Hand knotted rugs are renowned for their high-quality, craftsmanship and prestigious detail. To create one of these luxurious rugs, it takes months and months of work. Despite high demand from Western countries, each rug is still handmade today in the same way as they were traditionally.
But how exactly are they made?
There are several stages involved in making a handmade rug which take an expert artisan months at a time.
Traditional rugs are made from only the highest quality materials from the natural world. Typically, an oriental rug will combine wool, silk, and cotton. These materials are the best for durability, resilience and natural shine. Wool, for example, has a high fat content which keeps the material of the rug free from dirt, moisture or tear and wear.
To start the rug making process, the materials are carefully spun into yarn. Each fibre is flattened, straightened, and teased into individual strands. These strands are then spun into a soft yarn. In Nepal, artisans use a spinning wheel called a Charkha.
The next step is dyeing the material. This is done with natural dyes using fruits and vegetables, although modern techniques now use artificial or mineral dyes too.
Each yarn is dyed by hand with an original pot dyeing method. By dyeing the yarns in small batches, artisans are able to maintain a consistent colour throughout the process. Sometimes, dyeing can take up to two weeks to help artisans gain the perfect colour.
After all the yarn has been dyed, each piece is laid out to dry naturally in the sun. Using natural light rather than artificial, gives the yarn a brighter finish and a soft sheen.
Next comes the fun part. Artists create a ‘map’ for the design of the rugs or runners so that they know what colour each knot should be. Maps are created with pencil and paper, or digitally created. Traditionally, designs were created from memory.
Weaving & Knotting
To start the knotting process, weavers will use a loom. A loom comprises of a wooden structure with vertical strings that loop from the top to the bottom. These strings are called the ‘warp’, and it’s in between these loops that the rug will be made. Yarn will be threaded horizontally through the warp, and this is called the weft. Together, they create the full structure and composition of the rug.
The yarns are knotted around the warp. Each knot continues on from the previous until the rug is completed. It’s a time-consuming process, but creates masterpieces for you to enjoy for a lifetime. On average, expert knotters will be able to finish 10,000 knots a day. As reference, a 6-foot Persian rug is typically made from 500,000 knots per square metre. Persian rugs are still incredibly cheap for the amount of work, care and attention put into each one.
Depending on the origin of your rug, will also determine what type of knot is used for the process.
There are four basic types of knot used and each is dependent on the origin of the rug:
- Symmetrical (Turkish, Kazak Rugs)
- Asymmetrical (Persian)
- Jufti (Oriental)
- Tibetan (Tamarian)
Trimming & Polishing
Once complete, the rug is removed from the loom for trimming and polishing. When the knotting is first finished, it’s actually unlikely you’ll be able to recognise the design just yet. To reveal the design, artisans must trim or shave the threads down to the desired height. This has previously been an extremely long process of snipping each yarn one by one. Now, rug knotters benefit from motorised trimmers which speed up the process dramatically.
The rug is then cleaned on both sides with water. Sometimes, a pharwa- a wooden paddle - is used to squeeze water through the pile and push out dirt and dust. By washing the rug in this way, you are left with a beautifully luxurious feel.
To dry, the rug is stretched onto a frame and left to dry naturally. While drying, you can notice a change in the colours of the rug, which will become deeper and richer. If dried incorrectly, the rug can shrink or colours can fade.
To finish, the edges of the rug are bound by hand. The end result? A beautiful, hand knotted rug ready to be put centre stage in your home.