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Rugs: Glossary (A-L)

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Rugs: Glossary (A-L)

Your Guide to Rug Terminology
Want to learn more about some of the terminology we use to identify and describe our selection of over 13,000 area rugs? Use our Rug Glossary to look up important rug terms related to style classifications, rug constructions, rug techniques, rug materials as well as the history of traditional weaving styles.

Abrash (Arbrush) Inadvertent variations in color found within a field of color in an area rug. Abrash usually appears as tonal stripes running horizontally across the rug. Subtle instances of abrash are caused by natural variations in yarn diameter caused by hand-spinning, while heavier appearances of abrash are caused by switches of the dye batch. Since abrash is a natural effect of hand-weaving, and is sometimes an intentional attempt by the weaver to add interest to monotonous open-field backgrounds, it is generally seen as a desirable feature of tribal rugs.
Acrylic Man-made fiber used as a less expensive alternative to wool.
All Over Design Rug pattern that is consistent throughout the field of the rug; not featuring a central medallion or border.
Antique Wash A chemical wash that imitates an antique look.
Anti-Static Rug treatment that diminishes the effects of static electricity build-up.
Arabesque Intricate patterns of intertwining flowers and vines.
Arbrush (see Abrash)
Art Deco A bold, geometric style of interior design that was made popular from around 1925 to 1940.
Art Silk Artificial silk yarn for weaving that is made from cotton, rayon or polyester that resembles silk. It is soft to the touch and more affordable than the expensive silk originals. Sometimes artificial silk rugs are sold as real silk, so be sure to get what you pay for. (See Burn Tests for tips on how to differentiate between real and art silk.)
Asymmetrical Knot A type of Oriental pile rug knot where only one of the two warps are entirely encircled. (See also Persian Knot.)
Aubusson (Aubuson) Style of rug that originated in France in the 15th century. Aubusson evolved into several main styles over the course of the next four centuries, including popular Antoinette, Josephine and Maison patterns. Aubusson were originally flat-weave rugs, usually featuring a floral medallion and pastel colors, but today these rug patterns have been adapted for pile rugs.
Axminister Loom A type of loom used for machine-made rugs that offers great flexibility (enabling up to 70 colors) in both colors and design.
Axminster Rug Rugs manufactured by a particular style of loom and weaving that originated in the town of Axminster, England during the industrial revolution. The Axminster loom offers great flexibility of color, enabling use of up to 70 colors, and design. These machine-made rugs are woven onto a flexible cotton frame, the pile is then cut level to one height and the pile tufts are anchored by strong wefts. Axminster rugs combine many colors in geometric or floral patterns.

Backing The fabric that makes up the backside of the carpet.
Background Color The color that appears to be "behind" the designs and borders of the rug. The background color is usually the dominant color of the rug.
Bamboo Rugs Bamboo rugs or mats are woven from natural bamboo fibers. Bamboo is cut into strands for woven designs and into wide strips for a hardwood floor effect.
BCF Bulk Continuous Filament Bulked continuous filament yarns are synthetic yarns processed by a mechanical means to fluff them out before tufting or weaving.
Berber Term popularly used to refer to a natural colored look of carpeting. This style has been developed commercially by carpet manufacturers. Berber is more accurately or traditionally defined as a group of North African tribespeople who crafted rugs of handspun yarn from the undyed wool of local sheep.
Bessarabian This particular style of kilim comes from Ukraine (formerly part of Romania) in southeast Europe. The designs usually feature arched floral patterns and are very formal, sophisticated and detailed.
Bidjar A rug design that originated in the Bidjar region of Iranian Azerbaijan. Originally, the design was Kurdish and featured hundreds of trees. It was really accountable for earning this region its famous reputation. Commercial Bidjar rugs are machine made and feature a characteristic diamond-shaped medallion. They are considered the most durable carpets in history, because most are guaranteed to last over 300 years. This has earned the Bidjar the name: "The Iron Rug of Persia." Both types of Bidjar are still only made in limited quantities.
Binding Band or strip sewn over a carpet edge to protect, strengthen or decorate it.
Bleeding Transfer of fiber dyes from carpet or other fabrics by a liquid, usually water, with subsequent redepositing on other fibers.
Blend Carpets composed of more than one kind of fiber.
Border Rug A rug with one or more outside borders of one carpet style and an inside area of another carpet type.
Boucle Heavy looped pile.
Boteh The original version of paisley, this motif is thought to represent the forms of pine cones, cypress trees or the flame of Zoroaster. Boteh is a very popular motif in many types of traditional Oriental rugs.
Braided Area Rug Braided area rugs are constructed in several different ways- including tape, tubular, yarn and flat. In the tradition of early America from which braided area rugs were created, these area rugs may be woven with many different materials; such as wool, clothing, old blankets, nylon and blends Often braided rugs are made of "rag" or multi-colored fabric swatches, which are then sewn into concentric circles or ovals.
Brocade Floating horizontal weave that is used to embellish area rugs and other textiles. Brocade is sometimes used in kilim rugs.
Bukhara (also Bokhara and Bocarra) Uzbekistan's capitol and a major trading center for tribal Turkish rugs. Turkoman rugs are commonly referred to as Bukharas, however contemporary rugs that are identified as Bukhara are often made in Pakistan. Bukhara rugs typically feature rows of repeating motifs or guls.
Burn Test The material content of a rug can be tested by burning a small tuft of the fiber. Cotton has a vegetable smell when burned, while wool and silk will smell like burning hair.

