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The Essence: Rug Knots

Before we think about technology and machinery, coloring and design, hand skill and passed-on knowledge, there is one single, elemental component to rug weaving: the knot. Rug knot is such a simple concept that one might overlook its central position in rug structure, look and durability. There are two ways a rug knot is defined: density and type.

When choosing a nomad or a village hand-woven rug, one might not consider the density of the knot a major factor. These traditional articles are made either within a season – and therefore fast – or with simple looms, and usually contain about 25-100 knots per square inch. Other factors are at play here: originality of the individual artist’s design (from memory), natural local dyes, manual labor, and plenty of love.

An example of rug knot formation.

Close-up of a Kazak rug. Notice the rather closely woven rug knots. ©

The workshop hand-made rugs, however, are woven on a much more sophisticated machinery. Precision is therefore a major factor- on par with design and authenticity. The knot density ranges between 100-1000 knots per square inch. If you consider that each knot takes about 10 seconds to complete, it is astounding how long finishing a large enough rug may take, keeping in mind a rather high knot density.

The other way of thinking of a rug knot is its method, with two predominant ones being symmetrical and asymmetrical. Popular in most of Iran, India, Egypt, China, and parts of Turkey, the asymmetrical, or Persian Senneh, have their knot loops tied around two warps and come up on the same sides to make the rug tufts. The Turkish Ghiordes knot (the symmetrical one) goes around two warp threads on opposite sides and comes up in the middle. The most commonly used knots are slight variations on the Persian one. The Tibetan knot is perhaps the most interesting one, wrapping around warps in a complex fashion and reminiscent of Indic script.

The Persian Senneh Knot

An Illustration of a Persian Knot by dake©

The Turkish Ghiordes Knot

An Illustration of a Turkish Knot by dake©

The study of rug knots is not necessarily complex, but it certainly is full of grace and style, which is necessary for understanding the structure, design, and feel of these wonderful hand-woven rugs that we cherish throughout our lives.

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