TURKISH RUGS

Turkey is located at the meeting point of many different cultures: European, Anatolian, Caucasian, Persian, and Arabic.  This means the traditional handicrafts of this region have many, many influences.  Turkish rugs exhibit these many influences in their richness of color and design. The woven or knotted rug is an essential cultural artifact that reflects not only the values of the period in which it was made, but also the profusion of technology and materials available in the region.  While woven textiles appeared in central Turkey as far as 7000 BC, knotted rugs came later, beginning during the 8th or 9th centuries AD. Turkish rugs were initially woven for domestic use, and then exploded into Europe in the middle 18th and 19th centuries, thus establishing a tradition of floor covering from palaces to humble abodes.

Technically, the thing that differentiates Turkish rugs from other carpets is the double knot technique. Called the Ghiordes or Turkish knot, it is symmetrical, with each piece of yarn wrapping two warps, providing a much more resilient and strong weave.

The real differentiating features, however, are the colors and designs. The rich, saturated colors, originating in natural plants and animals, work together with the intricate, detailed designs to define the different styles.  The abundance of motifs that cover Turkish rugs vary in style and form across the entire region of Asia Minor.  This wealth of symbolic expression gives history and depth to even the simplest rugs, and raises the everyday act of weaving into a true artisanal craft.

These designs show us the wide range of visual culture from the flat weaves of the nomadic Yoruk tribes in the east to the sophisticated swirls of the Hereke rugs made for the Ottoman palaces; the range and variety of styles we see in Turkish rugs invites us to be a part of a glorious cultural heritage.

In Turkey, rugs were initially woven by tribal groups to be used in their tents. For example, the sofra, a square flat-weave, was originally used functionally, as a table, bed or even to cover the bread to keep it fresh. Later, they became a sort of tablet upon which a young woman could write her feelings and express her dreams. Over time rugs have become an inseparable part of interior spaces, from small homes to large salons; from private rooms to public halls. As size increases, the rugs’ design expands, becoming more intricate and complex, impressing all who have the fortune to walk across it.

There is one other feature about Turkish rugs that sets them apart from the rest: Turkish rugs are keeping up with the times.  In the last 50 years, the craft of Turkish rug making has truly come alive again. The industry has been reinvigorated with investment in both design and production.  The Turkish market has learned to listen, whether to customers or designers, and adapt the traditional styles to meet modern needs. This may mean shifting the palette of a known design to lighter colors, or slightly modifying a design feature (called ‘retouche’) to better fit a contemporary interior.

A GLOSSARY OF RUG TERMS

Abrash – The natural and variable change in color that occurs in an Oriental rug over time when different dyes are used.

All-over design – A term used to describe a rug without a central medallion but with a design repeated throughout the field.

Antique Finish/Wash – a chemical soaking process designed to simulate aging by modifying color saturation and intensity

Arabesque – Ornate curving design featuring intertwined floral and vine figures.

Art Silk – Also called artificial silk – refers to the use of processed (mercerized) cotton as a substitute for silk.

Aubusson (Aubuson) – These fine flat-woven carpets, featuring formidable sized rugs in pastel colors with floral medallions, were produced in France from the 15th-19th centuries.

Baktiari (Bakhtiari) – Named for the Iranian tribal peoples who produced them – rugs noted for durable construction, typically featuring a repeated square-grid motif with a floral detailing in each grid.

Border Rug – A rug featuring a design on the outer rim, or border, of the rug, surrounding the field.

Boteh – A pear-shaped figure often used in Oriental rug designs characteristic of the paisley pattern. The boteh may represent a leaf, bush or a pinecone.

Broadloom – Carpet(s) produced in widths of at least 6'.

Brocade – Weft float weave used to add design and embellishment. Often seen on the kilim bands at the ends of oriental rugs

Cartouche – Oval-shaped ornament incorporated into the rug design containing a signature, date, or inscription

Carved Pile – Design or pattern cut or "embossed" into the pile of a rug – common in Chinese and Tibetan carpets.

Chain Stitch – A crochet stitch used in rug construction that consists of successive loops to lock the final weft in place at the end of a rug.

Flat-Weave – Term describing any rug without pile: including Sumaks, Kilim, Verneh, Sozani, and Dhurie.

Field – The part of a rug's design surrounded by the border. The field may be blank or contain medallions or an over-all pattern.

