in 1539-40 according to the dated inscriptions. The foundation is of silk and the pile of wool with a knot density at 300-350 knots per square inch ( 470-540.000 knots per square metres). The size of the carpets are 34½ feet by 17½ feet ( 10,5 metres × 5,3 metres). Los Angeles County Museum of Art See also Victoria & Albert Museum

There is much variety among classical Persian carpets of the 16th and 17th century. There are numerous sub-regions that contribute distinctive designs to Persian carpets of this period such as Tabriz and Lavar Kerman. Common motifs include scrolling vine networks, arabesques, palmettes, cloud bands, medallions, and overlapping geometric compartments rather than animals and humans. Figural designs are particularly popular in the Iranian market and are not nearly as common in carpets exported to the west.

Modern period

Although carpet production is now mostly mechanized, traditional hand woven carpets are still widely found all around the world, and usually have higher prices than their machine woven counterparts due to them being an artistic presentation. Iran exported $517 million worth of hand woven carpets in 2002. Iran’s carpet exports amounted to US$635 million in 2005, according to the figures from the state-owned Iran Carpet Company. Most are top-notch hand-woven products. In October 2007, National Iranian Carpet Center revealed that hand-woven carpets have ranked first in country’s non-oil exports and hold the third position among overall exports. Nearly five million workers are engaged in the Iranian carpet industry, making it one of the biggest enterprises in the country.In recent times Iranian carpets have come under fierce competition from other countries producing fakes of the original Iranian designs as well as genuine cheaper substitutes. Most of the problems facing this traditional art is due to absence of patenting and branding the products as well as reduced quality of raw materials in the local market and the consistent loss of original design patterns. The absence of modern R&D, is causing rapid decline in the size as well as market value of this art.To give one example, the “Carpet of Wonder” in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman measures 4343 square metres. Its construction required four years of labor by 600 workers, resulting in 12 million man hours of work.

Materials

Wool is the most common material for carpets but cotton is frequently used for the foundation of city and workshop carpets. There are a wide variety in types of wool used for weaving. Those of which include Kork wool, Manchester wool, and in some cases even Camel Hair wool. Silk carpets date back to at least the sixteenth century in Sabzavar and the Seventeenth century in Kashan and Yezd.[citation needed] Silk carpets are less common than wool carpets since silk is more expensive and less durable; they tend to increase in value with age. Due to their rarity, value and lack of durability, silk carpets are often displayed on the wall like tapestries rather than being used as floor coverings.

Designs, motifs, and patterns

Persian rugs are made up of a layout and a design which in general included one or a number of motifs. The Iran Carpet Company, a specialist in the subject, has attempted to classify Persian carpet designs and has carried out studies of thousands of rugs. Their results show that there have been slight alterations and improvements to almost all original designs. In its classification the company has called the original designs as the ‘main pattern’ and the derivatives as the ‘sub patterns’. They have identified 19 groups, including: historic monuments and Islamic buildings, Shah Abbassi patterns, spiral patterns, all-over patterns, derivative patterns, interconnected patterns, paisley patterns, tree patterns, Turkoman patterns, hunting ground patterns, panel patterns, European flower patterns, vase patterns, intertwined fish patterns, Mehrab patterns, striped patterns, geometric patterns, tribal patterns, and composites. For detailed classification of Iranian Carpets see also Caroun

Design

Design can be described in terms of the manner in which it organizes the field of the rug. One basic design may serve the entire field, or the surface may be covered by a pattern of repeating figures. In areas using long-established local designs, the weaver often works from memory, with the patterns passed on within the family. This is usually sufficient for simple rectilinear design. For the more elaborate curvilinear designs, the patterns are carefully drawn to scale in the proper colours on graph paper. Each square thus becomes a knot, which allows for an accurate rendition of even the most complex design. Designs have changed little through centuries of weaving. Today computers are used in the production of scale drawings for the weavers.

Layout

Persian rugs are typically designed using one of four patterns: all-over, central medallion, compartment and one-sided. Some abstract asymmetrical design can be found but most of these can be described as one-sided or unidirectional.

