What is a Persian Rug Weave

The first step in analyzing a Persian rug is to learn how it was made. Recognizing the weave is the key.

Each Persian rug weaving region has its own unique weaving pattern. Rarely do they deviate from the discipline that is faithfully passed on through the generations.
Rug experts recognize Persian rugs by looking at the back of the rug, not the front.
The left picture below shows the front of rug woven with four different weaves. But you wouldn’t know that until you look at the back of the rug (right picture) to discover four completely different weaves from four different regions were used.

This is the front of the rug. Except for variations in color, there are no clues on how the rug was made.

On the back of the rug, however, we can see four different weaves were used to make pretty much the same pattern.

The back of the rug, therefore, is critical to knowing the rug.

The majority, if not all, of the available texts on rugs contain descriptions and pictures of rug designs and colors. This information can be very informative – to a point. However, after seeing the rug from the top and taking note of the design, colors, edges and ends, true rug experts must look at the back of the rug before making a final identification. Even then, some pieces may fall short of 100% certainty of identification. Experts can get very close, but sometimes it is nearly impossible to know where a rug originated.

What is it on the back of a rug that these experts are searching for?

“Look at the back”

When I first started working in a rug store, I asked Hamid, my manager at the time, questions about how he recognized the rugs. His answer was always the same: “Look at the back.”
I kept asking, “How can you tell?” He kept replying, “Look at the back and you will recognize the weave.”
I did not recognize the weave. At least not as easily as he made it seem. But as time went by, I began to recognize some patterns when looking at the back of rugs. However, it was more like a “big picture” pattern which my brain was processing subconsciously. I could not put into words exactly what it was that I was seeing.
The human brain is designed to recognize faces and patterns quickly. You will recognize your new neighbor after just one greeting; however, if a sketch artist asked you for details about the nose, lips, eyes and eyebrows after that first short visit, you would likely fumble in both your description and accuracy. The point is, you recognize the “big picture” but the acute details are not necessarily available to you.

Recognition comes with experience

As I began learning how to repair rugs, I wondered how I would handle all the different types of rugs and repair techniques. “Wonder” is a bit mild, actually: I would panic internally about how I would make it through the next repair. It was always important to me to do a good job, so I would spend a lot of time anticipating the challenges. After all, there were so many variations.
But as time passed, I gained a better understanding of how the rugs were made in the first place. And I realized that if I followed a set of principles, each rug would tell me how it was woven and what I needed to do to achieve the exact weave as part of my repair.

I share these principles in my eBook, Art of oriental rugs – A weaver’s perspective. Here are excerpts from eBook:

There are three major types of weaves:

First:

Below is a picture of an actual rug, it’s been cut across to demonstrate the formation of the warps. Notice how every other warp (white nodes) is above the other, this is caused by the weaving method which forces the warp towards the top. 

Second: 

Below is a picture of an actual rug, it’s been cut across to demonstrate the formation of the warps. Notice how the warps all fall on the same plain, this is caused by the weaving method which puts equal pressure on the warps. 

Third and the least prevalent is in between the other two weave types.

If you are curious to learn more, my eBook The Art of Oriental Rugs – A Weaver’s Perspective shows you: 1) how to identify a weave** and how different techniques produce “recognizable” variations in different regions, 2) maps with geographical views of where rugs are woven in the country of Iran and how the regional weaves influence each other, and 3) 750+ close-up pictures of weaves from 170+ rug-weaving regions in Iran and around the globe. This, I humbly hope, will be seen as an indispensable addition to any library.

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What is a Persian Rug Weave?

The first step in analyzing a Persian rug is to learn how it was made. Recognizing the weave is the key.

Each Persian rug weaving region has its own unique weaving pattern. Rarely do they deviate from the discipline that is faithfully passed on through the generations.
Rug experts recognize Persian rugs by looking at the back of the rug, not the front.
The left picture below shows the front of rug woven with four different weaves. But you wouldn’t know that until you look at the back of the rug (right picture) to discover four completely different weaves from four different regions were used.

This is the front of the rug. Except for variations in color, there are no clues on how the rug was made.

On the back of the rug, however, we can see four different weaves were used to make pretty much the same pattern.

The back of the rug, therefore, is critical to knowing the rug.

The majority, if not all, of the available texts on rugs contain descriptions and pictures of rug designs and colors. This information can be very informative – to a point. However, after seeing the rug from the top and taking note of the design, colors, edges and ends, true rug experts must look at the back of the rug before making a final identification. Even then, some pieces may fall short of 100% certainty of identification. Experts can get very close, but sometimes it is nearly impossible to know where a rug originated.

What is it on the back of a rug that these experts are searching for?

“Look at the back”

When I first started working in a rug store, I asked Hamid, my manager at the time, questions about how he recognized the rugs. His answer was always the same: “Look at the back.”
I kept asking, “How can you tell?” He kept replying, “Look at the back and you will recognize the weave.”
I did not recognize the weave. At least not as easily as he made it seem. But as time went by, I began to recognize some patterns when looking at the back of rugs. However, it was more like a “big picture” pattern which my brain was processing subconsciously. I could not put into words exactly what it was that I was seeing.
The human brain is designed to recognize faces and patterns quickly. You will recognize your new neighbor after just one greeting; however, if a sketch artist asked you for details about the nose, lips, eyes and eyebrows after that first short visit, you would likely fumble in both your description and accuracy. The point is, you recognize the “big picture” but the acute details are not necessarily available to you.

Recognition comes with experience

As I began learning how to repair rugs, I wondered how I would handle all the different types of rugs and repair techniques. “Wonder” is a bit mild, actually: I would panic internally about how I would make it through the next repair. It was always important to me to do a good job, so I would spend a lot of time anticipating the challenges. After all, there were so many variations.
But as time passed, I gained a better understanding of how the rugs were made in the first place. And I realized that if I followed a set of principles, each rug would tell me how it was woven and what I needed to do to achieve the exact weave as part of my repair.

I share these principles in my eBook, Art of oriental rugs – A weaver’s perspective. Here are excerpts from eBook:

There are three major types of weaves:

First:

Below is a picture of an actual rug, it’s been cut across to demonstrate the formation of the warps. Notice how every other warp (white nodes) is above the other, this is caused by the weaving method which forces the warp towards the top. 

Second: 

Below is a picture of an actual rug, it’s been cut across to demonstrate the formation of the warps. Notice how the warps all fall on the same plain, this is caused by the weaving method which puts equal pressure on the warps. 

Third and the least prevalent is in between the other two weave types.

If you are curious to learn more, my eBook The Art of Oriental Rugs – A Weaver’s Perspective shows you: 1) how to identify a weave** and how different techniques produce “recognizable” variations in different regions, 2) maps with geographical views of where rugs are woven in the country of Iran and how the regional weaves influence each other, and 3) 750+ close-up pictures of weaves from 170+ rug-weaving regions in Iran and around the globe. This, I humbly hope, will be seen as an indispensable addition to any library.

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Back to lessons
next >

*Weave refers to the unique pattern of knot formations on the back of rugs.
**Historically, Persia was the common name used by western countries for Iran (pronounced e-ron) until 1935 when the country was officially named Iran. The words Iranian and/or Persian represent the same proud nation and people.
***bofandeh means “weaver” in Farsi (Persian) which is the language of Iran.