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Carpet Weaving: Elements

Pile weaving consists of three fibre elements.

The warp are the longitudinal yarns fixed to
the loom). The weft are the horizontal yarns
that interlace with the warp and hold the fabric
together. The pile are yarns knotted onto the
warp threads, beaten together, and cut off so
as to form a dense, velvety surface.
Traditionally speaking, hand spun wool was
used for the warp, weft, and pile elements. Silk
warps are occasionally used for the finest carpets
as it facilitates great density. Today, cotton is
widely used for the warp and occasionally the
weft, especially in East Asia. The pile is almost
universally wool although cotton, silk, and even
gold or silver wrapped threads may be used for
part or all of the pile.
Carpet Weaving: the Loom
Carpets are woven on a variety of looms.
Amongst nomadic tribal weavers, horizontal
looms, spread out over the ground are common.
Among settled communities, vertical frame
looms are more common. The loom pictured
here is a basic type of loom with a fixed-length
warp. It has two horizontal bars, the heddle
rod and shed stick, which facilitate creating
the shed or warp opening needed to pass the
Carpet Weaving: Knots
The characteristic plush surface of carpets is
produced by knotting wool or occasionally silk
threads around different combinations of warp
yarns. Once knotted, they are cut and beaten
with a comb-like implement to form a dense
pile. There are two main knot types, the Turkish
Knot (aka symmetric knot) and the Persian
Knot (aka asymmetric knot). Turkish knots are,
as the name suggests, most prevalent in Turkey,
parts of the Caucasus as well as among certain
Tribal groups in Iran and Central Asia. Turkish
knots involve a length of yarn wrapped around
a pair of warp threads; the two ends are pulled
between the warp threads and cut off with a

Turkish knot illustration

Carpet Weaving: Knots
The Persian knot is common in Iran, Afghanistan
and Turkestan. It involves a length of yarn
slipped under one warp and wrapped around
an adjacent warp so that an end projects from
between each pair of warps. Depending upon
the direction of the wrapped warp, the Persian
knot is said to be open to the left or right, a
distinction that may influence the feel and
appearance of the finished carpet surface.

Persian open left knot illustration

Persian open right knot illustration

Carpet Weaving: Knots
Another important technique used for making
rugs is tapestry weave. It is typically used
to produced the flat-woven kilims woven
throughout Turkey, the Caucasus and Iran.
Because it is much faster to produce and
requires less wool, kilims were traditionally
used in the home. Pile carpets, because they
are so labour intensive and costly to produce,
were more often produced for sale or for tribute
(e.g. to a mosque). Tapestry weave is also
frequently used to finish the ends of pile woven
carpets. The Erikson kilims will be featured in
a subsequent exhibition.

Tapestry weave illustration

Carpet Weaving: Knots
Soumak is a technique that involves wrapping
warp yarns with a supplementary weft. It produces
a dense, flat surface that offers the weaver
much freedom of design. Soumak is widely
used across rug producing Asia, particularly in
the Caucasus and among tribal groups in north
western Iran. The Erikson Collection contains
a number of fine soumak bags and bagfaces

Soumak illustration
Carpet Weaving:
Terms of Reference