ABRASH

A change in the intensity of a particular colour brought about by the dyeing of wool in different batches. This change appears as a horizontal band across the rug. It is more apparent with dyestuffs (such as indigo) that are difficult to control in the dyeing process. Abrash creates a visual movement within a rug often lending charm and individuality much admired by rug enthusiasts.

AFSHAR

A Turkic speaking tribe who inhabit primarily the area south of Kirman in southern Persia both as nomads and settled villagers. Most of this group were forcibly resettled from the northern province of Azerbaijan in the 16th century by Shah Tamasp. Smaller, more diverse groups of Afshar still inhabit areas of northwest Persia and Anatolia. Their rugs express a similar design logic to those weavings of the neighbouring tribes of Qashqa’i, Khamseh.

ANATOLIA

Asia Minor – modern Turkey east of the Bosporus.

ANILINE DYES

Synthetic dyestuffs derived from coal tar. Invented by Perkin in 1856 and first used in oriental rugs in the 1860s. They were the first synthetic dyes to be used in oriental rugs and were invariably applied inexpertly, exhibiting poor light fastness.

BAKHTIYAR

Tribal group, which incorporates both nomadic and sedentary people, from central southern Persia just west of the city of Isfahan. They are considered by many to be part of the ancient Lurs tribes. The nomadic Bakhtiyar maintain summer pastures in the Zagros mountains while village rug production focuses on the Chahar Mahal region. The rugs of the Chahar Mahal differ from those of the nomadic Bakhtiyar in that they are knotted on a cotton warp and weft and exhibit a bolder, more contrasting range of primary colour.

BALUCH

Fiercely independent tribal nomads of the rugged and barren border regions of eastern Persia and western Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their rugs are dark and rather mysterious reflecting in character the people of the black tents and voluminous turbans. Often the rugs are made using just indigo and madder for the red/brown and blue tones, undyed sheep’s wool, goat hair and camelhair.

BIDJAR

A predominantly Kurdish township in western Persia associated with the weaving of village rugs. While many large carpets were made here and in the surrounding villages, cartoons were not used. A system of ‘wagirehs’ or small sampler rugs showing their design repertoire were made and used in areas of the cottage industry in western and northern Persia. All Bidjar carpets show a peculiarity of weave in that alternate warp threads are depressed by shooting a straight weft, thereby giving the finished product a stiff, board-like handle. They are considered to be among the most robust of all oriental rugs.

BOTEH

A pear or leaf shaped design originally appearing in early Indian textiles and later (probably in the 16th century) in oriental rugs. It appears in a wide variety of stylised forms and is the basis of the Paisley pattern.

CORROSION

The corrosion of the pile of carpets occurs quite often in those areas of dyed brown yarn (as opposed to yarn that is undyed and shorn from black or brown sheep). The combination of the dyestuff containing tannin and the iron rich mordant causes the wool to become very light and sensitive and wear more rapidly. This effect is much in evidence in many old Caucasian and Turkish village rugs n

FELT

Felt is one of the oldest forms of non-woven fabric which is built up of interlocking fibres. The fibres become intermeshed by a combination of mechanical work, heat and moisture. In most parts of Asia, sheep’s wool is used for felting.

FIELD

The central area of a rug enclosed by the borders. Field patterns may have a repetitive or overall design or contain central medallions based on floral or geometric motifs.

GROUND WAVE

Right-angled interlacing of warp (lengthways) threads and weft (widthways) threads, forming the basic structure of a fabric or rug. Also called the foundation.

GÜL

An octagonal motif appearing as an infinitely repeating design across the field of rugs particularly of Turkmen origin. A variety of stylisations were used by the Turkmen tribes for whom the ‘gül’ had special heraldic significance. Particular tribes were associated with certain ‘gül’ just as Scottish clans were associated with specific tartans.

INDIGO

Produces the colour blue from the Indigofera plant species. It gives a constant shade of blue varying only in intensity. The method of fixing the dye to the wool is known as vat dyeing, a process whereby a paste of the leaves is reduced by alkaline fermentation, traditionally wood ashes and sheep’s urine. The yarn is steeped in the vat of this greenish reduced liquid and on withdrawal and exposure to air, it oxidises and turns blue. To obtain a deeper intensity the process is repeated.

KHAMSEH

A south Persian group of tribes formed as a political confederation in the 1860s purportedly to combat the might of the neighbouring Qashqa’i tribes. A conglomeration of Turkic, Arab and Persian peoples, the Khamseh produced rugs similar in character to those of the Qashqa’i. One particular design type associated with the Khamseh is the ‘murgi’ or ‘chicken’ rug displaying numerous long necked birds pecking away at random across the field of the rugs.

KILIM

Most specifically, a tapestry woven rug (as distinct from pile) produced in Turkey, Persia and the Caucasus. The term is often used in a generic sense for all flat woven rugs whether they are a tapestry woven rug or woven in some other weft or warp faced technique.

KNOTS

Strands of wool wrapped around the warps and cut so that the ends project upwards to form a pile. Two basic types of knots are used in oriental rugs.

KURDS

The Kurds, among the most ancient inhabitants of western Persia are found also in great numbers in eastern Turkey and Iraq. Throughout the centuries, many Kurdish groups have dispersed sometimes at the behest of rulers to other parts of Iran (Persia). Kurdish tribes inhabit the area around Kuchan (Quchan). Kurdish weavings are as similarly diverse and difficult to attribute precisely but are produced by both nomadic tribes people and settled villagers.

