Weaving Rugs

one of a kindRugs may be woven either in city workshops or by villagers or nomads who make rugs part-time for functional purposes or supplementary income as their fields lie fallow or in between seasonal migrations. Both men and women work as weavers, though the division of labor sometimes differs according to the norms of nomadic or city life. Rugs may be woven as one-sided-flat-weaves (kilims), two-sided-flat-weaves (soumaks), pile rugs, or soafs. A soaf is a rug with a flat-woven foundation like a kilim, but with raised motifs woven atop the foundation resulting in a bas-relief. Pile rugs are knotted over a fiber gridwork called a foundation, and often have narrow kilim bands at the ends to protect the pile and stabilize the fringe. Some nomadic tribes weave patterns from memory or improvise as they go along, drawing inspiration from their surroundings or spiritual aspirations.

In more elaborate designs, a sketch or more detailed cartoon is usually drafted prior to weaving, which the weavers follow as they knot the rug. Or while weaving they may refer to a woven sampler, typically a corner or quadrant including motifs and border pattern, as a guideline. Rugs are woven using either symmetrical or asymmetrical knots (often referred to as Turkish and Persian knots, respectively, which is misleading as both knots are employed in both countries.) No machine can replicate either the symmetrical or asymmetrical knot, which still must be individually knotted by hand. The relative coarseness of the wool, the skill and experience of the weaver, the intricacy of the design, and the size of the rug all factor into the amount of time it takes to weave a rug. Making a rug requires meticulous attention to detail and exceptional patience, but the end result (and the reward!), is beautiful.

After a rug is woven, it is carefully cut from the loom, the surface is sheared, and the rug is washed, then combed to remove excess fuzz. The rug is then dried in the sun and sheared a second time. After the second shearing the weavers examine the rug to see if needs touch-ups, such as compacting uneven knots and neatening curves. The rug is then stretched or “blocked”, after which remaining fuzz is singed off the back. Finally the fringe is finished by twisting or knotting, preventing the rug from unraveling and adding beauty to the rug. The rug receives a final shearing before it is considered to be finished.