Tag Archives: oriental carpets

Spanish Carpets and the New England Rug Society

Mike and I joined the New England Rug Society (NERS) last year. It is a great organization for both new and seasoned Oriental rug lovers. There are several meetings throughout the year and each meeting features a speaker, or sometimes speakers, who talk about a specific type of rug or textile. Most recently we attended a meeting on Spanish carpets. Many people are not aware carpets were woven in Spain, and even some rug enthusiasts have never seen one in person.

synagogue carpet

Synagogue Carpet at the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin Source: Rugs of the Lost Ark by Horst Nitz http://www.turkotek.com/salon_00114/salon.html

The oldest known carpet woven in Spain is the Synagogue carpet as seen above, which was most likely from the 14th century and is now at the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin. Rugs woven in Spain in this time period are known for their unique knotting-style. Unlike Persian and Turkish knots, Spanish knots are tied to single warp threads rather than two threads. Rugrabbit has several wonderful photos of the Synagogue carpet which can be seen here.

Popular types of rugs woven in Spain during the 15th century are known as the Armorial rugs, which bear a coat of arms or heraldic device. The carpet below features heraldic devices with two castles and a lion, and is on exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Spanish Carpet

A 15th century Spanish Admiral carpet Source: “Admiral” Heraldic Carpet at the Philadelphia Museum of Art http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/55491.html



After the 15th century, quality and style began to decline. Weavers in Spain copied Turkish rug designs such as the famous Lotto and Holbein carpets.  By the 17th century, Spanish carpets conformed to Western tastes with decorative lattice patterns and lighter color schemes like the carpet below.


Unsymmetrical Rugs: Imperfections in Authentic Oriental Rugs

If you are looking for a perfect, symmetrical, uniform-looking rug you should probably check out machine made rugs. A while ago, someone asked me why her Persian rug looked different from one end to the other. Like anything else made by hand, there will be imperfections in authentic Oriental rugs. Granted, some of those imperfections may be intentional, and some may be more pronounced than others.

Machine Made Oriental Rug

A Machine Made rug with an Oriental rug design.

Tribal rugs woven on horizontal looms in village settings are more likely to have imperfections than those woven on vertical looms in the cities or workshops where weavers strive for perfection.

red persian rug

Persian Joshaghan rug Shop Now >

Above is a hand knotted Persian Joshaghan rug. Note how the sides of the rug are not perfectly straight and the design is not completely uniform. For many customers and rug lovers these are the characteristics which drive the sale of the rug. Each imperfection adds to the one of a kind nature of an antique Oriental rug such as this.

One of the most common occurrences of “flaws” in authentic Oriental rugs is abrash. Abrash is a term used quite often in describing the characteristics of a rug. It refers to a change in the tone of the color of the wool in a specific area of the rug. For example, a field may be dark blue with a thick line of lighter blue running horizontally across it. It is easy to confuse abrash with fading. Fading is a result of long-term exposure of a rug to the sun, and some fading can occur due to wear depending on the dyes used in the rug.

persian rug runner

Abrash in a Persian rug runner Shop Now >

The rug pictured above has notable abrash at one end. Note how the band runs horizontally along the same path a weaver would be tying the knots onto the foundation. This type of variation in color would not be called fading because fading is uneven and it would be very difficult to achieve this look after completion. Abrash occurs when the weaver changes wool lots, most often because the last lot has run out, and the next lot of wool may be lighter, or darker due to any number of variables including the dye time, temperature, and type of mordant among others.

Another common flaw in Oriental rugs is white knots appearing in the field, especially after the rug has seen some traffic. These knots are the tail ends of the foundation as seen below.

Turkish sparta rug

Knot tails in a Turkish Sparta rug


What type of unique imperfection does your Oriental rug have?