Persian carpets or also known as Persian rugs are handmade carpets which are made in Iran. The reason for the name is in early history, the Persian empire was an enormous empire, encompassing the entire region of what we now call the middle east. It went from Egypt to Turkey. Persian carpets are well known for their quality and can be found all over the world. Iran is well known for its high-quality Persian carpets. Today when we think of persians we are mostly thinking of people living in Iran but they also include, Afghanistan, Turkey, and many other countries that are also considered the Persian rug belt.
It is believed that the origin of the Persian rug was created by nomadic shepherds. To not only line their tents with rugs for warmth and comfort, but to also decorate their tents for decoration. As time went on the designs and patterns became more elaborate, out doing their fellow shepherds and neighbors. The loom on which these early Persian rugs were created, was the forerunner of the horizontal ground loom of today. These looms are lightweight and are easily portable. The two loom pieces are not supported by side pieces which had considerably more weight which the upright loom is designed with. Instead, the loom beams are separated by stakes that are driven into the ground.
Interestingly often Persian rugs made by tribal nomads, are often crooked because the looms are more often than not made from poplar which is fairly straight but not perfectly straight. Making the Persian carpet more unique. The essential tools for the weaver are simply a knife for cutting off the yarn after the knot is made, a comb-like tool for beating the wefts and a pair of shears for trimming off the ends of the yarn after each row of knots is finished. There are two basic knots in a Persian style rug, the Turkish knot, and the Persian knot.
The weaving itself for Persian rugs is either rural or urban, which are generally self-evident. Generally speaking, they are for the most part the same techniques are used. The first step is to lay the warp either by laying it directly on the loom or preparing it first and then placing it on the loom. The loom beam is divided into units of measurement and to lay the warp strings in each division, making an equal number of lateral knots in each unit. The weaver then ties a piece of colored yarn to each pair of warp strings along the whole width of the carpet in accordance with the design of the rug. In passing above each row of knots, one, two, or three wefts in and out of each warp string, beating the weft into place with a comb beater, trimming off the ends of the yarn along the width of the carpet with a pair of shears. This method is repeated again and again until the carpet is completed.
A Persian rug is well known for its elaborate design and variety. With the design, for the most part, being of the traditional design. A Persian rug Vancouver would be considered a traditional style, in western cities like Vancouver there are two categories, traditional and contemporary styles of handmade carpets. Persian rugs were first mentioned as far back as 400 B.C. and even then were considered highly sought after for their luxurious quality and design. In the fourteen hundreds the design of the Persian carpet changed, and it is what you will see today. It is known as the classical design for Persian carpets. Large ornaments and medallions began to appear, becoming the focal point of the center of the Persian carpet. The surrounding elements became smaller and more intricate. The use of flowers of all kinds and animals in miniature began appearing as well. Mirroring elaborate ornaments along the border became commonplace and was intentionally designed like that for harmony. As the designs and patterns got more intricate, weavers had to become more skilled, and as we can see they absolutely did.
Persian Rug Design
Some Persian rugs are still being created in the traditional way. These weavers have been taught their skills by their families, going back many generations and create Persian rug designs by memory. These Persian rugs are not as intricate as some but can be quite stunning as well as quite valuable. For the more intricate Persian carpet, the design is carefully drawn to scale and every color is carefully painted on. The weaver weaves a knot into this scaled design, usually, it is a type of graph paper that is used. This method is most often referred to as a “cartoon”. It is growing increasingly more common for these scale drawings to be created by a computer program.
The design of the Persian rug is usually quite typical, which of course gives it the distinction of being a Persian carpet. One all-over design is typical of a Persian rug, where the design is repeated and is then cut off intentionally leaving a look that the pattern goes on forever. Intricate ornaments, flowers, and medallions in miniature forms are repeated all over the carpet and this method is referred to as infinite repeat.
Another typical design is the use of medallions, where the asymmetrical pattern is used placing the medallion in each of the four corners of the Persian carpet. This can have limitless variations, using rectangular, square, diagonal, etc. shapes. The Persian carpet design is distinctive as well for its striped or bordered design. Sometimes there is only one border with elaborate designs on the sides of the border, but often there is the main border surrounded by a number of supportive or guardian borders.
Persian carpets can last for centuries. The famous Ardebil carpet which is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London England is possibly the most famous Persian carpet in the world today. It came from a mosque in Ardebil and is dated to have been woven in 1539. It is known actually as a historical document because it bears a signature and a date. The warps and wefts are made from silk. The design itself is free from animals or figures because it was made to lay in a holy place that forbids such ornamentations. It has exceptional craftsmanship and is believed to have been created by probably the finest craftsman in the shah’s court.
Another great carpet also in the Victoria and Albert museum is the Hunting Carpet. This fine Persian carpet has the warp, weft, and piles all made from silk. Also whereas the Ardebil carpet has about 18 knots per inch, this fine Persian carpet has around 28 knots per inch. As the name suggests this carpet does have figures in its design, huntsmen mounted and armed with spears. It is believed to have also been woven around 1550 or so. There are many other fine Persian carpets that are in museums, too many to discuss here.
When you are considering buying a Persian rug, you should definitely seek an experienced handmade rug dealer. Here in Vancouver, we have plenty of great handmade rug dealers who have been in business since the early 20th century. A good quality Persian rug company has plenty of history behind it, often the business has been passed down generation to generation. Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions. A good dealer should be happy to answer all of your questions and give you plenty of advice on how to maintain your handmade Persian rug for decades to come.