oriental rug laid out in a smart living room


Nothing adds exotic style and finesse to a room like an Oriental rug.

It doesn’t matter how up-to-date your furniture; the power of this rug can detract from fraying edges and a scuffed chest of drawers. The rug is all you’ll need.

Part 2 - The Knots

The loom is fundamental to the creation of a typical rug. Historically, nomads would use a horizontal loom that was easy to transport; but limited the size of their carpets. Stationary vertical looms are traditionally used in the mass-production of the rug, because they allow large pieces to be made and are more comfortable (ie easier) to use.

Hand-woven pile rugs are typically made by knotting strings of thread individually into the warps, after each knot the thread is cut and then one or more strings of weft are woven (“shot”) across to increase stability.

It is a commonly held belief that the higher the knot count, the better the quality of the rug – but this is just a guideline. While a high knot density (knots per square inch) indicates rug quality, it is important to consider the material being used (silk will have a high knot count than thick wool) and the overall appearance of the rug; the design, dyes and materials used.

When buying an Oriental rug, the highest consideration should be – do I like it? Then, is it within my budget? If you are planning to spend a little more (ie an investment piece) and you don’t want to be ‘ripped off’ - then visiting a reputable seller and appreciating the knots is recommended.

A guide to Knot-Counting

Count the number of knots per linear inch along the length of the rug (the warp) and the number of knots per linear inch across the width (the weft) in order to give yourself an idea of the knot density.

  • 1. If you only see coloured elements in pairs – then count each pair as one knot.
  • 2. Lots of single coloured elements means that the rug has offset warps and each element should be counted as one knot.
  • 3. If you are shopping in Varanasi, India where rugs are graded with 2 numbers – “9/60” or “5/40” – the first indicates the knots in 9/10 of an inch of the rug’s width and the second represents the knot count in 4 ½ inches of the rug’s length (0.9x4.5 = 4.05). The sum is the first number multiplied by the second number and divided by the square inches (see above in brackets 4.05, nearly 4 square inches) 5x40/4 = 50 knots per square inch. You will only see one element of the knot on the back of the rug because of strongly offset warps.
  • 4. In Pakistan the sum above is much simpler. “16/18” = 16x18=288 knots per square inch.
  • 5. A Bokhara rug from Pakistan is different. The warps are not offset – they lie side-by-side making both elements visible on the back of the rug. So be careful that you don’t count them twice.
  • 6. In China they use ‘line counts’ to measure the number of knots in a linear foot across the width of the rug using a 12-inch ruler. Multiply the number of pairs of warps (the line count) by itself, then divide by 144 (12x12 = square) to give you the number of knots per square inch. (120x120/144 = 100 knots per square inch)

Many people can be confused with what is an Oriental Rug and what is a Persian Rug, in simple terms not all Oriental Rugs are considered Persian Rugs, but all Persian rugs are considered Oriental Rugs.

To be Considered Oriental are rugs from:

  • Afghanistan
  • China
  • India
  • Iran
  • Pakistan
  • Nepal
  • Russia
  • Tibet
  • Turkey
  • Uzbekistan

To read part one of this article on oriental rugs.

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traditionally dressed woman work on a loom weaving a rug

manual production of carpets

oriental rugs laid out

loom weaving a rug