In the mountainous regions of the East stretching from Turkey through Persia and Central Asia into China, where the fleece of the sheep and the hair of the camel and goat grow long and fine, the art of carpet-weaving reached its height early in the 16th cent. The artisan worked on a handloom consisting essentially of two horizontal beams on which the warp (the vertical threads) was stretched; on the lower one the finished carpet was rolled while the warp unrolled from the upper one. The yarn for the pile, spun and dyed by hand, was cut in lengths of about 2 in. (5.1 cm) and knotted about the warp threads, one tuft at a time, after one of the two established ways of tying—the Ghiordes, or Turkish, knot and the Senna, or Persian, knot.
After a row of knots had been placed across the width of the loom, two or more weft, or horizontal, threads of cotton or flax were woven in and beaten into place with a heavy beater, or comb. The tufts, or pile, thus appeared only on the face of the fabric, which when completed was sheared to perfect smoothness. Although the hair of the camel and the goat was used in the weaving of Oriental rugs, the wool of the sheep was the essential component. Beautiful silk rugs interwoven with gold thread were also made in the 16th and 17th cent. To some degree, the quality of a carpet depends on the materials used and the number of knots per square inch of surface, which may vary from 40 to 1,000. Also produced in these regions are the geometrically patterned and flat woven rugs known as kilims.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.