The Art of Weaving


The art of weaving rugs has a long history starting in the ancient times. From the fragments found in the Egyptian and Mesopotamian tombs we know that various forms of flat (no pile) weaving were well developed more than 4000 years ago. What has remained from early times as evidence of carpet weaving also suggests that weaving of pile rugs which are the prominent type of Oriental rugs existed in the Middle East and other parts of central, northwest, and eastern Asia long before 2000 BC. Being one of the most ancient crafts in the world, rug waving is mentioned in The Old Testament and in Homer’s IIiad.

The oldest known hand-knotted Oriental rug was excavated from the Altai Mountains of Central Asia near Pazryk in 1948. It was found in a semi-frozen burial site. This ancient rug has been named “The Pazryk Carpet” and it dates back to 4th century B.C. Today the rug is in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad, Russia.


There are two key factors in what defines an Oriental rug. First and most important is that all true Oriental rugs are hand-knotted. Hand-knotting is a skilled process in which individual knots are hand-tied by hand onto a framework of interwoven threads. The variation of these knots, in coordination with their color and location, create both the pile and the pattern of the rug.

The second key factor is that all Oriental rugs are made in the eastern hemisphere of the globe. The name Oriental rug is itself a misnomer. Most people consider the Orient to be southern Asia (China, Japan, Koreas, etc.), whereas the majority of true Oriental rugs are made in Persia (Iran), India, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan and Turkey.


Oriental Rugs may be either flat woven or hand-knotted. Flat woven rugs are not as prominent as pile carpets. Flat woven rugs are pile-less, created through a system of crossing vertical and horizontal threads to create the fabric of the rug. There are multiple types of flat woven rugs made up of different materials, dyes, and designs. These types of rugs may be called kilims, soumacs, dhurries, or flat weaves depending upon the specific way in which they are constructed.

Pile carpets are the most prominent form of Oriental rug. A pile carpet is formed when strands of material are tied (knotted) by hand onto a foundation of warps and wefts, with the cut ends of these knot strings creating the pile of the rug, and the placement and colors of these individual knots creates the pattern and quality of the rug.


Natural dyes are derived from plant materials and insects such as indigo, madder, oak, sumac, pomegranate, cochineal and larkspur. Before the 1870s, they were the only source used to dye wool. Since the invention of synthetic dyes, there has been much debate about which type of dye produces a more beautiful and investment-worthy rug. Natural dyes tend to gently fade with time and therefore produce a sought after patina.

Color variations, known as abrash, result from a slight color difference in the dye lots used to weave the rug. If the color variation is not excessive, this unique characteristic of hand-made rugs is actually a desirable one and is often planned for by the weaver and/or dyer. This technique can actually enhance the three-dimensional appearance of a rug.

(The chart below shows some of the sources in Nature used for natural dyes)