Uncle Bobs Tips: Rug Guide

Oriental Textiles Rugs

Get oriented to the world of genuine Oriental textiles rugs! Confusion abounds from the common use of the term "Oriental rug" as a generic label for almost any patterned rug. This article on Oriental textiles rugs will help you get your floor facts straight!

An oriental rug is a piled or flat-woven fabric hand-knotted in one of the traditional weaving regions of the Middle or Far East. Genuine Oriental rugs are handmade, hand-knotted rugs. Handmade Oriental rugs are constructed very differently from their machine-made counterparts. While one can distinguish individual knots on the back of Oriental textiles rugs, there is an overstitch pattern across the whole back of machine-made rugs to hold them in place. While the fringe of handmade Oriental rugs is made of the actual carpet fibers, the fringe of machine-made rugs is clearly applied after the rug is complete. Most importantly, handmade Oriental rugs are superior in quality to machine-made Oriental rugs since knots are individually tightened by a master Oriental rug weaver.

Genuine Oriental rugs are not made in Belgium or anywhere else in Western Europe or in the United States. Further, no genuine Oriental rugs are made of nylon or polypropylene.

Woven into Oriental rugs is the tremendous history and culture of a vast geographic area - spanning parts of Russia, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Tibet, Turkey, Mesopotamia, Persia (Iran), Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Other nations with established rug weaving histories include Egypt and Morocco. Over the centuries, each country or rug-producing region developed its own distinctive style of Oriental rugs, based upon preferences for particular patterns, designs, and colors, and upon availability of materials and dyes. Common Oriental rug patterns include floral or garden motifs, central medallions, geometric or curvilinear designs, or central scenes that look like paintings.

The most superior Oriental textiles rugs by far are Persian rugs. Today, Iran remains the world leader in the production of Oriental rugs, with more handmade Oriental rugs made than all the other rug-weaving countries combined. While Persian rugs are often imitated, rug experts are able to distinguish genuine Oriental Persian rugs.


The background of Oriental textiles rugs is called the field. The medallion refers to the round, oval, or polygonal design that sometimes occupies the center of the field. The main border is the widest decorative design around the outside of an Oriental rug, while guard borders are the narrow decorative designs flanking the main border.

In the language of Oriental rugs, warps are the parallel strings stretched across a loom upon which rows of knots are tied. Weftsrun across the width of the rug, over and under the warp strings and between rows of knots. Wefts help hold rows of knots in place and strengthen the structure of Oriental rugs. 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. Wrapping several warps at the edge of the rug with yarn to reinforce the edges produces edge bindings, while end finishes hold knots and wefts from working off the rug's warp strings. Finally, 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.

Typical Oriental rug knots are the "Persian" and "Turkish" knots, however some Oriental rugs are made with Jufti or "false" knots interspersed. Jufti knots are tied around four warps instead of the normal two. Although Oriental rugs made with Jufti knots use only half the material and take half the time to make, buyer beware: Oriental rugs made with Jufti knots will probably last only half as long!

Knot density, or knots per square inch, is a critical indicator of the quality of Oriental rugs. To measure Oriental rug weaves, count the number of knots per inch along the warp (the length of the rug) and the number of knots per inch along the weft (the width of the rug) and multiply to get the number of knots per square inch (or per sq. cm.). On some Oriental rugs, it may be difficult or impossible to distinguish individual knots from the face of the rug. At times, what appears to be a pair of knots needs to be counted as a single knot. You can count on experienced dealers in Oriental rugs to assist you in your knot count!

Here is the dish on Oriental rug dyes. While some exalt the excellence of "vegetable" or "natural" dyes over "synthetic" dyes, the reality is not always so clear- cut. In recent years there has been a huge increase in the quantity and variety of new vegetable dyes available, so no longer do vegetable dyes guarantee a longer life or higher value to Oriental rugs than good chrome synthetic dyes. In fact, some vegetable dyes are actually more fugitive in color or even damaging to a rug's wool than synthetic dyes yielding the same shade!