Motifs

There are a number of patterns which are found in Persian and Oriental rugs called ‘motifs’, these designs have different meanings and tend to be used depending on the area the rug was woven although it is not unusual to find more than one motif in a single rug.Some of the more common motifs are:

  • Boteh
  • Gul
  • Herati
  • Mina-Khani
  • Rosette
  • Shah Abbasi
  • Azari Kharchang
  • Islimi Floral

Techniques and structures

The Long Weaving Process

Wax figure of weaver of carpets in Fars History museumThe weaving of pile rugs is a difficult and tedious process which, depending on the quality and size of the rug, may take anywhere from a few months to several years to complete.To begin making a rug, one needs a foundation consisting of warps strong, thick threads of cotton, wool or silk which run the length of the rug and wefts similar threads which pass under and over the warps from one side to the other. The warps on either side of the rug are normally combined into one or more cables of varying thickness that are overcast to form the selvedge.

Weaving normally begins by passing a number of wefts through the bottom warp to form a base to start from. Loosely piled knots of dyed wool or silk are then tied around consecutive sets of adjacent warps to create the intricate patterns in the rug. As more rows are tied to the foundation, these knots become the pile of the rug. Between each row of knots, one or more shots of weft are passed to tightly pack down and secure the rows.

Depending on the fineness of the weave, the quality of the materials and the expertise of the weavers, the knot count of a hand made rug can vary anywhere from 16 to 550 knots per square inch.

When the rug is completed, the warp ends form the fringes that may be weft-faced, braided, tasseled, or secured in some other manner.

Looms

Looms do not vary greatly in essential details, but they do vary in size and sophistication. The main technical requirement of the loom is to provide the correct tension and the means of dividing the warps into alternate sets of leaves. A shedding device allows the weaver to pass wefts through crossed and uncrossed warps, instead of laboriously threading the weft in and out of the warps.

Horizontal Looms

The simplest form of loom is a horizontal; one that can be staked to the ground or supported by sidepieces on the ground. The necessary tension can be obtained through the use of wedges. This style of loom is ideal for nomadic people as it can be assembled or dismantled and is easily transportable. Rugs produced on horizontal looms are generally fairly small and the weave quality is inferior to those rugs made on a professional standing loom.

Vertical Looms

Vertical looms are undoubtedly more comfortable to operate. These are found more in city weavers and sedentary peoples because they are hard to dismantle and transport. There is no limit to the length of the carpet that can be woven on a vertical loom and there is no restriction to its width.There are three broad groups of vertical looms, all of which can be modified in a number of ways: the fixed village loom, the Tabriz or Bunyan loom, and the roller beam loom. The fixed village loom is used mainly in Iran and consists of a fixed upper beam and a moveable lower or cloth beam which slots into two sidepieces. The correct tension is created by driving wedges into the slots. The weavers work on an adjustable plank which is raised as the work progresses.The Tabriz loom, named after the city of Tabriz, is used in North Western Iran. The warps are continuous and pass around behind the loom. Tension is obtained with wedges. The weavers sit on a fixed seat and when a portion of the carpet has been completed, the tension is released and the carpet is pulled down and rolled around the back of the loom. This process continues until the rug is completed, when the warps are severed and the carpet is taken off the loom.

The roller beam loom is a traditional Turkish village loom, but is also found in Iran and India. It consists of two movable beams to which the warps are attached. Both beams are fitted with ratchets or similar locking devices and completed work is rolled on to the lower beam. It is possible to weave very long rugs by these means, and in some areas of Turkey rugs are woven in series.

Tools

In order to operate the loom, the weaver needs a number of essential tools: a knife for cutting the yarn as the knots are tied; a comb-like instrument for packing down the wefts; and a pair of shears for trimming the pile. In Tabriz the knife is combined with a hook to tie the knots which lets the weavers produce very fine rugs, as their fingers alone are too thick to do the job.Some traditional tools of the craft.A small steel comb is sometimes used to comb out the yarn after each row of knots is completed. This both tightens the weave and clarifies the design.

A variety of instruments are used for packing the weft. Some weaving areas in Iran known for producing very fine pieces use additional tools. In Kerman, a saber like instrument is used horizontally inside the shed, and in Bidjar a heavy nail like tool is used. Bidjar is also famous for their wet loom technique, which consists of wetting the warp, weft, and yarn with water throughout the weaving process to make the elements thinner and finer. This allows for tighter weaving. When the rug is complete and dried, the wool and cotton expand to make the rug incredibly dense and strong.

