Handmade Rugs Explained

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The benefits of warming your winter home with a flatweave or plush pile rug are plenty. But navigating the lingo associated with handcrafted pieces can prove testing!

So we’ve put together a little glossary of terms. The what’s what and things to think of when you’re considering investing in a handmade rug.

Kilim Rugs. From L to R: Nomadic Charm Pinwheel Kilim Rug by Rug Culture, Nomadic Charm Indian Patch Kilim Rug by Rug Culture and Nomadic Charm Indian Speckle Kilim Rug by Rug Culture, available online at Zanui.

Kilim flatweave: tapestry-style rugs hand-woven in Iran, Pakistan and the Balkans.

Handmade with natural dye and wool, the weaving of these rugs is a highly regarded folk art. Unlike other rugs, flatweaves do NOT have pile. This makes them generally softer and thinner than other rugs from the same region.

Kilims can vary from inexpensive to museum quality pieces depending on their quality.

Kilim Rugs and Runners. From L to R: Nomadic Charm Indian Quatrefoil Kilim Rug by Rug Culture, Nomadic Charm Haze Kilim Runner Rug by Rug Culture, Nomadic Charm Loop Kilim Runner Rug by Rug Culture, and Nomadic Charm Indian Stripe Kilim Rug by Rug Culture, available online at Zanui.

Features:
  • Both soft and bold colours with geometrical patterns
  • Can be reversible
  • And reflects the traditions of its region

Nain rugs and runners – close-ups of hand craftsmanship. From L to R: Nima Handmade Nain Wool Rug, Tarim Handmade Wool Nain Runner Rug, and Mahin Handmade Nain Wool Rug from Rug Culture, available online at Zanui.

Naen or Nain: elegant Iranian carpets produced in and around the city of Nain, some 60 miles east of the enchanted city of Isfahan. A favourite of many collectors, these rugs are intricate, delicate and strikingly beautiful.

Hand-woven by talented artisans, a single rug can take several years to complete. Excellent grades of wool and silk are used exclusively on a foundation of fine cotton or silk.

From L to R: Qilian Handmade Nain Wool Runner Rug, Mahin Handmade Nain Wool Rug, close up of Azara Handmade Nain Wool Runner Rug, Navid Handmade Nain Wool Rug and Tarim Handmade Wool Nain Runner Rug from Rug Culture, available online at Zanui.

Features:
  • Mostly beige and blue with silken highlights
  • Many of the finer pieces will be signed by their master weaver

Atefeh Handmade Balouchi Wool Rug from Rug Culture, available online at Zanui.

Balouchi: hand-woven Persian rugs crafted by nomadic tribes in South-east Iran, featuring designs inspired by their travels. Their tightly packed pile is created with thick, lustrous wool, hand-spun from local camel or sheep.

Highly collectable + known for their durability, these rugs endure many years in high traffic areas such as hallways, bedrooms and living rooms. Natural vegetable dyes are used for the most part, ensuring colour purity that forms a soft, subtle patina with time + use.

Features:
  • Predominantly rich burgundy in colour with dark navy and beige accents
  • Usually have an overall geometric pattern

Kazak rugs and runners. From L to R: Majeed Handmade Kazak Wool Rug, Dareh Handmade Kazak Wool Rug, Gatha Handmade Kazak Wool Runner Rug, Kansbar Handmade Kazak Wool Rug, and Nardar Handmade Kazak Wool Rug from Rug Culture, available online at Zanui.

Kazak: hand-woven rugs from Pakistan, generally crafted by Caucasian women in the communities between the Black and Caspian sea, using skills passed down since 5 BC.

Often incorporating strands of silver and gold, these rugs were a status symbol found in palaces, churches and the homes of the rich, or even on the throne of the king.

Kazak rugs – all one-of-a-kind. From L to R: Soroush Handmade Kazak Wool Rug, Taraneh Handmade Kazak Wool Rug, Minau Handmade Kazak Wool Rug and Xenres Handmade Kazak Wool Rug from Rug Culture, available online at Zanui.

Features:
  • Large-scale patterns, dramatic colours and the presence of medallions designs
  • Quality wool is dyed with natural materials, creating a soft, luminous finish

Hand-knotted rugs can range from traditional to contemporary in style. From L to R: Giraffe Himali Designer Rug by Brink & Campman, Blue Illusion Flower Designer Rug by Rug Republic and Wake Himali Designer Rug by Brink & Campman, available online at Zanui.

Hand-knotted: any pile rug where craftsmen thread fibres through a criss-crossed backing and knot them to create pile. This pile is then shaved to create a uniform length.

Examples range from the vibrant functional pieces of nomadic tribespeople to the highly complex designs created by teams of weavers in metropolitan Iran.

Hand-knotted Persian rugs. From L to R: Bosten Handmade Wool Rug, Kunlun Handmade Wool Rug, Songhua Handmade Wool Rug and Tagh Handmade Wool Rug, from Rug Culture, available online at Zanui.

Features:
  • Common materials used include cotton, wool and silk
  • Styles + qualities are as varied as the artisans who produce them

Hand-knotted Rugs. From L to R: Urban Knots Batik Wool Designer Rug by Rug Culture, Urban Knots Ipek Wool Designer Rug by Rug Culture, Urban Knots Patra Wool Designer Rug by Rug Culture and Urban Knots Block Wool Designer Rug by Rug Culture, available online at Zanui.

The use of colour and its meaning

Handcrafted rugs incorporate many of the traditional elements and cultural resonances of the regions they come from. Colour is used to imbue meaning and enhance the functionality of each piece.

We’ve listed out the common associations for each colour below. Which of these qualities would you like to draw into your home?

White – peace and purity

Blue – tranquillity and peace

Red – great joy, happiness and success

Yellow – the colour of the sun, riches and glory

Green – constancy, a spring that always returns, regarded as a sacred colour

Brown – acceptance

Orange – devotion

Pink – piety

Hand-knotted Persian patchwork rugs and runners. From L to R: Mira Handmade Wool Runner Rug, Sayan Handmade Wool Rug, Hami Handmade Wool Rug, Alborz Handmade Wool Runner Rug from Rug Culture, available online at Zanui.

Many of the rich colours used in authentic Persian rugs are obtained from traditional vegetable dyes – blue from the indigo plant, subtle browns from walnut husks, rich reds from madder roots or from the bodies of tiny cochineal insects.

And just a splash of handmade modern rugs for contrast! From L to R: Stack Designer Rug by Brink & Campman, Blooms Designer Rug by Brink & Campman and Coloured Lines Designer Rug by Brink & Campman, available online at Zanui.

Featured image L to R: Indus Handmade Wool Rug, Gulbahar Handmade Wool Runner Rug and Mirza Handmade Wool Rug from Rug Culture.

Kay is a feature, blog and copywriter. She collects empty jam jars, academic degrees and tawdry dreams in the hopes of turning them into something useful someday. Her work has been published in ACP magazines, ABC fiction, Overland, Brittle Star, Seizure, trade publications and online forums. Her creative writing has won several awards.