The Magic of Making Carpets: Iran, Turkey, Central Asia, and the South Caucasus

The Magic of Making Carpets: Iran, Turkey, Central Asia, and the South Caucasus

The art of making carpets – it’s almost magical. Iran, TurkeyCentral Asia and the South Caucasus all lay claim to carpets woven a thousand years ago. Even today you can see those same traditional designs woven in ways that were used back in ancient times.

Making CarpetsSilk and wool carpets are the most durable and coveted of carpets. Wool is shorn from sheep, carefully carded, and woven into yarn. Cocoons are harvested from silkworms, spun into thread, and then dyed. At the Samarkand-Bukhara Silk Carpets Joint Venture Workshop in Uzbekistan, natural ingredients such as berries, nuts, and roots are used to make dyes.

Weaver Zainab Badghisi with silkworm cocoons, a vital element at the Samarkand-Bukhara Silk Carpets Joint Venture <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

Weaver Zainab Badghisi with silkworm cocoons, a vital element at the Samarkand-Bukhara Silk Carpets Joint Venture
Photo credit: Helen Holter

(click on photo to see larger version)


Tying the Knot Creating a carpet is complex. A frame called a loom holds the carpet in place as it’s being woven. Yarn is tied and knotted around two kinds of threads – vertical warp and horizontal weft. Mind you, these are no run-of-the-mill sailor’s knots: The most frequently used are symmetrical Turkish double knots and asymmetrical Persian single knots – made to last.

A weaver works at her loom in an Uzbek-Afghan carpet joint-venture in Samarkand, Uzbekistan <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

A weaver works at her loom in an Uzbek-Afghan carpet joint-venture in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Photo credit: Helen Holter

(click on photo for larger version)


Remembering Rugs The magic begins as motifs and patterns slowly appear before your eyes: paisleys, vines, vases, and other traditional forms. A weaver might simply work from memory with generations-old designs, while more complex patterns are drawn on graph paper, or even scaled by computers for pinpoint accuracy. Timeline? It could take days, months, and even years to finish, depending on the carpet’s size, design complexity, and number of weavers working on it.

The Samarkand weavers are creating a carpet from this painting, work that will last at least a year <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

The Samarkand weavers are creating a carpet from this painting, work that will last at least a year
Photo credit: Helen Holter

 (click on photo for larger version)


Weaving Stories Why are hand-made carpets so special, and why is it so sacrilegious to desecrate one? Beyond hanging them as art on walls, using them to keep feet warm, anchoring a room, or kneeling on them for prayers, folklore says weavers (nearly all women) originally created carpets as a permanent way to express their feelings – joys, sorrows, longings, and love – in their choice of colors, motifs, and patterns. Perhaps a woman is marrying, or just lost a child: her carpet reflects that moment in time. Look closely at the carpets you find from village to village, country to country: perhaps you’re reading a life – centuries old – before your eyes.

A newlywed weaver pauses at her loom in Samarkand, Uzbekistan Photo credit: Helen Holter

A newlywed weaver pauses at her loom in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Photo credit: Helen Holter

(click on photo for larger version)


Viewing Carpets Iran, Turkey, Central Asia, and the South Caucasus are regions piled high with the world’s best carpets.

  • The Carpet Museum in Tehran, Iran resembles a carpet-weaving loom; inside are excellent examples of 17th-century carpets.
  • The Museum of Carpets and Textiles in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan displays one of the largest hand-knotted carpets in the world.
  • Samarkand, Uzbekistan is home to the Samarkand-Bukhara Silk Carpets workshop, a joint Afghan-Uzbek venture with a silk carpet factory and tours demonstrating the process of carpet-making, from silkworms to sale.
  • Little Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus is a giant in the world of carpet-making, renowned for its Azer-Ilme Carpet Manufacturing Center in Baku. The entire process of making carpets is on display; traditions so treasured that Azerbaijani carpet weaving has been inscribed on UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of  Humanity.
From traditional designs to Soviet Lenin kitsch, carpets abound in Bukhara, Uzbekistan Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

From traditional designs to Soviet kitsch, carpets abound in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

4 Carpet Tidbits
  1. The world’s largest carpet was made in Iran, and then shipped to a mosque in Abu Dhabi. It size is 60,000+ square feet – bigger than a football field – and it weighs 48 tons.
  2. ThePazyryk Carpet” is the oldest in the world, made 3,500 years ago. Found frozen in Siberia, it was made in Central Asia or Persia, experts believe. It’s on display at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  3. Carpets are so much a part of Turkmenistan’s culture that its national flag boasts a red stripe with five traditional guls – designs used in making carpets.
  4. Difference between rugs and carpets? Size. Rugs are portable and usually under 40 square feet, while carpets are bigger.
Georgian carpets in South Caucasus often have striking geometrical designs and bold colors Photo credit: Mariana Noble

Georgian carpets in the South Caucasus often have striking geometrical designs and bold colors
Photo credit: Mariana Noble

Travel to the Lands of Carpets with MIR Watch master carpet weavers practice their magical craft, view carpets from around the world, and yes, buy if you’d like, on MIR’s scheduled group tours and hand-crafted, custom private journeys. Some of these scheduled tours include:

These private, independent journeys are designed to fit your schedule: 

(Top photo: Intricately designed Turkish carpets are a favorite souvenir of travelers. Photo credit: Paul Schwartz)

PUBLISHED: April 2, 2015

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2 thoughts on “The Magic of Making Carpets: Iran, Turkey, Central Asia, and the South Caucasus

  • It could be said that our house is a palace for us. For this reason, the house should be treated, guarded and beautified to remain comfortable for us live. There are so many ways to beautify one’s home by using a carpet. Some people think that using and caring for the carpet is more difficult and complicated than the floor in general. firmatoele.nl