A number of different tools may be used to shear the wool depending on how the rug is trimmed as the rug progresses or when it is complete. Often in Chinese rugs the yarn is trimmed after completion and the trimming is slanted where the color changes, giving an embossed three-dimensional effect.

The Knots

Two basic knots are used in most Persian Carpets and Oriental rugs: the symmetrical Turkish or Ghiordes knot (used in Turkey, the Caucasus, East Turkmenistan, and some Turkish and Kurdish areas of Iran), and the asymmetrical Persian or Senneh knot (Iran, India, Turkey, Pakistan, China, and Egypt).To make a Turkish knot, the yarn is passed between two adjacent warps, brought back under one, wrapped around both forming a collar, then pulled through the center so that both ends emerge between the warps.The Persian knot is used for finer rugs. The yarn is wrapped around only one warp, then passed behind the adjacent warp so that it divides the two ends of the yarn. The Persian knot may open on the left or the right, and rugs woven with this knot are generally more accurate and symmetrical.

Other knots include the Spanish knot looped around single alternate warps so the ends are brought out on either side and the Jufti knot which is tied around four warps instead.

Flat-woven carpets

Flat woven carpets are given their colour and pattern from the weft which is tightly intertwined with the warp. Rather than an actual pile, the foundation of these rugs gives them their design. The weft is woven between the warp until a new colour is needed, it is then looped back and knotted before a new colour is implemented.The most popular of flat-weaves is called the Kilim. Kilim rugs (along with jewellery, clothing and animals) are important for the identity and wealth of nomadic tribes-people. In their traditional setting Kilims are used as floor and wall coverings, horse-saddles, storage bags, bedding and cushion covers.Various forms of flat-weaves exist including:

  • Herati
  • Jajim
  • Gelim(Kilim)
  • Maleki
  • Sirjan
  • Soumak
  • Suzani

Traditional centers of carpet production in Iran (Persia)

The major classical centers of carpet production in Persia were in Tabriz (1500–1550), Kashan (1525–1650), Herat (1525–1650), and Kerman (1600–1650).[citation needed]The majority of carpets from Tabriz have a central medallion and quartered corner medallions superimposed over a field of scrolling vine ornament, sometimes punctuated with mounted hunters, single animals, or animal combat scenes. Perhaps the best-known of the Tabriz works are the twin Ardabil carpets most likely made for the shrine at Ardabil (today in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Los Angeles County Museum).Kashan is known for its silk carpet production, most famously, for the three silk hunting carpet masterpieces depicting mounted hunters and animal prey (currently in the collections of the Vienna Museum of Applied Arts (aka the MAK), the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Stockholm Museum). The Kashan carpets are among the most valuable in existence.

The Herat carpets, or ones of similar design created in Lahore (Pakistan) and Agra (India), are the most numerous in Western collections. They are characterized by a red field with scrolling vine ornament and palmettes with dark green or blue borders.

The seven classes of Kerman carpet were defined by May Beattie. She identified their unique structure and named it the “vase technique.” Carpet types in this group include garden carpets (ornamented with formal gardens and water channels) and the ogival lattice carpets. A fine and well-known example of the latter was purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum under the guidance of William Morris. The influence of Persian carpets is readily apparent in his carpet designs.

The Seraband rug is produced in Arak.

Anatolian and Persian carpets

Farsbâf (Senneh)Turkbâf (Ghiordes)The difference between Anatolian (Turkish) and Persian carpets is today largely one of tradition.

Typically, a traditional Persian carpet is tied with a single looping knot (Persian or Senneh Knot), while the traditional Anatolian carpet is tied with a double looping knot (Turkish or Ghiordes Knot). This means that for every ‘vertical strand’ of thread in a carpet, an Anatolian carpet has two loops as opposed to the one loop for the various Persian carpets that use a Persian ‘single’ knot. Ultimately, this process of ‘double knotting’ in traditional Anatolian carpets results in a slightly more block like image compared to the traditional ‘single knotted’ Persian carpet. The traditional Anatolian style also reduces the number of Knots per sq cm.[citation needed]

Today, it is common to see carpets woven in both Turkey and Iran using either of the two knot styles. When comparing carpets the only way to definitively identify the knot used is to splay open the pile by bending the rug against itself and looking at the base of the knot.

