Essential Rug Terms
Learn all of the essential rug terminology from Abrash to Zel-i-Sultan and everything in-between!
Abrash: Variations in the shade of a single color within a carpet, usually appearing in a horizontal line. Abrash can be caused when the weaver uses wool to which the dye has been unevenly applied, or uses wool from different dye lots. Even within the same dye lot abrash can be caused by differences in the water used to rinse the dyed wool or by differences in the wool itself.
All-over: A term used to describe a repeated pattern that covers the entire field of a rug. This type of pattern is usually woven without a central medallion.
Antique: The strict definition of an antique rug, which is still used by the United States Customs, requires that the rug be over a hundred years old. In reality, most rugs from the nineteenth century, even if they’re less than a hundred years old, are now considered antiques.
Antiqued, antiquing: The term “antiqued” or “antiquing” refers to a type of chemical washing which gives an old look to a rug. This process is generally used on Chinese rugs that have been woven in the Peking design. This technique is now used by many rug weaving areas.
Arabesque: A design element consisting of complex, intertwining vines, tendrils, leaves, and flowers.
Aubusson: A rug woven in France using the kilim, or slit-tapestry technique. The term is also used to refer to the familiar design of these rugs, which generally features a floral medallion worked in pastel shades.
Bag: A small, square pile rug with a long kelim that folds back to form a compartment. Originally hung over the back of a pack animal.
Bokhara: The city of Bokhara was once an important trade centre in Turkestan, and in the past all rugs sent there for resale were simply called Bokhara rugs. Today the term Bokhara refers to a general type of Turkoman rug that is woven in northeastern Iran and in Russia. Bokhara rugs are worked in the classic Turkoman “elephant’s foot” octagon, also known as a gul. This pattern is repeated in rows and columns, usually on a deep red field. The relatively simple and adaptable Bokhara pattern was the first to be produced in Pakistan. There and in India it’s made in a vast range or sizes, from 1 foot square mats up to 18 by 12 foot and larger room sizes. In addition to the traditional red color scheme, Pakistani and Indian Bokharas are found in rust, tan, orange, light and dark blue, green, aqua, and gold.
Border: The band or stripe, or group of bands or stripes around the edge of the rug that forms a frame to enclose the central field. The border stripes, which almost always are present on all four sides of the rug, are worked either in a single color or in various patterns.
Boteh: A classic design element from which the well-known paisley motif is derived. Also referred to as a pear, a leaf, a pine cone, or a palm.
Brocade, brocaded: Any weaving that has a raised pattern through it.
Broken border: A border that’s extended into the field rather than separated from it by straight lines. This type of border is usually much more closely related to the pattern in the field of the rug than other borders are. It’s usually seen in rugs that are based on French designs.
Cartoon: The design of a rug, as it’s represented on graph paper. Each block, or square represents a single knot in the pile
Cartouche: A design element that faintly resembles a panel. The cartouche may be solid colored, or it may contain an inscription, a date, or another design.
Caucasian: A generic name that refers to the geometric, boldly colored design that were originally produced in the Caucasus Mountain region.
Chemical wash: A process in which a sheen in imparted to the pile of a carpet. This is produced not only through the action of the chemicals on the colors in the wool, but also by the chemical’s action in removing short, staple fibers that tend to absorb light.
Chrome dyes: Modern synthetic dyes that use potassium bichromate to create a bond between the dye stuff and the fiber.
Cicim: The traditional word for an Anatolian blanket made of several different bands of undyed coulomb fabric that have been sewn together and embroidered. Also called a djidjim.
Cloud band: A design element, usually associated with Chinese rugs, which actually appears in floral pattern throughout the world. The figure resembles wispy clouds or the Greek letter omega.
Corner: A major design element in many carpets. Usually contains either a quarter section of the central medallion or some other distinct pattern
Covered: A term that describes how much of the central field of a particular rug is occupied by the design. A covered field is the opposite of an open field.
Crown: A prefix sometimes attached to the name of a traditional rug type or a trademarked rug name. This is often used to suggest a degree of quality, but it has no real significance.
Density: A measure of the quality of the rug’s construction that’s determined by two factors: the number of knots and the height of the pile in a given area of the rug.
Dhurrie: A flat-woven carpet made in India using the warp-sharing, kilim technique.
Double prayer rug: A rug with an arch at both ends of the field. See mihrab, prayer rug.
Embossing: A technique used in finishing carpets in which feathered incisions are made in the pile where different colors meet.
Ferahan: A town in the Arak weaving district of Iran. The name is often used to describe rugs made using the Herati design.
Field: The largest area of a carpet; the central portion that’s enclosed by the borders.
Foundation: The warps and wefts of a pile rug
Fringe: The continuation of the warp threads at each end of the carpet. Sometimes knotted or plaited.
Fugitive dye: A darker color that has bled, or run, into an adjoining lighter color in the pile of a rug.
Garden rug: A design in which the field of the rug is divided into squares or rectangles that contain plants and animals, or outdoor scenes.
Ghiordes: See Turkish knot. Also a classic style of Turkish rug (often a prayer rug) the design of which is characterized by narrow borders and abstractly drawn flowers.
Gold washing: A process, usually seen in rugs from Afghanistan, in which the original red color of the pile is bleached out to shades of gold, coral, and amber after the weaving process has been completed.
Gul: A design element consisting of a squat polygon, usually arranged in rows and columns. At one time, each different gul represented a different tribal coat of arms.
Guli hinnai: A repeating design consisting of rows of brightly colored, stemmed henna flowers.
Hali (qali): A Turkish word that means “carpet”.
