Rug Terms & Glossary

The Parts of an Oriental Rug

Warps are the parallel strings stretched from loom beam to loom beam upon which rows of knots are tied. Most weavers use cotton for warp material if it is available because it is easier to weave a flat, straight rug on cotton warps than on wool warps (wool yarn is more elastic than cotton string, and is more affected by changes in humidity). Weavers who are semi-nomadic pastoralists (i.e. not farmers) are much more likely to use wool than cotton for warp and weft.

Wefts run across the width of the rug, over and under the warp strings and between rows of knots. Most often wefts are made of cotton, wool, or silk . Wefts help hold rows of knots in place and strengthen the structure of the rug.

Knots are tied by looping yarn around pairs of warps and cutting off the standing end. The ends of the "knot" become the pile or nap of the rug.

Edge bindings are made by wrapping several warps at the edge of the rug with yarn to reinforce this part of the rug.

End finishes hold knots and wefts from working off the rug's warp strings. Many rug types have a flat-woven kilim selvedge at both ends.

Fringes are formed by gathering and knotting together bundles of warp strings at both ends of the rug after the rug has been cut from the loom. The knots in these bundles of warp strings keep pile knots and end finishes tight at the rug's ends.

Rug Glossary


Abrash - The word used to describe the variations in color found within a single color in an Oriental rug.  It refers to the hue or color change found on many older rugs, particularly those rugs woven by nomad tribes.  While abrash is commonly seen in tribal nomadic rugs and in some modern Oriental rugs are intentionally woven with the color variation.  The variations in color are usually the result of inconsistent dyeing of the wool, or through the introduction of a new wool batch while weaving the carpet.  Generally some abash is desirable in tribal carpets and very undesirable in "city" carpets.

Afshar - A Turkic speaking nomadic and settled people living mostly in southern Iran.  The Afshar make mostly small rugs and saddlebags, animal trappings.  Tones of deep blue, red, gold and ivory are most often encountered in Afshar rugs

All-over design - A term used to describe the pattern of rugs whose fields have no central medallion.  An even repeating design throughout the field.

Aniline dyes - Synthetic dyes first invented (discovered) in 1856 by William Perkins.  The term is now used to describe any synthetic dyes used in Oriental or Navajo rugs.

Antique Wash - A chemical or natural process that tones down colors and to simulate aging.

Arabesque - An ornate curving design of intertwined floral and vine figures often seen in intricate workshop rugs such as those from Isphahan, Tabriz, Nain and Qum.

Art Silk - Short for artificial silk, it is usually mercerized cotton, rayon or polyester that appears to be silk.  Oftentimes artificial silk rugs are sold as real silk.

Asymmetrical Knot - "Persian" of "Senneh" knot. A pile knotting technique where only one or the two warps is completely encircled.

Aubusson - originally flat-weave rugs from the 15th century France; nowadays often made as a pile rug

Axminster - machine-made rug or carpet with individually inserted pile tufts; this allows complex color patterns and designs, including Oriental

Backing - fabric or yarns serving as a foundation for the face fiber

Bakhtiari - The Bakhtiari confederation is a large and powerful group, covering much of central and southwestern Iran.  Small rugs, saddlebags and trappings are woven by nomadic Bakhtiaris, while large carpets are woven by the settled tribes people.  The most familiar pattern is the garden design consisting of repeated squares or diamonds, each of which encloses a tree or floral motif.  The name translates roughly as "the lucky ones".

Baluch - A large group of nomadic tribespeople living in Afghanistan and eastern Iran who weave many types of small rugs, animal trappings and tent furnishings.  They favor deep tones of blue, dark brown, dark red and touches of natural ivory.

Berber - naturally (undyed) looking  rug or carpet; originally made by North African Berber tribes from undyed wool

Bleeding - dissolving of fiber dyes in a liquid

Bokhara -The capitol of Uzbekistan and the traditional trading center for Turkmen tribal carpets.  Today, rugs called Bokhara are usually make in Pakistan using Tekke Turkoman designs.

Bonded - or "fusion bonded" carpet, with tufts planted into a vinyl backing; has impermeable backing with better tuft lock than any other construction type

Boteh -This is a motif in stylized form representing either a pine cone, a palmetto, the sacred flame of Zoroaster or a Cypress tree. Sometimes called a Paisley Pattern.  Seen in many types of Oriental rugs.

Braided - usually circular/oval rugs made of braided yarns

Broadloom - carpet wider than 6 feet

Brocade - flat-weave rug variation, in which additional colored weft strands are added over existing warp and weft structure

Carding -The task of pulling the wool fibers between two spiked paddles in order to arrange the fibers in a random manner.  It is a first step before combing which positions the fibers in a parallel arrangement.

Cartoon - This is a diagram of the rug design that weavers follow when knotting an oriental rug.  Used in workshop rugs and in some village rugs.

Cartouche - An oval shaped ornamental design element usually containing an inscription or date.

Classical - A vague term referring to court carpets produced prior to the 19th century.

Cloudband - A stylized depiction of a cloud resembling a band knotted at its collar.  Originally a Chinese design but is often seen in Persian Oriental rugs.

Combing - Drawing the already carded fibers through a set of spiked blocks in order to align the fibers in a parallel arrangement.  This is done prior to spinning.

Cotton - soft natural plant fiber, inferior to wool and sisal or hemp

Curvilinear - with smooth curved patterns

Cushion - also "pad" or "underlay", shock-absorbing material placed underneath a rug, or carpet

Density - individual fiber count per unit of rug/carpet area indicator; obtained from the pile yarn weight, or "face weight" (in ounces per sq. yard) divided by pile height (in inches)

Dyeing - adding colors to rug/carpet fiber, yarn or fabric; face fiber dyeing can be done before yarn is spun (solution or stock dyeing), after it (skein, package or space dyeing) and after rug/carpet is put together (piece and continuous dyeing, printing)

Fading - loss of color due to the effects of light, gases (ozone, nitric oxide, hydrogen sulfide) or chemicals (cleaners, bleach, chlorine)

Field - The main section of the rug that is surrounded by the boarder and contains the central medallion or other motifs.