Types of Persian carpets & rugs

Carpet dealers have developed a classification for Persian carpets based on design, type of fabric, and weaving technique. The categories are named for cities and areas associated with each design, these can be located on a map to Persian rug weaving cities:

  • Abadeh
  • Afghan/Yomut (Turkmen)
  • Ahar
  • Afshar
  • Arak
  • Ardabil
  • Ardestan
  • Assadabad rug
  • Bakhtiari
  • Balouch
  • Bidjar
  • Birjand
  • Brujerd
  • Chelaberd
  • Chodor
  • Dorokhsh
  • Farahan
  • Ferdos
  • Ghayen
  • Gonabad
  • Gonbad Ghaboos
  • Gorgan
  • Herat
  • Heriz (Hariz)
  • Isfahan
  • Joshghan
  • Jozan
  • Kashan
  • Kashmar
  • Kerman
  • Lilian
  • Mahan
  • Mahalat
  • Maku
  • Mamasani
  • Marand
  • Mashhad
  • Mazlaghan
  • Meshkin Shahr
  • Moshk Abad
  • Mood
  • Nain
  • Nishaboor
  • Rafsanjan
  • Ravar
  • Saraband
  • Sarab
  • Saraband
  • Sarukh
  • Semnan
  • Sha Savan
  • Shahre Kord
  • Shiraz
  • Shahr Reza
  • Qazvin
  • Qom
  • Tabriz
  • Tehran
  • Torghabeh
  • Varamin
  • Yalameh
  • Yazd
  • Zanjan
  • Zabol

Rugs for a specific purpose include:

  • Hunting Scene Rugs

Azerbaijani rug

Azerbaijani rugs are a product of Azerbaijan, an ancient center of carpet weaving. Azerbaijan has been since the ancient times known as a center of a large variety of crafts. The archeological dig on the territory of Azerbaijan testifies to the well-developed agriculture, stock raising, metal working, pottery and ceramics, and last but not least carpet-weaving that date as far back as to the 2nd millennium BC.The most ancient carpet ever discovered is the famous Pazyryk carpet of the 6th-5th century BC which was found during the excavations in the Altai Mountains. The results of the archeological digging in Azerbaijan validate the antiquity of the carpet weaving traditions on this land. The Gultapin excavations discovered carpet weaving tools which date back to the 4th-3rd millennium BC. For many centuries during the historical existence of our nation both settled and nomadic ways of life were of importance. A carpet per se is democratic, however its real folk character is about something else. A carpet was meant to unite people, to cultivate the sense of collectivism, mutual aid, and friendly cohesion. An Azerbaijani carpet, which embodies numerous and various functions, is in fact something more that just a combination of these purposes. An Azerbaijani carpet is not only one of the most important elements in the national way of life, not only a variety of the arts and crafts, but also a key link to the ethical and moral principles and customs of the people’s existence.The carpet making was born in rural huts and with time ranked among the most essential arts. It was highly valued by the heads of states, and the gifted weavers were glorified by the greatest poets. The carpet history is assumed to be divided into the following four main periods:

  • I period – the early stage of the carpet development. The carpet ware is very simple, without any motifs and patterns. The first palas and djedjims appear.
  • II period – introduction of the kilim weaving practice by the intricate threading technique.
  • III period – weaving of shadda, verni, sumakh, zili. The period of simple and complex whipping techniques.
  • IV period – introduction of the knotted pile weaving. Both from the technical and artistic standpoints this stage can be considered the acme of the carpet making.

The territory of the Southern and Northern Azerbaijan saw different states, religions and tribal cultures coming and going. There is always an inevitable mutual influence and penetration between the neighboring cultures, whether peaceful or militant. These processes were reflected in carpet making as well. Throughout Azerbaijan appeared numerous carpet production centers; each featured its own specific style and school. Our website will tell you about some of them.