"Washed and painted" Oriental rugs refer to schemes to make new Oriental rugs look like old Oriental rugs. The "washing" process entails chemically bleaching new Oriental rugs so the colors are softened. However, a heavy chemical wash that lightens the dark colors in Oriental rugs simultaneously almost washes out the lighter colors in the Oriental rug design. Hence - the development of the "painting" process, in which Oriental rugs are selectively re-dyed. While the washing and painting process has made newer Oriental rugs more saleable at higher prices, in fact, purchasers of washed and painted Oriental rugs receive far less value for their money.

TIP: How to identify "washed and painted" Oriental rugs: Since chemical washes lighten both the front and back of Oriental rugs, while paint is applied only to the front of the rug, washed and painted rugs are usually lighter in color on the back than on the front. This is the reverse of a normal fading process, where the back of the rug would never be exposed to daylight that might fade the face of the rug.


Bring the intrigue of Oriental rugs into your home! With their intricate patterns, designs and colors, Oriental rugs will add beauty, elegance and a touch of class to any abode. Available in a myriad of colors and sizes, Oriental rugs are fascinating, fashionable, and every rug owner's favorite!

Here are some guidelines to help you select the perfect Oriental rug:

The important factors are:
• Natural or synthetic fibers
• Handmade or machine woven
• Intricacy and rarity of design
• Region of origin

Wool, the most expensive Oriental rug fabric, has become the golden standard by which all Oriental rugs are judged. Wool Oriental rugs are warm, durable, fire-resistant, and easy to clean. Other natural materials used to make Oriental rugs are cotton, silk, and blends of wool and silk. Oriental rugs made from synthetic fibers are not as durable as rugs made from natural materials, however if you are looking for less expensive Oriental rugs, synthetics are the way to go.

Expect slight inconsistencies and at least one imperfection in Oriental hand-made rugs originating from Middle Eastern countries! In Islamic tradition, only God is perfect, and thus a flaw will be carefully woven into each Oriental rug.

It is important to consider both color and design when decorating with Oriental rugs. Oriental rug color should be harmonious with the other colors in the room, by either including shades of colors already present or by repeating the dominant or accent colors.

Not sure where to lay down your Oriental rugs? Try these suggestions on for size: For highly visible areas, choose Oriental rugs with a medallion or central motif or scene. For Oriental rugs placed under dining room tables or beds, an Oriental rug with a detailed border is a wise pick. Select Oriental rugs with simple designs and with a limited color palette for busy, colorful rooms. Choose colorful, busy design Oriental rugs to liven up subdued rooms. For a modern look, try Oriental rugs with a geometric pattern.

Finally, good rugs deserve good care. Here's how to best care for precious Oriental rugs.


Depending on the amount of traffic Oriental rugs will receive, a professional washing is recommended every one to three years. Note that Oriental rugs made of wool consistently out-perform all other materials. Wool Oriental rugs are more resilient, clean more easily, and stay clean longer.

To even out wear and exposure to light and sun, it is recommended that you rotate Oriental rugs every 6 months or once a year. Oriental rugs should be vacuumed on a regular basis to remove dirt and restore life to the fibers. Be sure not to vacuum the fringe. It is recommended that you use a quality rug pad under your Oriental rugs to protect them from wear and slippage. In case of Oriental rug damage, most problems can be solved with professional Oriental rug restoration. Old Oriental rugs sometimes need to be rewoven and restored.


When spills occur on Oriental rugs, work quickly and blot up excess spills with a clean, white, absorbent cloth or paper towels. Do not rub or soak. For solid spills, take a spoon and carefully scoop up the material. Always work from the edge of the stain inward, and scrape in the direction of the pile whenever possible. Try to remove any residual stain with clean, lukewarm water. If water fails, a solvent can be used. (Common cleaning solvents include mild non-bleach liquid detergent, vinegar solutions, or you can purchase a spot removal kit from Oriental rug stores). Apply the solvent directly on the stain without soaking and blot thoroughly. Repeat the process until the spot no longer transfers to the cleaning cloth. ALWAYS pretest the solvent on a small area of the rug by applying a few drops, then blotting with a clean, white, absorbent cloth or paper towel to see if the colors run. When dry, restore pile with a clothes brush or vacuum. If you cannot remove the spot, call an Oriental rug professional.

And now, having woven together all the threads of information concerning Oriental rugs, bring a rich legacy into your home by decorating with unique, exquisite Oriental rugs!

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