THE PRODUCTION OF PERSIAN CARPETS
Iran is one of the largest exporters of fine-quality carpets in the world. The history of carpet weaving dates back to ancient Persia and Persian people have always been renowned in all ages for their brilliant aesthetic craftsmanship portrayed through their carpets. Indubitably, even today, carpet production involves as much as five million people of Iran, and the carpets form the second largest export of Iran, next in line to oil-related products. Both hand woven and machine woven carpets are produced on a large scale in Iran. Different materials, techniques, knots and tools are used in different portions of Iran so as to produce carpets of different quality and design.
Carpets are mostly used as floor coverings for decoration purposes. A carpet consists of two layers. The upper layer is called pile, and lower layer is called the backing or foundation. Foundation gives support and its warps give the starting points for the knots used to weave designs to form the pile.
Two major types of materials that are used for carpet production include wool and cotton. Wool is used for weaving purposes while cotton is used in laying the foundation. Wool used for forming the pile is of different types: Kirk wool, Manchester wool and on a comparatively smaller scale, camel hair wool. Sometimes, silk is used as a substitute of wool. However, silk is more expensive and less durable. Therefore, silk carpets are produced on a much smaller scale and are displayed on wall as tapestries rather than being used as floor coverings.
Different designs are used by the carpet weavers. Some designs are relatively simple while some are highly intricate. Iranian carpets can be classified in terms of pattern into two main groups. Either there is a central or main design spread throughout the carpet, or there is a smaller pattern repeated multiple times on the carpet. Simple designs are normally memorized by the carpet weavers, and recalled during the weaving process. Complex designs are either sketched on a graph paper or on computer for reference.
The production of hand woven carpets can be broadly divided into two steps. Firstly, the foundation is laid down with the help of warps. And then weaving is done onto the warps, so as to produce the pile. Mostly, looms are used to maintain the correct amount of tension in the warps, while weaver weave woolen knots on to the warps. There are two different types of knots used. One is the symmetrical Turkish knot and the other is asymmetrical Persian knot. Persian knot is mostly used in finer and more intricate designs.
There are different types of tools used by the carpet wavers. Amongst the tools most commonly used are a knife for cutting the yarn as the knots are tied; a comb-like instrument for packing down the wefts; and a pair of shears for trimming the pile.
Iranian carpets are acclaimed throughout the world for their remarkable designs and high quality. This is basically due to the months and sometimes even years of strenuous efforts put into the production of carpets. Although mechanized carpet production is getting more and more common, the hand woven carpet weavers still thrive in Iran, and their works sell at higher prices than the machine woven carpets.