Flat-weave carpets

Shedde

Shedde is a flat weave carpet, made primarily in Nakhichevan, Agdam, Gubadly, Agjabedi. The artistic composition of shedde made by complicated whipping, as well as its constituents have a complex form. Early in the 20th century the oldest weavers and carpet experts called this type of carpets “shadra’ or “shatra”. The word “shedde” is a distorted form of “shatranj” and “shadvard”. Shedde comes in a number of varieties, each having a specific technique such as monochrome, checkered or subject. Monochrome shedde are made by the simple interweaving technique. Shedde with a checkered pattern is based on the palas and jejim principle. The same technique is used to make subject-based shedde. The subject shedde “Develi” are famous all over the world. They use practically one and the same subject with the composition being almost invariable: the camelcade moving along the carpet field from left to right, along a few horizontal rows, and each string running into a figure of a sarvan on foot. The humans and animals are set off against the dark-red field, its color is smooth and hot.Azerbaijani carpet centers.

Verni

The most widely spread type of the flat-weave carpet is “verni”. Perhaps none of the flat-weave carpets can boast such a monumental pattern and harmonious clarity as the “verni” made only in Azerbaijan. The technical perfection and utmost emotionality of these carpets is a sort of acme of the Azerbaijani carpet art. Sample “verni” displayed in various museums throughout the world present the outstanding monument of the richest heritage of the Azerbaijani folk art in which we by right take pride. Among the “verni” centers were Agjabedi, Barda, Agdam, Nakhichevan. The key décor feature, which is intrinsical to every ”verni” is the S-element. Its shape varies, it may resemble both figure 5 and letter S. This element means “dragon” among the nomads and “water” among the village people. Based on the stories told by the oldest Azerbaijani weavers with nomadic roots, a dragon featuring carpet would protect the family from foul weather. In Taoism, a dragon is associated with spring. The Tibet pantheon considers dragon as a good deity, a master of chiefs. If the S-element takes up the whole of the carpet space, it would be viewed as an image of a dragon itself rather than a dragon symbol. This element has been known to the local weaver for centuries and is characterized by an ability to come alive through embodiment in a specific image and to symbolize the good and happiness.

Jejim

Jejims are woven on simple horizontal looms by narrow stripes 30–35 cm wide and 15–10 cm long. The resulting product is a cloth to be used as a wall carpet, a bedding coverlet, or curtains. The width of a jejim matches the distance between the weaver’s feet as in the process of weaving the whole width of the cloth should pass through the weaver’s feet. The ornamental décor of jejims is diverse and rich. Various vertical stripes that decorate jejims are spectacular, colorful and decorative. They are often decorated by stylized images of utensils (comb, thread, candlesticks) and geometrical elements. Up to the mid 20th century delicate jejims were used to make garments both for men and women. The major jejim production centers are Barda, Nakhichevan, Zangilan, Shusha, Shemakha.

Zilli

Carpet Zilli “Zilli” is an interesting variety of flat-woven carpets. They are characterized by stylized forms of animals and vegetal elements. In terms of their composition and pattern the Azerbaijani zillis are very diverse. They feature a plastic flexibility of the pattern and emotional expressiveness. The ornamental decoration is marked by images of large elements in the shape of big lozenges, paired horns, various stylized elements. There are “zillis” with a variety of compositions, which differed by peculiar vegetal ornamental patterns and overall rich colors. The key element in such compositions lies in the recurring alternation of colors along the horizontal pt vertical lines, which form an energetic rhythm. As to their technical and artistic qualities, “zillis” are rich in moving images of stylized birds, elaborated “butas” and other elements. “Zilli’ were obviously influenced by the tendency to fill in the space by various motifs, each being repeated in the field according to its individual layout, and the overall result resembles a fancy garden with a rich and fairy-tale flora.

Kilim

Kilim is the most wide spread type of flat-woven carpets. They are made by passing the weft through the warp using the technique of compound interweaving. Kilim is characterized by a slot-like gap (opening) around the geometrical patterns. These openings impart a lace effect the kilim. The technique of kilim weaving predetermines the pattern shapes in the form of a lozenge, triangle, trapezium. Nearly all the vegetal elements, images of animals, birds and humans are geometrized in kilims. Kilims of different regions are distinguished by their composition, pattern, and colors. In terms of their technical peculiarities kilims can be classified into five major groups based on the area of production: Kazakh, Karabakh, Absheron, Shirvan and Tebriz kilims. They are all characterized by a balanced composition, contrasting colors and clear symmetry. The patter is traditional, in the form of large and small lozenge and hook-like elements, which are rather expressive and dramatic.