Carding Process of arranging and smoothing wool fibers by pulling them between two spiked paddles.
Cartoon Diagram used as a template for rug design when knotting an oriental rug. These diagrams are especially useful for rugs made by groups of weavers, such as village rugs.
Cartouche Design element that contains a date or inscription.
Chenille Fabric with a deep luxurious pile that is often used in rugs.
Chrome dyes Colorfast dyes that use potassium bichromate to bond the yarn to the dye.
Classical Ornate court carpets that were originally designed before the turn of the 19th century (see also Aubusson).
Cloudband Originally a Chinese design, this pattern resembles a swirling band of clouds. Cloudbands also appear frequently in Persian rug designs.
Color An important attribute in a handmade rug. Colors are generally deriven from natural dyes, or made from synthetic dyes. Rugs are generally attributed by their "primary color" which is the color that dominates the majority of the material, such as the background color.
Combing Process that organizes carded wool fibers in a parallel arrangement by pulling them through spiked blocks or combs. This process prepares wool for spinning.
Contemporary Non-traditional styles of rugs that range from shag and braided rugs to pile-weave rugs with geometric or modern patterns.
Cotton Cotton is a natural fiber of great durability and strength. The soft and fluffy fibers are formed within a cotton boll or seedpod. Each fiber is made up of twenty to thirty layers of cellulose coiled in a neat series of natural springs. When the cotton coll (seed case) is opened, the fibers dry into flat, twisted, ribbon-like shapes and become kinked together. This interlocked form fiber is ideal for spinning and is often used in rugs for backing, fringes and sometimes mercerized cotton is used for pile.
Cross-woven Cross-woven rugs are made on the Wilton loom. This technique incorporates fringes into the rug rather than requiring them to be sewn on afterwards. Cross-weaving is done from side to side, rather than top to bottom, which allows the use of more colors in addition to delicate details and an elegant abrash look.
Cut Pile Cut-pile is a smooth finish created by cutting off the tops of the wool loops. The cut loops are then twisted to make tufts of yarn that stand erect, creating a soft even surface. Also known as 'velour' or 'velvet' pile.

Denier Measurement of linear density (mass in grams of 9000 meters of the measured yarn or fiber). Large fibers or yarns have high deniers, thin yarns have low deniers.
Density Refers to the amount of pile yarn in the carpet and the closeness of the tufts. The more densely or tightly packed the yarn is, the more luxurious the pile will feel and the better the rug will wear.
Dhurrie (Dhurie) Inexpensive flat-woven rugs from India, usually made of wool or cotton. Type of Kilim.
Dragon Motif popular in Chinese rugs that symbolizes good fortune.
Duracord Duracord fabric is constructed of man-made industrial yarn that has undergone improvements in the aesthetics and hand, has been augmented with ultraviolet inhibitors and further anti-microbial enhancements to prevent degradation from outdoor exposure. But it is virtually indistinguishable from cotton. Perfect answer for customers requiring cotton-like softness, with durability when left outdoors for long periods.

