Handwoven Rugs

This section explains the specific manufacturing steps associated with handwoven rugs as opposed to other types of handmade rugs such as hand-knotted rugs, hand-tufted rugs or hand-hooked rugs. Hand-knotted and hand-woven rugs are both made by hand, however, they each employ a unique weaving technique that affects their quality, texture, design complexity and price. To learn about the general steps on making a handmade rug prior to actually hand-weaving, please refer to our "Preliminary Steps" section.

1. Reading of the Cartoon

Video clip from "Kashmir Carpet Making: Reading of the Talim".
Video published on March 29, 2017 on the Sandeep Sanguru channel on YouTube

Once the design is decided and the drawing is complete, a loom is set up and cotton is spinned. This set up allows weavers to hand-weave a new rug on the frame called a loom. Columns of thread (called warps) are stretched vertically or horizontally on the loom depending on the loom type. Warps are usually made of cotton, providing an ideal surface for a flat, straight rug. The weaver secures the warps by arranging horizontal rows called wefts (ordinarily made of cotton, wool, or silk).

After the loom is set up, a reading of the talim by a master weaver to the weavers may begin. This may or may not happen depending on the size of the rug and the familiarity of the design by the weavers themselves. As a general rule of thumb, if the rug being woven is small and has been woven by a family of weavers many times over, then the reading of the talim by a master weaver is not required. These weavers have memorized the design in the scrolls of their memory. This is a common occurrence in designs of smaller tribal rugs which are often handed down from generation to generation, from teacher to pupil.

However, if the design is either unfamiliar to the weavers or for a mid-sized to larger rug, then the assistance of a master weaver would be necessary. The master weaver, sometimes called the wasta, pronounced ousta or called talim guru leads the weavers by singing. He speaks to no weaver in particular but rather to everyone. In some instances, the master weaver has memorized the carpet to the point that he does not require the talim. He uses the scrolls of his memory to guide the weavers. In this later instance, the talim thus becomes more of a reference guide for him or her. In usually a warm homelike setting, in the case of a vertical room, the weavers sit with their knees up facing the loom correctly in their position and begin weaving.

2. Weaving on a Horizontal Loom

Clip from "Navajo Design Rugs Being Hand Woven in Pakistan".
Video published on June 22, 2014 on the Zain Home Collection channel on YouTube.

Hand-woven rugs are often referred to as “flat-weaves” because they are flat and contain no pile. These types of rugs depending on their place of origin are also kilims, dhurries and tapestries as they are all flat-woven. In a flat-woven rug, colored weft yarns are woven through the warps to create the design. They are woven more like a basket, which means the front and the back look the same, making flat-weave rugs reversible. The potholders that many of us saw as children and still use today are in fact flat-weaves. Flat-weave rugs are available at all price points and are more affordable for those families shopping on a budget. They are made from natural fibers such as – wool, cotton, and hemp, making them more hygienic for families when compared to synthetic rugs which can be toxic.

3. Trimming

As the weaving process is completed the rug is taken off the loom for the trimming process. During trimming the unnecessary fibres are removed and knots that appear at the back of the carpet are maintained for smoothing. After this, the carpet is brought to a well levelled surface and specially designed long pointed scissors are used to start the trimming process. A soft, skilled hand moves all over the rug for several days. All the patterns and colours are made distinct and clear, in accordance with the design. The level of the pile is smoothed down, thus enhancing the clarity and originality of designs. If desired, carving with the scissors ensures distinct, clear lines.

Trimming and cutting of carpet fuzz after its been produced for overseas rug retailers.
Photographer: Mehmet O (Date: Not mentioned)
Trimming and cutting of carpet fuzz before being shipped overseas to rug retailers.

4. Washing & Drying

After trimming the rug undergoes a strenuous washing procedure with fresh water and eco-friendly washing materials until the rugs are clean and take on a soft enhancing texture and look (natural herbs are also used). The properly washed carpet is dried in the sun light for up to five days.

Iranian women washing a hand-woven carpet in a lake.
Photographer: Nasiri Carpets (circa 2017)
Iranian women washing a hand-woven carpet in a lake. Retrieved from Architectural Digest

5. Stretching

The carpets are stretched on all side by vice-like equipment and ties over a metal frame for about a day to insure to its proper shape and size.

6. Finishing & Inspection

When completely dry, the rug is thoroughly checked against the precise measurement and given a finishing touch by a fine, re-trimming making it an elegant, and fine example of craftsmanship. The rug undergoes a strict final inspection before delivery to foreign markets. It is inspected repeatedly at every step in the process. This results in finding small errors in the pattern, which are corrected by an assigned team. Each rug is stretched to make sure it is exactly straight and true to measurements. Rows are checked to make sure it lines up the way it is supposed to. Fringes are also measured and adjusted if needed.

Rug dealers assesing the quality of a flat-weave rug.
Photographer: Perry, Eric (2017, May 11)
Angela and Edmond Hagopian assesing a flat-weave rug. Retrieved from Architectural Digest

A hand-woven kilim area rug made of pure wool in Afghanistan.
Photographer: Tahar, Abdel (2018, May 23)
A hand-woven kilim made of pure wool in Afghanistan. Retrieved from the Bashir Persian Rugs Collection

7. Packing

Once the completed flat-woven rug is inspected, the process of getting it packed and sent to overseas buyers begins. It is important to note that packing is not always the same and will vary from one supplier to another. Generally however, most rug suppliers will provide double layered packing. In other words, once the rug is rolled up, it is first wrapped in plastic (usually transparent Polythene) followed by an outer, tougher layer of jute sacking or white fiber cloth. This will allow the rolled rug to be free from the moisture and from getting damaged during the shipment. In the case of more professional and experienced sellers, the rug is rolled with centre support of cardboard tube or plastic pipe to avoid wrinkles or bending in transit via sea or by air.

Kilim rugs rolled and ready for packing.
Photographer: Trajkovski, Martin (Date: Not mentioned)
Kilim rugs with Macedonian motifs rolled and ready for packing.