One of our most popular articles on the old site was our guide on the 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.
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 above 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.
Border: The main border is the thickest, or widest border with the main border design.
Guard Border (Strips): Guard borders are the smaller borders flanking the main border on the inside and the outer edge.
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 tassle-like ends of an 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 tie the ends off in knots as seen below.
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.
Selvedge: Selvedge describes a fringe end with no “tassels”, it has been woven into itself to prevent fraying. See the example below.
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.
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.
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 to Counting Rug Knots.
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 slightly longer or shorter 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.
Moth Damage/Moth Nicks: 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.
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