MADDER

A major red dye extracted from roots of the Rubia plant family and used throughout rug wearing areas for thousands of years. The dyestuff requires the use of a mordant to fix to the wool fibres. Metallic salts of either iron or aluminium were used for this purpose and a wide range of shades were so obtained from deep violet brown through to a bright orange red.

MIHRAB

Niche in the mosque used to show the direction of Mecca for Moslem prayer. Represented by an arch at the top of the field in a prayer rug which, at times of prayer, was then pointed towards Mecca, Islam’s holiest city.

MORDANT

A metal salt applied to fabric as part of the dyeing process to fix the colour to the fibre, that is, to ensure colour fastness. Varying the mordant produces different colour shades from the same dyestuff. The most common mordants for natural dyes were alum (potassium aluminium sulphate) and iron sulphate, whereas today’s synthetic dyes are usually mordanted with potassium dichromate.

NATURAL DYES

Dyes derived from naturally occurring sources, either from minerals, plants or insects. Such dyes were used exclusively in oriental rug making until the introduction of synthetic dyes in the 1860s. The changeover from one to the other was gradual, particularly in more remote areas.

NOMANDS

Tribes of people who wander from place to place in search of pasture. The carpet weaving nomads are sheep herders whose migrations centred around the movement between summer highland pastures and winter lowland camps. The nomads of the Central Asian steppes, the Turkmen, are considered by many to be the descendants of the original weavers of knotted pile carpet.

PILE

The tufted surface of a knotted rug, formed by wrapping strands of wool around the warps to form a knot and cutting them so that the ends project upwards. Rows of knots alternate with one or more rows of weft.

PRAYER RUG

Among the more devout groups of Moslem carpet weavers, the prayer rug was important particularly to the nomad or villager who was not near a mosque at prayer times. A carpet bearing a mihrab (or prayer arch) at the upper end of the field was laid on the ground pointing in the direction of Mecca and upon this the worshippers prostrated themselves. It evolved during Ottoman times in Turkey where, among the rather conservative village folk, it became not only a cherished but fashionable item made by the womenfolk of the family and handed down. The simplest mihrab is formed by the two sides of a triangle converging to a point.

QASHQA’I

Traditionally the most powerful of all south Persian tribal groups, both politically and numerically The confederation of tribes was disbanded in the 1950s having been reduced to a shadow of their former wealth and status. Their seasonal migrations took them from their winter quarters on the coastal plains southwest of Shiraz to their summer pastures high in the Zagros mountains further north. They are renowned as weavers of some of the most beautiful tribal rugs in all of Persia, employing a particularly rich palette and lustrous wool.

SADDLE BAGS

Woven or knotted storage and transportation bags used by nomadic tribes people. Constructed in one piece and comprising two bags and a connecting bridge, saddlebags (Khorjin) are made to hang across a pack animal’s neck or back so that the load is evenly balanced.

SALT BAG

A woven or knotted, bottled shaped bag known as a namkdan and used by tribal nomads for the storage of salt for domestic use and for their stock.

SELVEDGE

The lengthways edges of a textile. Usually formed in rugs by outer warps (side cords) that are thicker and stronger than warps in ten main body of the rug. The ground wefts pass around the side cords, which are usually overcast (bound) with wool and/pr goat hair for protection from wear.

SUZANI

Floral embroideries traditionally made by women as dowry pieces in Uzbekistan. Suzani were traditionally embroidered by the women of the bride’s family. The bride herself would over several years have completed a ‘suite’ of embroideries. Household usage was as covers for bedding or furniture and curtains to annex the sleeping quarters from the living room. They also served a ceremonial role as a marriage textile.

TURKMEN

Turkic-speaking nomads who in the 19th and early 20th centuries inhabited Russian Turkestan, northeast Persia and northern Afghanistan. They comprised several main tribes and clans including the Tekke, Ersari, Yomud, Salor. Saryk and Chodor. They were outstanding weavers of knotted pile rugs, bags and animal and tent trappings bearing characteristic ‘gul’ designs in shades of madder red.

WARP

Lengthways parallel threads, part of the basic structure of a textile, with which the wefts interlace (usually at right angles) to form the ground weave and around which knots are tied to form the pile. Warps are held taut by the loom during weaving and, when the finished rug is cut from the loom, they emerge to form the fringes.

WEFT

Threads that cross the warps and interlace with them, usually at right angles. Continuous wefts run from selvedge to selvedge. In pile rugs, the continuous wefts inserted between rows of knots form the ground weave. Closely-packed wefts may hide the warp, forming a weft-faced textile as in tapestry weave, in which the wefts are also discontinuous, and form both the ground weave and pattern at the same time.

WELD (Reseda Luteola, Dyer’s weed)

Weld is a plant, cultivated in Persia, from which a good, light, fast yellow is obtained.

YURT

The traditional circular home of many Central Asian nomads including the Turkmen, who were highly skilled rug weavers. It is made of wooden trellis and struts covered with felts.

ZIEGLER

Name given to carpets woven, during the latter part of the 19th century, around the central Persian township of Sultanabad (now Arak) at the behest of a Manchester-based Swiss firm Ziegler and Co., who had set up office there in 1883. They introduced new designs deemed popular in Europe, making and distributing small knotted pattern samplers (called ‘wagirehs’) for the village weavers to copy