Defining an oriental rug can be as easy or as hard as you like. Each person has a unique picture in their mind of what an oriental rug is, but describing that image to another person accurately can be difficult. For our purposes, we will use this simple definition. A true oriental rug is a rug or carpet that is hand-knotted in the near, middle, or far east. While this is still a very broad definition, it contains two very key factors.
First, and most important, all true oriental rugs are hand-knotted. Hand-knotting is a skilled process in which individual knots are hand-tied onto a framework of interwoven threads. The variation of these knots, in coordination with their color and location, create both the pile and the pattern of the rug.
The second key factor in the definition is that all oriental rugs are made in the eastern hemisphere of the globe. The name oriental rug is itself a misnomer. Here in the U.S., most people consider the orient to be southern Asia (China, Japan, Koreas, etc.) The majority of oriental rugs are manufactured in Persia (Iran), India, China, Pakistan, Tibet, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Russia.
Oriental Rugs may be either flat woven or hand-knotted.
Flat woven rugs are not as prominent as piled carpets. Flat woven rugs are pile-less, created through a system of crossing vertical and horizontal threads to create the fabric of the rug. This process is very similar to other weaving processes, where threads are interlaced to create material. The difference is that flatweaves change colors and threads intermittently to create designs, and the threads are woven upon a cotton warp base. There are multiple types of flat woven rugs made up of different materials, dyes, and designs. These types of rugs may be called kilims, soumacs, dhurries, or flat weaves depending upon the specific way in which they are constructed. These flat woven rugs will be discussed further later on this website.
Pile carpets are the most prominent form of oriental rug. A pile carpet is formed when strands of material are tied (knotted) onto a foundation of warps and wefts, with the cut ends of these knot strings creating the pile of the rug. Each individual knot is pre-dyed in mass wool quantities, and the placement and colors of these individual knots creates the pattern and quality of the rug. Again, these rugs vary greatly in the materials, design, and dyes that may be used.
Rugs versus carpets
Many people become confused by the use of the terms rugs and carpets. For most practical use in the western world, it makes no difference which verbage you choose to use. The true difference between carpets and rugs is the size. If a person was to ask for carpets in certain areas of the middle east, the vendor would bring you smaller area rugs ranging from 6X9 and smaller. To ask for rugs would be to ask to see larger sized pieces, 6x9 or larger.