Glossary

Abrash

Abrash is a general term used to cover many different causes of the same condition. Usually genuine changes to the tone of the background color of a rug are referred to as abrash. Most often, they may happen when a tribal weaver (usually a nomad) moves an unfinished piece with the family to a new grazing ground. In order to finish the rug, the rug maker tries to find the same flora to dye another batch of wool, but what he finds is slightly different resulting in a delicate change in the basic color. Many collectors of tribal rugs seek this out as a sine qua non.

Consequently, some clever weavers insert calculated tonal changes to add “interest” and age to some pieces.

Age

Some rugs have a date and or signature woven into the pile. When there is no actual date present, experts calculate by quality, KPSI, pattern, condition, the best approximation of an actual date of origin.

  • Rugs less than 25 years old are defined as new rugs.
  • Rugs 25 - 60 years old are defined as semi-antique rugs.
  • Rugs over 60 years old are defined as antique rugs.

In general, older rugs fetch higher prices.

Provenance is rarely available, as for centuries rugs were used as local currency in Persia, Anatolia and other countries of the Middle and Far East. Many were originally made as wedding or other family gifts, and possibly stored under a bed until a herd of sheep had to be bought. The rug would then begin its long journey west through a succession of merchants and traders.

Border

The area that surrounds the field of a rug, forming a visual frame for the main design. It usually contains a wide pile with a repeating design, called the main border. Some believe the border represents a window overlooking the infinite. The weaver sometimes weaves his/her signature into the border.

Boteh

Also known as the “fist of the king”, this is the paisley shape that can be seen throughout many Persian rugs. This pattern is typically a symbol of fertility or may represent a royal patron.

Condition
  • Excellent: Fine, original condition, with no defects whatsoever.
  • Good: Fine condition, which may have received minor repairs to broken strands.
  • Aged: An interesting rug that was made some years ago and may still be of interest to collectors where some other attribute (like pattern, color, or provenance) is of greater, over-riding interest. For example, the priceless, but torn, Pazryrk rug, found preserved in ice in Siberia, thanks to grave-robbers allowing water to penetrate a tomb.
Edge

The sides parallel to the warp, or vertical, strands. These are usually reinforced with weaving to create a selvedge.

Ends

The sides parallel with the weft, often finished with an area of flat weaving and a fringe, formed by the ends of the warp strands. Many interesting patterns are sometimes used to decorate this flat weaving, including additional small areas of pile, sometimes with signatures and dates. Short fringes are not to be ridiculed, as this was traditional in some areas for many centuries. Even the total absence of a fringe at one end of a tribal rug might mean that it was woven as a door-hanging for a primitive abode.

Foundation

The strands of warp and weft, which make up the skeleton of the rug. The knots of the pile are woven into warps and wefts and held securely in place.

Warps and wefts can be made of wool, cotton or silk. Sometimes mixtures of wool and cotton are seen in tribal rugs, but city rugs are usually all cotton or for really fine pieces, all silk.

Field

The central part of the rug that is surrounded by the border. It contains the main pattern or design. It is also known as the ground.

Flat Weave

An Oriental rug which has no pile. There are many techniques of flat weaving, the majority commonly called kilims. The long strands are used as the base, with the cross strands forming partially the base and the pattern. The origin predates pile carpets, for obvious utilitarian purposes. Most saddlebags, dry household containers and blankets were produced in this fashion.

Fringe

Extension of the warp threads on two sides of a rug. Often treated in a decorative fashion.

KPSI

The number of knots per square inch.

In general, the more knots per square inch, the more expensive the rug as the resulting weave is finer and more time has been spent on the construction of the rug. However, please keep in mind that a rug of different origin, style or design could be more expensive even though it has a lower KPSI.

Loom

The instrument on which a rug is woven.

Mahi

The literal translation for mahi is fish. The symbol of the fish is very prominent in Persian culture, representing prosperity, life, love and happiness. This comes from the importance of fish as a dietary staple in previous centuries, where stocks of dried fish represented one's ability to feed one's family. The mahi is frequently used in many Persian rug styles, most notably in Tabriz rugs.

Medallion

The large enclosed portion of design usually located in the center of an Oriental rug. It may be round, oval, square or rectangular, but can in fact take any symmetrical shape.

Origin

The country where the rug was woven.

Pile

Simply, it is the visible surface of the rug, the material knotted into the foundation to form a patterned, colored thickness on the fair side. It is also called the nap or face. Pile can be either wool or silk, or a mixture of the two, and is usually dyed in one or more colors.

When the weaving is complete the pile is usually shaven to the desired length. Some pieces are then washed to give varying effects by changing the colors and/or luster, whereas others, as is common in China, are clipped or embossed.

Raj

The number of knots in 7 cm.

Consequently, some clever weavers insert calculated tonal changes to add “interest” and age to some pieces.

Selvedge

Please see Edge above. This strengthening of the vertical, or longer, sides prevents unraveling. As it is the most-frequently handled part of the rug, it is the most common location for minor repairs.

Size

Size of the rug is described in feet and inches and/or centimeters, shown as width by length. Generally, it does not include the fringes.

Tea Wash

Just as our mothers would have washed graying net curtains in a tub of weak tea, rugs are treated in the same fashion in order to improve slight fading or discoloration. This is done to give a certain glow, which fits well with today's color pallet.

Warp

The set of long strands attached to the loom, which runs the entire length of the rug. This, with the weft, gives the foundation into which the pile is knotted, also forming the fringe at one or both ends.

Weave

The technique used in the construction of an Oriental rug. There are three fundamental techniques: hand knotted, flat weave and hand tufted. In general, hand knotted rugs are more expensive than flat weaves and hand tufted rugs.

Weaving time

Based on the knot counts in a rug, experts can calculate the amount of time that went into weaving the rug. Here is the formula:

Total knot counts in the rug / 5,000 = Weaving time

A skilled weaver can complete from 4,000 to 6,000 knots per day. First we multiply the knot count in one square inch by the area of the rug. This gives us the total number knot in the rug. Then we divide this number by 5,000 (average number of knots per day).

Weft

The group of strands that go across the width of the rug, also forming the selvedges along the sides.

"Just got our rug for the family room and want to tell you how it has changed that room. Wow! Nice warm, cosy feeling. Great!"
Nancy, Lake Surich, IL