Persian Carpet Weaving: Types & Techniques

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Bold geometric patterns and colorful floral designs. Plush pile and bright weaves. What do these things have in common? They're found in Persian carpets. In this lesson, explore types of carpets and techniques involved in Persian carpet weaving.

A Long Tradition of Carpet Weaving

If you've ever seen a Persian carpet, you know it's a beautiful work of art. But what distinguishes a Persian carpet from others? Well, the name Persia refers to a part of the world that includes Iran and Turkey, both once part of the Persian Empire. It's a region famous for rug weaving.

But how is it made? By weaving, a process of creating a textile by interlacing threads. Weaving is done on a loom, a frame-like piece of equipment that holds two basic types of threads.

  1. Warp threads run vertically, attached to the loom frame and held in tension.
  2. Weft threads run horizontally and are interlaced with warp threads.

Most Persian carpet are made by hand, and their width is determined by the width of the loom on which they are made. Persian carpets may be made of natural fibers like cotton, silk or wool.

Now let's explore a few types of rugs and techniques for making them.

Knot Techniques

Persian carpets are famous for a luxurious thick pile or carpet surface (the stuff you run your fingers and toes through) that's made by weaving with an important step added. During weaving, many hand-tied knots are added in rows to the warp threads. Then weft threads are interlaced above them and packed down with a comb to hold the knots in place.

A carpet weaver at work. The high vertical strings are the warp threads. Notice how his weaving is creating thick pile.
weave

The knots form the surface texture and image. Knot density, or the number of knots used within a square inch area, varies by region and rug type. It can sometimes signal a very high quality rug.

Another factor involving knots is knot type, or how the knot is tied to warp threads. It also tends to vary according to the geographic area in which the rug is made.

Knot Types

Knot types include the Persian or Senneh knot, also known as the 'asymmetrical' knot. In this knot, yarn wraps around one warp thread, passes under a neighboring warp, and then goes out to the surface.

A Persian carpet with an intricate design
Persian carpet

Many Persian knots fit into a small area and are often used for detailed designs. The Turkish or Ghiorde knot, also known as the 'symmetrical' knot, has yarn wrapped around two warp threads. Each end of the yarn piece is then wrapped behind a warp and brought to the surface. This creates a more durable rug.

And then there's the Jufti knot, used in a specific area of Iran, in which a yarn is wrapped around four warp threads.

A trained weaver can work quickly, but it's still a time-consuming process and it may take up to two years to complete a rug. When weaving is completed, the pile surface of the rug has to be carefully shaved to ensure all the yarns are the same height -- this way the design is clear and crisp.

Flat Weave Carpets

Another type of Persian carpet is a flat weave rug known as a kilim. These rugs don't have knotted pile and they use many special types of weaving techniques that involve skipping a certain number of warp or weft threads to make designs.

One of these techniques is called slit weaving, in which gaps are left between the boundaries in the weft threads of color blocks that are woven to form the patterns on the carpet. Another method, called dove tailing, connects the borders between color blocks by interlocking weft threads. This creates blurrier edges to the design.

Kilim carpets. Notice the geometric patterns on the woven surface.
Examples of kilim carpets

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