What is handmade carpet?
“A Floor Covering which is made completely by human hands or Handweaving, in which handspun Yarn of natural fibers (most commonly wool or silk) is used, with individual character and design.”
Hand-made carpets are traditionally more expensive than those made by machines. Though there are several carpet-making methods, the most common of these are braiding and hand-knotting.
History of handmade carpet in Iran:
The Persian carpet is one of Iran’s most famous handicrafts and its history dates back at least 2,500 years. The colorful fabrics and needles carry historical significance and embody the extraordinary imagination of the artist.
Europeans had their first encounter with Persian rugs by at least the 15th century and the initial impression has never changed; in carpet weaving Iran is considered to have no equal.
The art of carpet weaving in Iran is deeply connected with the culture and the customs of the people of this land and its sources from their instinctive feelings. Iranian skillful carpet weavers mix wonderful patterns with admirable colors, an art which is only expected from outstanding painters.
Main present carpet weaving centers in Iran:
Main present carpet weaving centers in Iran include Qom, Isfahan, Tabriz, Kerman, Nain, Yazd, Kashan, and nomadic regions like Baktiari and Qashqai.
But the weavers in Fars and Kashan are considered to be among the best. In 2010, the “traditional skills of carpet weaving” in Fars Province and Kashan were added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Kashan, which sits 300 kilometers south of Iran’s capital Tehran, has a long history of handwoven carpets that dates back to the 16th century.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Kashan was designated as the workshop for weaving royal carpets. Some of the precious carpets made in Kashan have been collected by famous museums in the United States, UK, and Austria.
Fars province is to the southwest of Tehran. Similar to most Persian carpet styles, weavers use a freehand technique, using their minds to create intricate patterns with each stitch. According to the International Information and Networking Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region (ICHCAP), knitting skills are passed down from mother to daughter.
Having learned all about the materials and tools, the methods, colors, and various weaving techniques, the next generation will infuse new innovations into the timeless art, and draw inspiration from nature and the world around them.
Carpet production process:
Wool is either imported or is bought from nearby markets. Wool often carries dust, grease which is removed by washing it thoroughly and is then sun-dried for two three days.
One of the most important factors in the longevity and beauty of a rug is the quality of the wool.
Wool quality is determined by the breed and diets of the sheep from which the wool is shorn.
The best wool is called “kurk”. Kurk comes from the first shearing of lambs between 9 and 14 months old. Kurk has a feel almost like velvet but is exceptionally strong.
It is the process of washing Wool fibre. The fibre has to be washed with caustic to remove suint.
The traditional pot dyeing method has been largely replaced by machine dyeing in closed Chambers. Depending on the weather, the dyed yarn has to be dried in the sunlight for one to three days. Pot dyeing and vegetable (natural) dyeing are still being used by some manufacturers.
Yarn Opening or Reeling
is a process that involves opening the bigger and loose lea and wrapping it into a tightly wrapped bunch which is smaller in size
The value of Iranian carpets is determined to a large extent by their patterns. Before weaving a carpet, a professional weaver usually designs the patterns and makes a paper model, representing one-quarter of the carpet’s surface; nomads usually improvise while weaving. The carpet consists of the main portion and the margins.
There is an astonishing variety of patterns in Iranian carpets. Of all the themes which occupy the mind of a Persian carpet designer, the garden is particularly important.
The vertical and horizontal lines drawn onto the graph divide the paper into square inches. Depending on the desired size and knots per square inch, the scale of the drawing and the graph paper used will vary.
After the draft design has been approved, the next step is to fill in colors using water-based paint. Generally, each color will represent a sample of dyed wool.
Each box in the graph paper represents one knot in the carpet to be made. The designer must paint the design accordingly – two separate colors should not fall into the same box.
Next, the rug’s design and colors are encoded into a weaver’s language. The weaver will read the encoded language while weaving the rug as a pianist would read music. This ensures that the design and colors are adhered to as closely as possible.
The design is then woven following the design map or weaving graph. Often several skilled weavers will sit and work together on the rug at the same time.
The rug is created by carefully knotting the right color on the right spot on the warp. The weavers move their hands very precisely and quickly while paying close attention to each knot’s color.
While it’s true that a higher knot count means that the carpet took longer to make, there are other factors to consider. Knot counts in rugs can vary from as low as 40 per square inch to as high as 1200.
weavers normally can tie 4,000 up to 8,000 knots a day. This means that a 9′ X 12′ carpet woven at 350 knots per inch can take over two years for one single weaver to make.
Once the carpet is completely woven, it comes off the loom and goes through a soft, but vigorous washing process with water and neutral detergents.
This process removes dust and small yarn pieces. It will leave the carpet completely clean.
After washing, the carpet is stretched in order to balance the handmade knots and create a perfectly flat-laying surface. This is the best way for the rug to dry and get its final shape and exact size.
Embossing And Carving:
After weaving, washing, and stretching, the yarn needs to be cut at the right length, and details as carving or embossing are applied.
THE ROLE OF SINGING CULTURES AROUND CARPET WEAVING IN IRAN
One prefers pain, the other remedy
One prefers separation, the other unification
I don’t have a remedy to their pain
Thus sang a woman weaver at a carpet workshop in Barzok, a small town outside Kashan in central Iran. The melody is a lullaby. But there were no children at the workshop, only middle-aged women working as weavers. While women carpet weavers once brought their children to work, nowadays they attend school, and the women work only with each other.
But the melodies of lullabies remain part of the soundscape of the carpet workshop, even with the kids gone. The words, however, change, focusing on the pain and difficulties of the weavers themselves.
The lullabies of Barzok are but one part of the soundscape of Iran’s carpet workshops. There is also Naqshe-Khani, the singing of the colors and patterns to help weavers follow along, and other songs, poems, and storytelling.
Naqshe-Khani is the practice of reading aloud carpet designs for weavers in carpet workshops. Naqshe in Persian means design, or map, and Khani means reading or singing.
Naqshe-khan is the person who reads rug maps for the weavers out loud in order to make the process of weaving faster and to minimize human errors. For instance, naqshe-khan says to the weavers: two red nodes next to three blue on the second row.
Most famous historical Iranian carpets in the world:
The “Hunting Ground” carpet preserved in the “Art and Industry” museum of Austria is among the most sumptuous and precious carpets of the world. Images show hunters while hunting different sorts of animals. This carpet was woven in the 16th century and is entirely made of silk.
The most ancient Iranian carpet adorns one of the halls of the “Hermitage” museum in Leningrad. This carpet which is partly intact was accidentally discovered by Prof. Rodenko, in the border of Moqolestan, a region called “Pazirik”, under piles of ice.
This Pazirik carpet was placed in the large sarcophagus (coffin) of a Satrap (Hakhamaneshian governor-general, 33~35O BC) near his mummified body. Thus carpet weaving has been common in Iran for at least 25 centuries ago.
The “Ardabil” carpet preserved in the museum of “Victoria and Albert” in London, from the viewpoint of design and weaving is one of the world’s most famous and precious carpets. This carpet was woven in 1539 AD, and its warp and woof are of silk.
Other samples of the ‘Iranian famous carpets are preserved in the museums of Paris, Metropolitan.