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Everything you need to know before tying the knot with your next hand-knotted carpet!

A history of the hand-knotted rug: a tale as old as time

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Rugs and carpets can completely change the feel and look of a space. Much like paintings or sculptures, rugs, be they indoor or outdoor rugs, are works of art, with which we beautify and adorn our homes, offices, and, yes, even outdoor areas. A California-based celebrity interior designer, Jackie Glass explains in an interview with Cityline, a rug is “often the jewelry of the room as is artwork.” Beyond their evident artistic value, in Persian culture, rugs are also of sentimental value, not only because of their historical and traditional significance, but also because rugs remain in families for generations. Due to their extraordinary quality, unparalleled by any machine-made, industrial carpets, they last for decades and may be passed down to children, grandchildren, and so forth, rendering them priceless familial artifacts. That’s right — your grandchildren may raise their kids on the rug of your own childhood!

Hand-knotted by master artisans, this clean, linear all-weather rug offers supreme beauty and durability, indoors or out.
Corte Indoor / Outdoor Rug - Grey | Ben Soleimani

The ancient craft of hand-knotting rugs can be traced back to 500 BC (that’s to around 2,500 years ago!!) and has evolved and been perfected ever since. Not only the carpets, but the master craft itself is considered part of Iran’s cultural heritage and national pride. As historian Dr. Mahmood Kavir couldn’t be more clear about, the hand-making of rugs is the “manifestation of the artistic work and the studiousness of the Iranian people achieved over millennia.”

Most of the handmade carpets sold in international markets today are made in Iran. Here they are referred to as ‘Persian rugs,’ not to be confused with ‘oriental rugs,’ which stem from other parts of the world, such as India, Turkey, Tibet, and Africa (Moroccan rugs, for example, stem from the North of Africa), places which also have a strong culture and history of hand-making rugs. Persian rugs differ from oriental rugs in the materials and methodologies used to make them.

Our Multi Moroccan rug is a contemporary interpretation of a traditional design. Hand-woven from sumptuous New Zealand wool yarns, with fibers left long for a plush feel.
Multi Moroccan Rug - Indigo | Ben Soleimani

KNOT COUNT COUNTS

The higher the knot count, the higher the rug quality. The knot count determines the rug’s density and durability and is directly correlated with the number of hours of work that went into making it. To illustrate this point: To complete a 24 square foot rug, with 50 knots per square inch (that's 172,800 knots in total), it takes 230 hours or almost 29 days. In comparison, a higher quality rug of the same size, but of a higher density (800 KPSI), would take 3,686 hours, or almost 461 days to complete, assuming a normal eight hours per day for five days a week work schedule.

Geometric designs are hand-knotted by master artisans to make this rug stand out from the traditional Moroccan design.
Cali Moroccan Rug - Sand / Espresso | Ben Soleimani

PERSIAN PILE RUGS — ANIMATIONS OF THE ANTIQUITY

The rug-making process starts with the designer creating a design for the carpet on graph paper. This blueprint is called ‘the cartoon.’ The weaver then brings the design to life knot by knot, closely following the cartoon. First, the weaver wraps the loom vertically with a durable thread called ‘the warp,’ which constitutes the rug’s foundation. The warping step is crucial to the beauty, form, and stability, as well as the durability of the finished product— hence, the placement of each thread must be precise. The weaver then creates a few rows of what is called “the weft’ by passing a so-called ‘weft thread’ over and underneath alternating warp threads to create a plain weave or ‘the edge’ of the carpet. This edge is necessary to create a resilient and sturdy carpet because it helps to hold all subsequent knot-work in place.

There is another kind of pileless carpet known as the Kilim, a hand-woven rug, created merely from warps and wefts. Different colored weft threads are used to yield the carpet’s design without the use of any woolen knots. Naturally, these carpets do not have a pile and are what we call ‘flatweave rug.’ Kilims may additionally be adorned with needle-point work or embroidery upon completion of their flatweave component. These rugs are multipurpose and may be placed on the floor, hung up as a tapestry, used as indoor or outdoor picnic blankets, used as bedside rugs, bread mats, bath mats, and more.

Kata Rug – Silver / Graphite | Ben Soleimani

TO BE OR KNOT TO BE

To create a pile carpet, the weaver will start the intricate knot-work shortly after creating a secure edge. There are different knotting techniques and styles that have evolved in different regions with a carpet-making tradition, but there are two main kinds of knots. The first is the Persian knot, also known as the Senneh rug knot, the asymmetrical knot, or double knot. This is predominantly used for rug-making in Iran, Central Asia, India, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. This knot style allows the weaver to translate the design onto the warp with the highest level of detail, down to individual single knots. The wool yarn is fully looped around one warp thread but only passed under the adjacent one. There are some designs where the yarn will be looped around two adjacent warp threads, although typically a knot in this style is only looped around one thread. The second type of knot is the Turkish rug knot, which is also referred to as the Ghiordes rug knot. As the name gives away, this knot is predominantly used by Turkish and select Kurdish weavers. It loops around two adjacent warp strands and each end of the woolen thread is then passed back in-between the same two warp strands to re-emerge in their middle. There are also some other, lesser-known rug-knotting styles from other parts of the world, such as the Jufti knot used in Khorossan.

