Hand knotted rugs - sometimes referred to as oriental rugs - are often what comes to mind when people think of an area rug, or area carpet. More specifically they imagine classic, or traditional style rugs that were first made in the geographical area once known as Persia.
Generally speaking, hand knotted rugs would be considered, at or near the top of the area rug category, in terms of quality and construction. Of course their price reflects the attention to workmanship required to produce what can be an heirloom passed from one generation to the next.
Hand knotted rugs are made on a specially designed loom and are knotted by hand. The size of the loom depends on the size of the rug and the weaving is done from the bottom to the top using what is referred to as a cartoon (the rug design pattern) to guide the weaving process. The rug weaver inserts the “knots” into the foundation of the rug and they are tied by hand, this makes up the “pile” of the rug.
Vertical (warp) threads are tied onto the loom. These threads are what will eventually become the fringe of the rug. The weft then runs horizontally intertwining with the vertical threads to create the foundation of the rug. The knots are tied to the warp threads, cut, and then tied again to secure the knot.
Therefore, fringe is important in the determination of a hand knotted rug. You will never see the fringe glued on in the construction of an authentic hand knotted rug. Also, if you look at the back of a hand knotted rug you will see the pattern of the rug much the same on the backside as the front. These are ways to tell if a rug is hand knotted, or hand tufted.
Weaving a hand-knotted rug requires a great deal of skill and often a lot of time to produce. The quality, and very often the cost of a hand-knotted rug, is determined by the number of knots per square inch. In this case, a higher density means better quality. 100 knots per square inch should be the minimum quality of a decent rug.
A complex pattern can require very dense knotting and thus it can take a long time to produce. An average weaver can tie about 10,000 knots per day. Larger rugs with a large number of knots per square inch and an intricate pattern, will often take months to produce. The time involved in making it also accounts for hand-knotted rugs costing more on average than for example, hand-tufted rugs.
The Persian knot is asymmetrical and open to one side. It does not leave gaps and is less bulky than Turkish knots. Persian knots are used to create more intricate curved or floral patterns. Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Tibet, and China are known for this knot.
The Turkish knot is symmetrical and can be identified by two small bumps within one knot on the back of the rug. This looks like a double knot. Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and northern Iran are known for this type of knot.
The final knot is known as a Jufti Knot. Jufti knots are known as false knots. Instead of being tied around two warp threads, the weaver ties the knot around four. With this short cut, the weaver spends less time on the rug resulting in a lower value and quality.
Again, like hand tufted rugs, the fiber most often used in their construction is wool, however, silk or viscose (artificial silk) is also often used. Silk and viscose are very slippery fibers and require special attention when used in hand tufted rugs. It’s very important that enough latex is used to secure the “U” shaped tufts and anchor them firmly, whereas this is not a problem in the construction of hand knotted rugs as the yarn is secured with a knot.
Please note that I have set the video below to start where the hand knotting process begins. This portion of the video is just over 5 minutes in length.