Glossary



abrash. Variations in color seen in a pile rug as subtle changes of shade that are indications of traditional materials and dyeing practices. The wool has generally been dyed in small quantities resulting in variations in color.

Achaemenian. Describes a Persian dynasty that ruled at the height of the ancient Persian Empire’s influence from approximately the 6th to the 4th centuries B.C.

Afshar. A group of Turkic-speaking nomads whose primary area is in Kerman Province in southeastern Iran, though clusters of Afshars inhabit other areas of Iran.

alum. Double sulphate consisting of aluminum and potassium used as a mordant.

aniline dye. Chemical dye made from coal tar named after “anil,” the indigo plant. Invented in the 1860′s and spread to the Middle East from the 1880′s. Often found in red, blue and purple colors. Unstable and subject to running and fading.

asymmetrical knot. One of the two main types of knots found in pile rugs. Also known as the Persian or Senneh knot. Asymmetric knots may be open to the left or right.

boteh. Common motif of disputed origin and meaning. In Farsi the word boteh means a cluster of leaves. Various interpretations include a flame, a womb, a tear drop, a pine cone, a pear, a tree. A boteh motif from Kashmir shawls was copied in the early 19th century at a factory in Paisley, Scotland.

Chinese endless or infinite knot. Also called “Ch’ang. A design element present across the weaving areas of Asia. The seventh of the eight Buddhist symbols, the knot of destiny.

chromium dye. Modern chemical dye prevalent in the weaving areas of Asia which is colorfast (resists fading) but individual colors may appear overly monochromatic, lacking abrash.

cloud band border. Carpet border of curving narrow bands thought to have originated in Safavid Persian carpets in the 1500′s and possibly of Chinese origin.

cochineal. Red dye obtained from crushing scale insects.

Gul or Gol. A Gul or Gol is an octagon or angular shaped pattern used on Turkmen designs usually in an overall repeating pattern. Turkmen tribes use specific guls as tribal emblems.

handle. A term generally used to describe the weight, feel and flexibility of a rug, as in a rug with a “stiff” handle.

heddle bar. Part of a loom used to capture those warps on the bottom side of the shed, using cords attached to the warps, which is then used to open the shed so that warp strands may be pass through.

Herati pattern. Possibly the most common of the Oriental flower designs. A repeat design featuring a flower inside a diamond like shape with curling leaves located around the center which leaves also resemble fish. There are many variations including geometric as well as curvilinear and the pattern may be found in the border as well as the field. Thought to have originated in Safavid carpets in eastern Persian, perhaps in the city of Herat.

madder. A red dye derived from the root of the madder plant, Rubia tinctorum.

Mamluks. Dynasty in Egypt whose leaders arose from the Turkic soldiers and administrators originally brought from Central Asia and the Caucacus as slaves. Defeated the Mongols in 1261 and ruled from Cairo until defeated by the Ottomans in 1517.

mihrab. Niche in the wall of a mosque indicating the direction of Mecca. The symbolic gateway in a prayer rug.

mina khani. Overall design pattern with many variations but generally consisting of two or more flower blossoms connected by a diamond laattice.
palmette. A common floral motif consisting usually of a side view of a flower blossom and leaves.

Qashqa’i. A confederation of Turkmen tribes formed in the 18th century in Fars province in southern Iran.

quatrefoil. Four lobed medallion.

saph. A single prayer rug but with multiple mirabs.

selvedge. The outermost warps on a carpet which are fixed in a number of ways, including over-casting with separate threads, to form the vertical edge of the carpet.

shed stick. Wooden stick used to separate alternative warps into two levels.

shed. The openings on a loom between the warp strands through which the weft is passed.

soumak. A type of flat weave in which patterns are formed by using extra weft threads wrapped horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

symmetrical knot. One of the two main types of knots found in pile rugs. Also known as the Ghiordes or Turkish knot.

talim. An Arabic word describing a written notation, using descriptive symbols, that can be read aloud to weavers, and serve as the instructions for executing a specific design.

Transcaucasia. Generally considered that portion of Caucasia south of the Caucasus Mountains.

vagireh. A Persian word referring to a small rug containing a variety of examples of patterns and designs available in larger carpets. Also called a “sampler.”

warp. The lengthwise, vertical foundation strands (wool, cotton, silk) attached at either end of the rug to the ends of the loom and around which the knots are tied.

weft. The widthwise, horizontal foundation strands of the rug which are woven through the warps, between the rows of knots, or form the design elements in flat weaves.