Herati: The most common repeating pattern in Persian rugs. Formed by a rosette surrounded by a diamond with small palmettes at its points and curving, tapered, serrated leaves that resemble fish along its sides.
Indo: A prefix used in combination with the name of a traditional rug type to identify India as the rug’s country of origin.
Jufti: A knot that’s woven over more than the normal two warps. This reduces weaving time but yields a rug of interior quality. Jufti knotting is usually done where the design of the rug incorporates large areas of a single color.
Kashmir: A rug-weaving district in the western Himalayas. The name has also been incorrectly used to describe the Soumak weaving technique.
Kelim: A pileless carpet in which coloured wefts form the face of the finished weaving. This term also refers to the pileless web sometimes found at either or both ends of a pile carpet.
Line: A unit for measuring the quality of a rug, based on the number or pairs of warp threads in a given area of the carpet, usually one linear foot. The term “line” is also used to describe a border stripe that consists of a single row of knots.
Loom: The frame on which warps are attached and kept rigid during the weaving of a rug.
Luster: The sheen that is given to the surface of a carpet as a result of chemical washing.
Mauri: A name used either by itself or as a prefix to describe rugs worked in traditional Turkoman designs.
Medallion: A single large design or a series of large designs that appear in the middle of a rug’s field.
Mihrab: The prayer arch or an Islamic mosque, as depicted in the field of a rug. Usually no larger than 6 ½ by 4 ½ feet.
Millefleurs: A pattern in which small flowers are repeated throughout the field of the rug.
Minahani: A repeated pattern of diamonds formed by intersecting vines, with rosettes at the corners of the diamonds and in their centers.
Mirc: A repeating design of small botehs arranged in rows.
Open field: A solid-colored ground, with or without a simple medallion and corner designs. An open field is the opposite of a covered field.
Painted rug: A rug which has been dyed on the surface after the weaving has been completed. This process, often found in rugs from Arak (Sarouk, Lilihan), was intended to intensify certain colors which could not be produced in deep enough shades in the original pile yarns. The practice of painting rugs is much less common today than it once was.
Palmette: A design element composed of a cross section of large, leafy, fan-shaped flowers. Usually multicoloured.
Panel: See garden rug and cartouche
Persian knot: A knotting technique in which one end of the yarn in drawn up between two adjacent warp threads and the other end is drawn up on the outside of the pair. Also called an symmetrical knot, or a Senneh knot.
Pile: The surface of a carpet, formed by the cut ends of the knots that are tied onto foundation.
Poshti: A Turkish term used for a mat or rug measuring approximately 3 by 2 feet.
Prayer rug: A small rug featuring a prayer niche (mihrab) in the field design. Inspired by the architectural forms found in a mosque.
Rosette: A design element composed of the symmetrical head-on view of a flower. Usually round, with radiating petals.
Runner: A very narrow rug. The length greatly exceeds the width.
Safavid: The ruling dynasty in Persia during the golden age of rug making from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. See Shah Abbas.
Saph (saff): A rug containing a number of adjacent prayer niches. Sometimes referred to as a family prayer rug. See Prayer rug, Mihrab.
Savonnerie: A hand-knotted, pastel-colored carpet made in France that is used as a model for many modern Indian and Persian rugs. The design features a floral medallion set on an open field, with broken borders.
Selvedge: The side edges of a rug that are formed by the continuous weft threads. The selvedges are sometimes wrapped in a separate process after the weaving is finished, either by overcasting or buttonholing. Note: the top and bottom edges of the rug form the fringe.
Semi-antique: A rug that is neither antique nor modern, usually over 50 years old. A rug made in a style that’s no longer in production may be called a semi-antique even if it was woven relatively recently.
Senneh: A knotting technique; see Persian knot. Also the former name of a town in Iran where fine, single-wefted rugs were woven.
Seraband: A pattern in which rows and columns of botehs are repeated throughout the field of the rug. See mir.
Shah Abbas: An intricate pattern frequently used in designs that cover the field of a rug. Consists of intertwining tendrils and vines with palmettes, rosettes, and, on occasion, vases and cloud bands. Named for the greatest patron of the arts during the golden age of Persian weaving. See Safavid.
Shed: The V-shaped separation of alternate warp threads on the loom, through which the wefts are passed.
Soumak: A flat-woven or pileless rug in which the pattern-forming yarns pass over either two or four warps and return under one or two warps, in contrast to the kelim method, which uses a basket weave technique.
Spanish knot: An unusual variation of the Turkish knot in which a knot is tied on every other single warp thread, with knotted warps alternating on each row.
Tree of life: A design featuring a large tree that divides the field of the rug in half.
Turkibaff: A rug made with Turkish knots.
Turkish knot: A knotting technique in which the pile yarn is looped around two adjacent warp threads and then brought up between them. Also called a Ghiordes knot.
Turkoman: A generic name that refers to the geometric, repeating designs that were originally woven by nomadic tribes I central Asia.
Tufting: A process I which the pattern-forming pile yarns are inserted ito the foundation of the rug with the use of a handheld machine.
Verneh: A geometrically designed, flat-woven rug made of narrow kilim strips that have been sewn together and brocaded.
Warp: The foundation threads of a rug that are strung from the top to the bottom of a loom. In Persian and Oriental rugs, the knots are tied on the warp threads, which also form the fringes at the ends of the finished rug.
Weft: The foundation threads of a rug that are strung across the width of a loom. These threads are passed through alternate warp threads after each row of knots is tied. They serve to secure the knots in place and also form part of the sides (selvedges) of the rug.
Zel-i-Sultan: A style of rug that was once made in the Faraghan/Sarouk area of the Arak district of Iran. The term now refers to a repeating design made up of small vases of rose or red flowers.