Sumakh

The “Sumakh” carpets present one of the interesting types of flat-weave carpets, which have become widely spread and recognized over the last few centuries. Beginning with the 18th century “Sumakhs” have been made in the Kuba nd Gusary districts. “Sumakhs” were created much later than other types of flat-woven carpets. In the early stage of their development they might have had their own individual composition, but the “Sumakhs” of the 18th-20th centuries reproduce the compositions and patters copied from the pile carpets made in Shirvan, Kuba, Karabakh and Ganja. The technological peculiarity of “Sumakh” lies in their rich composition and colors. The diverse stylized vegetal motifs, various geometrical elements such as large hexahedral, square, rhomboid medallions impart festive beauty to “Sumakh”. The traditional pattern includes the minor edge with a wave-like pattern, which is called “dolan-gach” (pass around – run away). It is used basically in all “Sumakh” type carpets.

Palas

Palas is one of the widely spread flat-weave carpets. The palas weaving process consists in passing the weft through the warp by a simple technique. The weavers decorate the palas by traditional patters in the form of horizontal stripes commonly used throughout Azerbaijan. But every individual weavers had their own choice of composition and colors. Changing the stripe size the weavers changed the correlation of colors, thus creating countless variations of fine palases. As a rule, the palas is not framed by a border. The palases called “chiy” are made by a very unusual weaving technique. Similarly to other simple types of palases the background of “chiy” is plain weave. At the same time, the pattern-making thread is used to create a fine tiny geometrical pattern by piercing “sanjma”. This creates the embroidery effect.

Namzalyg

These carpets, which are called in Azerbaijan “jeynamaz”, “namazlyk, “mekhrabi”, in Iran “tagi”, “janamaz”, in Arabia “sajjade”, both in terms of their format and composition are distinct from the rest of the carpets. In the reign of Shakh Abbas (the 16th century) and his successors the weavers made small prayer rugs called “namazlyk”, decorated by inscriptions in Arabic such as quotes from the Koran, the words “Allahu Akbar”, “Ya Ali”. These dicta as a rule was placed in the top of the carpet. From the artistic point of view the Northern Azerbaijan namazlyks differed from those made in Southern Azerbaijan. The latter, in their upper part, depicted objects required for the namaz prayer (beads, a beard comb, a prayer book, mokhur) rather than the religious inscriptions. Also, sometimes there were images of hands woven on the left and right sides. Thus one can conclude that namazlyks appeared in the second quarter of the 14th century as the Moslems attached great importance to the namaz prayer ceremony. Compositionally, namazlyks can be divided into the following two groups:

  • village rugs (made by the folk weavers following the Arab conquest), and
  • workshop rugs, which since the 16th century have been woven using sketches of the professional carpet makers

Dyeing wool

At dyeing workshops, professionals dye yarns with dye-stuffs mainly of plant origin, strictly following the centuries old traditional techniques of colouring. Though appearing to be simple at first sight, this work requires high skills of a dyer. To prepare the seven basic colors (red, green, yellow, black, dark blue, white, purple) and their tints used in carpetmaking, professional dyers use green walnut shells, the skin of pomegranates, indigo, leaves of the mulberry, quince and walnut plants, and roots of madder. For example, in order to achieve yellow and its hues, they use bulb onion peels, mulberry leaves collected in the late autumn, etc. To produce red and pink colors, madder is used, and to obtain dark blue, blue and green, indigo dye is used. At the very end of the yarn dyeing process a dyer adds salt, alum or vinegar into the dye solution to increase the intensity, fastness and durability of colours. Then, dyed yarns are pressed and dried with special techniques.

Weaving

On weaving looms made of strong, high-quality materials and having advanced technological characteristics, woollen and silk carpets of various sizes (from 1 to 40 sq. m.) with average knot density (from 35̵60 to 55̵55) are woven in a comparatively short space of time.To make these fantastic carpets, only three hand tools are used Рa knife, a beater and shears. These carpets completely satisfy modern demands for quality and at the same time they preserve ancient carpet-weaving traditions.

Washing, Drying and Smoothing

Dust accumulated on the carpets and fringes while weaving is cleaned in the rotating wooden drums made of pistachio tree. After this they are thoroughly washed in special pools with soap and other washing liquids suitable for carpet washing. Finally carpets are dried.One of the secrets to the carpets’ unusual beauty is their smoothness and pile brightness achieved through the process of smoothing by applying up-to-date advanced technology. After the carpets have been smoothed out, they become soft and pleasing to the eye.