Flatwoven - rugs with the yarn woven through and along the warps

Fringe - The excess warp threads extending from the end of the rug sometimes finished in macramé style knotting.

Frisé (free-zay) - carpet with very tightly twisted pile, giving to it a nubby/curled appearance

Gauge - separation between two neighboring tufting needles in inches; the smaller the gauge, the more dense the rug/carpet; quality units need to have 1/8 gauge of or smaller

Guard stripes - Bands which surround and enhance the main border.  A thin stripe used to highlight guards and to separate them from the beginning of the field.

Gul - This is an octagonal motif, usually elongated and divided into four.  The word means "rose or flower".

Hali - A Turkish word for rug.

Halicilik - A Turkish word for rug merchant.

Handle - The weight and stiffness or flexibility of a rug.  A rug´s handle might be described in terms such flexible, stiff, of soft.

Herati design - This is a design feature often found in carpets from Persia.  Usually four leaves are woven around a well-defined diamond.  This is sometimes referred to as the "Fish Design" but this design does not really represent fish.

Hooked - made by pulling yarns through a backing

Jute - natural fiber often used for rug/carpet backing material

Kilim - originally small flat woven tribal or village rugs from east-central Asia

Knitted - machine woven hooked carpet

Knot count - number of knots per square inch

Knotted - usually high-quality handmade woven rug made by tying each individual yarn tuft to the warp strand

Lobe - A rounded division frequently found in medallions and in border ornaments.

Loom - Frame or machine used for interlacing two or more sets of threads or yarns to form a rug or other textile.

Lozenge - A diamond shaped parallelogram or rhombus

Matting - apparent rug/carpet pile crush caused by foot traffic

Medallion - large central ornament often featured on traditional oriental and European rugs

Mihrab - Typical design of a prayer rug derived from the niche or chamber in a mosque.

Motifs - Single or repeated design elements found throughout the rug.

Nylon -strong, resilient synthetic fiber; the two types used for most commercial carpets are 6 and 6.6; branded nylons have their properties specified by the manufacturer, unlike unbranded varieties

Olefin (polypropylene) - strong synthetic fiber with very good chemical properties and low resilience

Pad - also "cushion" or "underlay", shock-absorbing material placed underneath a rug, or carpet

Pile - also, "face"; top surface of a carpet or rug

Pile weave - A term used to refer to the structure of knotted carpets and rugs forming a pile or nap.  Wool, silk, or sometimes cotton is knotted around the warp in a variety of techniques.

Pitch - length between two neighboring stitches in woven rugs/carpets; expressed as a number of yarn ends in a 27-inch width

Prayer rug - A small Oriental rug used by Muslims to kneel on when reciting their prayers.  It should be noted, however that most prayer rugs were woven for the foreign market.

Pushti - A small mat measuring about 2 x 3 feet.

Quatref - Round symmetrical ornaments with four lobes.

Raj - Number of knots per 7cm. (2 3/4 inches).  Twenty four raj would be approximately 76 knots per square inch.

Reciprocal design - A motif in contrasting colors but a consistent repeating pattern.  Borders often have reciprocal designs

Resilience - the ability of the face fiber to regain the original thickness after being subjected to compression force

Rosette - A motif resembling an open flower consisting of a circular arrangement of parts around a center

Runner - long narrow rug up to 3 feet wide

Saf - A prayer rug containing multiple prayer niches.

Sarouk - Factory woven carpets woven in the vicinity of Sultanabad (Arak) in west central Iran.  Named for a small town north of Sultanabad.  Nearly all were exported to the United States.

Sculptured - with a pattern created by uneven pile height

Shahsavan  - A confederation of Turkic speaking tribes living in Azerbaijan.  They are known for making sumak bags and kilims

Sisal - strong natural plant fiber used as rug face fiber

Slit Tapestry technique - A technique commonly used on Kilims where the weft threads turn back at the meeting of different color areas.  It is easily recognizable by the small gaps which appear where there are color changes.

Spandrel - An ornamental treatment located at the corners of the field.

Strapwork - An interlacing design resembling straps

Soumak - flat weave rug variety with knot-free weaving technique

Tapestry - flat weave rug with intricate color/pattern details

Tea Wash - A procedure used to soften the colors of a rug and give it the appearance of age.

Tekke - The largest Turkomen tribe in the 19th century who made some of the finest Turkomen rugs.

Tuft bind - force required to pull a tuft out of backing, with the minimum from 10 to 3 pounds of single pull force for loop and cut pile, respectively

Tufted - made on machine with needles inserting pile yarn into a backing; most economical serial rug/carpet production method

Twist - number of yarn twists per inch of pile yarn length; usually in the 3-5 range

Underlay - also "cushion" or "pad", shock-absorbing material placed underneath a rug, or carpet

Velvet carpet - woven on velvet loom, typically in solid colors

Warp - length-wise running yarn in woven rug/carpets, interlacing with weft yarns

Wool - strong natural fiber of animal origin; the oldest , most luxurious after silk rug face fiber material

Watermark - irreversible shading of large rug/carpet pile areas, due to different yarn fiber orientations; not a manufacturing defect

Weft - width-wise running yarn in woven rug/carpets, interlacing with warp yarns

Woven - rug or carpet created by interlacing wefts and warps into a unified backing/pile structure

Yarn - strand of fibers used for rug/carpet production