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Identifying Oriental Rugs

Many people don’t know how tell the difference between a genuine hand knotted oriental rug and the machine woven rug with an oriental design.

But you can identify an oriental rug by determining how the rug with the “oriental” design was made.

How Oriental Rugs are Made

Woven rugs are made on a loom. Each type has a foundation made of warp yarns and weft yarns. Warps run the length of the rug or from end to end. Wefts run the width of the rug or from side to side.

Here are a couple ways to distinguish between a hand knotted rug and machine woven rug. You’ll need to look at the back of the rug, so fold over a corner.

If the rug has a fringe, here’s a quick check.

On a machine woven rug like the one in this photo, the fringe is added after the rug is finished. Here, it was stitched on.

On a hand knotted rug, the fringe is part of the structure of the rug. The fringe is the end of the warps.

But not all machine woven or hand knotted rugs have fringes. And sometimes replacement fringes have been sewn onto hand knotted rugs. So you might have to examine the rug a bit more closely.

Identifying hand knotted rugs

On hand knotted rugs, the pile yarns always wrap around the warps.

This photo was taken while repairing the end of a hand knotted rug.The rug is viewed from the back. The white strings coming at you in the photo are the warps. This rug has two layers of warps to form a “depressed warp” structure. The red, wool pile yarns are wrapped around the warps.

The thick, blue cotton yarn is known as a “cable weft”. It keeps the two layers of warps apart. The thin, blue cotton yarn is known as a “sinuous weft”. The sinuous weft wraps around each warp and acts to lock the warps, cable weft and pile yarns in place.

When you look at your rug, if you see that the pile yarn wraps around the warps, the rug is hand knotted. You won’t be able to see the warps because they’re covered up by the wool pile yarns.

Identifying machine woven rugs

On machine woven rugs, the pile yarns always wrap around the wefts. So you will be able to see the warps of the machine loomed rug when you examine the back.

In this photo they appear as the white dashed lines running parallel to the yellow line I’ve drawn on the photo. You can see the warps on the machine woven rug because the pile yarns are wrapped around the wefts. The wefts run parallel to the blue line. In this photo you can also see the stitches in the fringe that has been added.

If you can see the warps of your rug, and the pile yarns are wrapped around the wefts, it’s a machine woven rug.

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Cara and John Eliason

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