Pulling

In most cases carpets manually woven of silk and wool have clear unevenness of their edges. To eliminate this defect carpets are fastened to wooden floors with their four ends pulled. Then the carpet is raised up from the middle by means of special wooden lifters and smoothened on the back side. After that the carpet is pulled and fastened to the wooden floor again and left in this position for two days. As a result of this process the crookedness of the carpet which has just been taken off the weaving loom is totally eliminated and the edges of the carpet become straight.

Carpet-weaving schools

Kuba-Shirvan

The rise of the carpet art on the territory of Azerbaijan was undoubtedly related to a number of objective factors, among them the geographical location of this land, at the joint of the East and the West. Here, along the Greater Caucasus ridge, lies the borderline between Asia and Europe. Here is the historical juxtaposition point between the Islamic and Christian cultures. Long camelcades passed through this land in the Middle Ages.Azerbaijani carpets can be categorized under several large groups and a multitude of subgroups. The true scientific research of the Azerbaijani carpet is connected with the name of Latif Kerimov, a prominent scientist and artist. It was his classification that related the four large groups of carpets with the four geographical zones of Azerbaijan, i.e. Guba-Shirvan, Ganja-Kazakh, Karabakh and Tebriz.The Kuba school that includes the Gonagkend and Divichi districts covers up to 35 pattern compositions of the carpets. Kuba is an historical region hosting plentitude of various tribes. Even now the region is populated by ethnic groups that speak different languages, among them Azerbaijanis, Lezghins, Tats, Budugs, Gyryzys and others. The Kuba carpets are remarkable for a wide variety of designs, which may differ even from village to village. The ornamental pattern is characterized by geometrical and vegetal motifs, most of them stylized. These include Gyryz, Gymyl, Gonakend, Shahnezerli and other carpets. On the face of it, the ornamental pattern in the Kuba carpet group may appear to be too mixed and varied. However, on closer examination it becomes evident that all ornaments in the composition strictly follow a common design.

The Shirvan school is famous for its superb carpets. Shirvan is one of the most ancient historical regions of Azerbaijan. Carpet making of different types is a wide spread craft with both settled and nomadic natives. The Shirvan school accounts for carpets manufactured in the following towns and villages of the Shirvan region: Shemaha, Maraza, Akhsu, Kurdamir. The school totals 25 compositions. The Salyan carpets, with similar artistic and technical features, also belong to this school. The Shirvan carpets are characterized by an intricate design, which depicts numerous artifacts of everyday life, birds and people.

Ganja-Kazakh carpet-weaving school

The carpets of this school are notable for peculiarity of their compositions and ornamental patterns. The Ganja carpets include a relatively small number of carpet compositions, all in all between 8 and 20 patterns. The Kazakh carpets cover about 16 compositions with various patterns. Kazakh, which is located on the NW of Azerbaijan, is the most famous carpet production region and also accounts for the Kazakh and Borchaly carpet groups. The Kazakh carpets have a geometrical ornamental pattern, the composition is not very complex with a focus on a schematic presentation of the geometrical patterns, plants and animals. The ornamental d?cor of the Ganja carpets is rich and diverse, with a focus on geometrical motifs as well as schematic presentation of plants and anumals.

The Baku carpet school

The Baku school of carpet weaving includes the villages of Novkhany, Fatmai, Nardaran, Bulbulya, Mardakan, Gaadi. These carpets are marked for their increased softness of the material and intense colors, as well as excellent artistic taste and exquisite decoration. This school has about 10 compositions. The historical sources and inscriptions on the carpets testify to the fact that carpet making was widely spread in these villages and carpet-ware was exported outside the country. The carpet composition often includes medallions. They are filled by various motifs, most often by stylized images of plants, which lost their resemblance to the original object after they had been geometrized.

Karabakh school of carpet weaving

The Karabakh carpets amount to 33 compositions. Due to the specifics of the local sheep wool the Karabakh carpets are characterized by thick pile, high and fluffy. These carpets are marked for their vivid and joyous colors. They are divided into four groups: without medallions, with medallions, namazlyk and subject carpet. In the mountainous part of Karabakh the carpets were made in Malybeili, Muradkhanly, Dashbulakh, Jebrail, Goradis and many other villages.