Carpet Weaving in Islamic Art: History, Creation & Uses

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  • 0:04 Islamic Carpets
  • 1:39 History of Islamic Carpets
  • 2:48 Design of Islamic Carpets
  • 4:00 Creation of Islamic Carpets
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, discover the art of carpet weaving in the Islamic world. Learn the history of these artistic and functional pieces, and explore the creation process of the main types of Islamic rugs as well as some practical uses for them.

Islamic Carpets

Many have seen a Persian or a Turkish carpet. They are beautiful and often look exotic. For centuries, this decorative product has captivated the attention of the Western World. Oriental carpets have often been surrounded by mysticism and have inspired stories and legends like flying carpets.

Islamic carpets, also known as oriental rugs, are a heavy textile that is usually handwoven or hand-knotted and service both artistic and utilitarian objects. Carpet weaving is an important activity in many Islamic countries in Northern Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, and the carpets are sometimes also referred to by the most popular places of origin: Persian carpets from Iran and Turkish or Ottoman carpets from Turkey.

Carpet weaving is an important tradition in Islamic culture. Carpets are very popular among Islamic countries and are considered objects of everyday life, regarded with both esteem and admiration.

In Islam, rugs are used for prayer to separate the worshiper from the ground. Prayer rugs have a specific design, similar to a mihrab, the element of the mosque indicating the direction towards Mecca. Carpets are also used as decorative flooring inside the mosques. Furthermore, Islam has made carpets a cherished object. They are mentioned several times in the Quran as a furniture element of Paradise and as part of the wellnesses promised to Islamic believers for when they go to heavens.

Carpets are also used for decorative purposes outside the religious life. In houses and commercial venues, they are a common element for interior decoration of floors and walls.

History of Islamic Carpets

There is little archaeological evidence of carpet weaving from pre-Islamic times. Rugs are subject to deterioration and can be eaten by rodents and insects, so they can suffer severe damage over time.

One of the oldest evidence of carpet weaving was found inside a tomb in the Siberian Mountains. This piece was very well preserved, and it dates back to the 6th or 5th century BCE. Other fragments have also been found on the Silk Road, an ancient trade route between Europe and China. Fragments found in Cairo, dating from the 9th century, are believed to be one of the earliest Muslim carpets.

Europe's interest in oriental rugs developed probably during the 14th century, after the trip of Marco Polo to Persia. The exotic textiles became popular among the European courts. Carpets were seen as a symbol of status and elegance and were represented in many paintings from that time.

With industrialization in Europe, mechanical looms became available, and carpets could be produced in mass. This made machine-woven products more affordable and accessible for most people. However, handmade rugs continue to be produced and are considered beautiful pieces with high artistic value.

Design of Islamic Carpets

There are typically two main parts in oriental rugs: the foundation, which is the base of the carpet and the part that faces the floor and the pile, which is the side meant to be seen, where the different designs and patterns are weaved.

Wool from sheep is commonly used for the pile, while foundation is usually made out of cotton. Silk is sometimes used for special rugs or for highlighting specific elements of a particular piece. However, silk is a very expensive material so it isn't used frequently.

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