TYING OFF SOME LOOSE ENDS

The yarn of each individual knot, added to slowly form a pile, is cut with a special hooked knife, one of the carpet weaver’s unique tools that double as a yarn-looping aid. A weft thread is woven in on top of each completed row of knots and then pushed down using a heavy comb to ensure a compact and dense pile and the clarity of the design. The knotting step can take months, if not years, but once completed, the warp is cut from the loom to release the carpet. Next, the pileless leftover warp threads need to be tied off to hold everything together. The warp threads that are left sticking out after that are what we know as ‘the fringe’ of the carpet.
The weaver then uses scissors to cut the pile down either to a uniform length or to cut a threedimensional raised design into the pile by hand, as Ben Soleimani’s Fleur Rug exemplifies. The pile length and configuration produces diverse textures for rug surfaces. As a final step, the carpet is washed before it is sun-dried.

Fleur Rug - Nickel / Washed Indigo | Ben Soleimani

INVESTING IN THE STO— WE MEAN AT THE RUG MARKET

Buying a hand-knotted rug is a true investment, but not without probable reason, after all, a hand-knotted rug is forever. It has been considered THE family heirloom long before diamonds were even on the playing field. Remember, buying a rug is like buying artwork and hand-knotted, as well as hand-woven rugs and carpets, luxury home decor really, are priced accordingly. But you are not just paying a high price for the prestige of these works and for art’s sake, but are actually compensating for the countless hours of manual labor that has gone into making this luxury piece one knot at a time (and let’s not forget about the skill of the weaver, wool dyer and rug designer). In addition, the price point correlates with the quality of the rug and this consists of numerous factors. For one, the quality of the wool is to be considered — the wool on a sheep’s underbelly is regarded as the most luxurious. Other factors that play into the price calculation are the design, place of origin, knot type, knot count, measured in Knots Per Square Inch (KPSI), and rug density. On top of these factors, typically one-of-a-kind custom rugs, also sell for more.

Also popular are carpets made from silk. Jackie Glass advises that “when you’re buying a good quality rug it has to either be made from wool or silk or be a wool and silk blend.” And whether you are buying a wool rug or a silk rug, of course, you also have to pay attention to the quality of the wool and silk!
She also explains that some consumers are leaning away from more traditional rug designs, but are still seeking out luxury rugs to complement their luxury furniture pieces. This group of consumers is looking for more modern carpet styles to go with modern furniture. And rug companies now offer hand-woven and hand-knotted transitional rugs and contemporary rugs too. These newer styles depart from age-old tradition by following digital printout patterns instead of the long-established cartoons.

Performance Tourno Rug – Taupe / Sand
Performance Tourno Rug – Taupe / Sand | Ben Soleimani

Traditional hand-made rugs are also often created using bright primary colors, whereas more modern rug designs are often understated and slightly muted to match the design concept of many modern homes. Fringeless carpets have also become a new trend. An insider tip from Jackie—regardless of what carpet tickles your fancy “if you don’t want a fringe you can have it trimmed or removed.” This way you are not limiting your choice of carpet to whether the piece has a fringe or not. What laymen and rug rookies may not know is that traditional hand-made.

BEN SOLEIMANI BESPOKE ANTIQUE RUGS

rugs, that are antique rugs or vintage rugs, actually appreciate in value over time, even when used. An eighty-year-old used rug may sell for $300,000, at least. In comparison, transitional rugs are valued at around $85,000 and contemporary rugs at no more than $13,000. And then there’s choosing between vegetable and chemical dye! Although the chemical dye is said to be more poignant and the color more resilient over time, a carpet made with vegetable-dyed wool is considered of a higher caliber and this again will be reflected in the price. And just in case you were curious— red natural dye is derived from roses, blue from lapis lazuli, green from pistachio, and black from carbonates.

THE REAL DEAL?

To determine whether your rug at home is an original hand-knotted rug or if you want to verify the authenticity of a rug you are about to seal the deal on— here’s our pro-tip! Look a little closer and watch your back! If the carpet is authentic, then you will be able to see the individual knots tied onto the loom on the back of the carpet. In fact, if you turn the carpet over, the pattern in the back should closely resemble that on the front. And lastly, an edge with a sewn-on fringe is to a generic carpet, while a tied off fringe is to an authentic one.

Here, we have really only provided a brief summary of the expansive and ever-evolving world of hand-made, hand-knotted carpets and rugs. We hope that we were able to provide you with a new appreciation for any wooly friends you may already be sharing your home with, as well as for the diverse array of masterpieces we provide here at Ben Soleimani. It was our intention to offer a few starting points you can use for your own research to inform your next rug purchase!

For further questions, you may have or for a personal consultation with one of our design experts regarding any of our luxury rugs, carpets, and high-end collections, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly!

Antique Rugs | Ben Soleimani
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