Fringe – Warps extending from the ends of a rug which are treated in several ways to prevent the wefts and knots from unravelling.

Gabbeh – A long-piled rug style with a simple colorful design, originally used as a mattress.

Gul – A medallion either octagonal or angular in shape used in Turkoman designs. It is often repeated to form an all-over pattern in the field.

Hooked rug – A hooking device pushes and loops yarn through a canvas producing either a loop hook or latch hook rug (also the loops can be sheared to create an open pile).

Jufti Knot – A ‘false’ knot, either Turkish or Persian, which is tied onto four warp threads instead of the normal two. This time-saving knot lessens the quality and the amount of material in a rug.

Kashir – Upscale carpets made of either silk or mercerized cotton from the Islamic region of India – woven with a Persian knot.

Kazak – Referring to the Turkish-style rugs produced by the peoples of Kazakhstan and of that region.

Kilim – A flat-woven (pileless) carpet, often reversible, in which a design pattern is formed by colored weft strings being wrapped around the warp.

Knap – the brush-like surface of the rug, created when the knot loops are cut.

Knot – the basic technique used to create an Oriental carpet: Two types of knots are used:

  • The Persian Senneh knot is a fine, assymetrical knot used in relatively complex carpets, giving them a "light" and a "dark" side.
  • The Turkish Ghiordes knot is symmetrical and gives a rug a deeper, longer-wearing pile.

Knot count – In the process of making a hand knotted rug, each strand of yarn is knotted to the foundation: The higher the number of knots per square inch – the higher the quality of the rug.

Knotted – Process by which a rug is hand woven with wool (or silk) and secured to a cotton foundation by knotting – thus producing a rug of superior quality. Such a rug could be classified as "knotted", "hand-knotted", "hand-woven" or "hand-made"(handmade). Factors that may affect or increase value/cost are the density of the pile (knots per square inch) as well as the intricacy of the design motif.

Line Count – The number of horizontal knots per linear foot. (As with knot count, the higher the number, usually the higher the quality of the rug).

Medallion – Large design element located in the very center of the rug's field – the hallmark of the traditional, symmetrical Oriental area rug. In rugs with an all-over design or a random or contemporary design format a medallion will not be displayed.

Natural rug – Often refers to an earth-toned rug whose texture – sisal, jute or wool – is the identifying feature.

Oriental – referring to an Oriental rug or carpet:

  • ". . . handmade of natural fibers (most commonly wool or silk), with a pile woven on a warp and weft, with individual character and design made in the Near East, Middle East, Far East, or the Balkans."
    … as defined by the Oriental Rug Importers Association.

Overcasting – the technique of rounding the wool edges of the vertical sides of a rug to prevent fraying.

Patina – Term referring to the "mellowed" surface appearance of a rug – due to age or use.

Persian Knot – Looped around one thread with only a half-turn around the other thread.

Pile – The nap of the rug or the tufts remaining after the knotted yarns are clipped.

Pile weave – The structure of knotted carpets and rugs forming a pile or nap: Wool, silk, (sometimes cotton) is knotted around the warp in a variety of techniques.

Plain Weave – The simplest interfacing of warp and weft.

Prayer Rug – Typically small, this rug features an arch motif at the top of the field – either geometric or curvilinear – depending on where it was woven.

Runner – A long, narrow rug, usually under 3 feet wide, primarily used in hallways and on staircases.

Selvage – The area between the edge of a rug and the fringe.

Sumak – A flatwoven rug made from a technique that produces a herringbone effect.

Tapestry – Generic term referring to a flat-woven wall hanging characterized by rich pastoral design settings.

Tapestry Weave – Any variety of weaves where the pattern is created by ground wefts that do not run from end to end.

Tea Wash – A procedure used to soften the colors in order to give a rug the appearance of age.

Tribal rug – A term used interchangeably with gabbeh to describe a primitive-looking or Southwestern rug.

Tufted – A process in which tufts of wool are punched through a base fabric. The underside of the base is then painted with Latex glue and covered with a backing material.


Turkish Knot – Tied around two adjacent warp threads. Also known as “Ghiordes”.

Warp – Comprising the structure parallel wrap yarns run the length of the rug and are interlaced with wefts.

Weft – The yarns woven horizontally through the warps.

Weft-Faced – A rug where the weft yarns are more closely spaced than the warps.

Yarn Ply – Number of single strands of yarn that are twisted together to form a plied yarn.