Components of an Oriental Rug
When searching for a rug the vocabulary can get confusing. I have outlined a variety of terms you can expect to come across when researching Oriental rugs for sale.
The components of a generic Persian Hamedan Oriental rug
Field: The field is the solid space surrounding the medallion or design. It is usually the main color of the rug. The color of the field in this diagram is red, for example.
Medallion: A medallion is one of the most common designs found in Oriental rugs. It usually takes a diamond shape set in the center of the field. In the diagram it is ivory.
Border: The main border is the thickest, or widest border with the main border design. The main border above is ivory.
Guard Border (Strips): Guard borders are the smaller borders flanking the main border on the inside and the outer edge. As seen in the diagram, the guard borders are partially missing at the ends. These are often missing or fraying in older Oriental rugs that have not been overcasted.
Corner Brackets: These are also known as spandrels. They are often seen in the corners of the field of an Oriental rug.
Motifs: Motifs describe the small patterns within the overall rug design. See our guide to Oriental rug motifs >
Fringe: Fringe describes the tassel-like ends of an Oriental rug.
Fringe tied off at the end of the Oriental rug
These are actually a part of the foundation of the rug and are called warp threads. When the weaver has completed the rug they will often tie the ends off in knots as seen in the picture to the right.
Edge: The edge of the rug is the selvedge on the sides. There are two edges, one on the left and the other on the right and they are bound with yarn as seen below.
The edges on this Persian Sarouk are worn, but the binding is still present. The color of the binding is brown.
Selvedge: Selvedge describes a fringe end with no “tassels”, it has been woven into itself to prevent fraying. See the example below.
Rather than tassels the fringe has been woven back into itself. It is common to find one selvedge end in vintage and antique Persian rugs.
Foundation: The foundation of the rug is made up of warp and weft threads. These alone produce a criss-cross pattern and do not include the knots.
Warp: Warp threads are the vertical threads of the foundation of an Oriental rug which run parallel to the edges of the rug.
Weft: Weft threads are the horizontal threads of the foundation of an Oriental rug. I remember these because weft rhymes with “left” and they run from right to left.
Knots: Knots make the pile of the rug, yarn is knotted onto the foundation. See the two basic Oriental rug knots below.
Pile: Pile is the soft material on the top of the rug which results from the knots.
KPSI: KPSI is the abbreviation for Knots per Square Inch. It is often used as a measure of the rugs quality. See our guide on counting rug knots >
A simplified drawing of an Oriental rug with the components labeled
Describing an Oriental Rug
Abrash: When someone refers to abrash in an Oriental rug they are talking about the change in tone of a specific color. During the weaving process, the weaver will change wool lots as they run out of wool. The next wool lot may have been dyed for a slightly longer or shorter time frame than the last causing a color tone change in the rug as seen below. To people who are new in the market they may recognize this as a mistake or something which detracts from the rugs value. In fact, many seasoned collectors appreciate abrash and recognize it as a characteristic of a true rug.
An antique Caucasian rug with beautiful blue abrash. Note the variation from light blue to dark blue in the field.
Moth Damage/Moth Nicks: Recently, I posted an article about the webbing clothes moth AKA the moth that eats the wool in rugs. A moth nick is a term used to describe a small area on an Oriental rug (about the size of a quarter or smaller) that is missing wool pile due to moth. The moth will eat the wool that makes up the pile of a rug, leaving the cotton foundation threads exposed as seen in the photo below. Moth damage is used to describe more severe cases in which there may be a large area missing wool due to moths.
The white threads you are seeing in this moth nick are the foundation threads.
Overcasting: Overcasting is an important repair process in older rugs or rugs which are exposed to high traffic areas. Overcasting the ends of an oriental rug prevents fraying.
Weave: One of the most common questions asked by a rug dealer buying a rug is, can I see the weave? This means they want to see the back of the rug. The weave can tell a lot about an Oriental rug, such as where it was made, how old it is, and how much it may be worth.
Check these sites for more info on how Oriental rugs are made