Embossed Carved pile around a design or motif that augments the look of the pattern.
Embroidery Needle-work embellishments that decorate a fabric or textile.

Faux Silk Artificial silk or "false silk" is usually a synthetic, such as polyester fibers like viscose or rayon. Mercerized cotton is also used as a silk look-alike. Also called art silk, faux silk is usually used as small accents or in a short, dense pile construction. (See also Art Silk.)
Fiber Area rugs may be from a variety of synthetic or natural materials which will help determine performance and appearance. Natural fibers provide soft, low luster colors and long performance. Synthetic fibers provide brilliant colors, softness, easy maintenance and value.
Field The center plain of an area rug that is surrounded by the border and contains the central medallion or other motifs.
Flat Weave Rugs without pile or knots. Flat weave rugs are made on a loom and threaded through the warps. Kilims, Dhurries and the original Aubusson are good examples of flat woven rugs.
Flattening Carpets with pile flatten due to heavy traffic. Cleaning and vacuuming can restore the height of the pile.
Flokati Traditional Greek rugs, hand-woven from sheep's wool. These shaggy rugs are decadent and fluffy for feet, and their natural colors are pleasing to the eye as well. Flokati rugs come in different weights from 1400 grams to 4000 grams. They are measured by their weight in grams of wool per square meter. As the weight increases, so does thickness and fluffiness. A 4000 gram/sq. meter rug will be noticeably thicker than the 1400 gram/sq. meter rug. The higher the gram count, the more plush and more expensive the rug will be.
Approximate Pile Height:
  • 1400 grams/sq. meter is roughly 1.5 inches (New Flokati)
  • 2000 grams/sq. meter is roughly 2 inches (Flokati 3A Heavy)
  • 3000 grams/sq. meter is roughly 3 inches (Flokati 4A Super Heavy)
  • 4000 grams/sq. meter is roughly 4 inches (Flokati 5A Extraordinary)
    Frames The part of the loom that holds the spools of yarn. Every frame in a loom holds a different color of yarn. An eight-frame loom weaves an eight color rug.
    Frieze Heavily twisted yarn provides a coarse texture of cut pile. (See also Hard Twist.)
    Fringe Warp threads that extend beyond the end of the rug.

    Gabbeh A fluffy long piled rug used by nomads as a mattress. They have only been sold commercially in the West since 1990. Gabbeh usually have a simple colorful patterns, sometimes depicting a pastoral scene.
    Gauge Ends of pile yarn per unit of length across the width of the carpet.
    Gileem (See Kilim )
    Guard Stripes Stripes of color that embellish the main border and separate it from the field.
    Gul Persian word for flower, it describes the popular ornaments found in Turkoman carpets. This is an octagonal motif, usually elongated and divided into four. The word means "rose or flower".
    Ground Background color that accents the rug's design motif.

    Hali Word for 'rug' in Turkish.
    Halicilik The word for 'rug merchant' in Turkish.
    Hand The feel of the rug's texture. Qualities could include scratchiness, stiffness, roughness and softness.
    Hand-Hooked Rugs made in a manner similar to that of hand-tufted rugs, except that the pile is left looped rather than cut. Canvas backing is spread on a frame and a hooking implement is then used to pull the yarn through the fabric. Latex glue is then applied to the back of the rug to hold the loops in place. Another layer of cloth is added to the back of the rug and the rug is then finished by turning under the ends.
    Hand-Knotted The most expensive and longest to make, hand-knotted rugs are traditionally made with wool or silk. The weaver loops wool or silk around the warps one at a time, creating a thick pile. Cotton yarn is then woven through the warps to hold them together. Generally the cotton yarns are tied off to form a decorative fringe.
    Hand-Woven Rugs woven on a hand loom.
    Hand-Made Area Rug There are different types of hand-made area rugs: knotted, tufted, hooked, looped and flat weave. These are generally more expensive than machine-made rugs.
    Hand-Tufted Hand-tufted rugs are made much like hand-hooked rugs, except that the loops are sheared to create a flat surface. Tufted rugs can be made with combinations of fibers, and offer a great value. Hi-Lo Tufted Rugs feature a combination of cut and looped pile, yielding a three dimensional effect.
    Hard Twist/Cut Pile Practical type of cut-pile carpet that minimizes flattening with its durable stiffness. The yarns are twisted and set at a high temperature. (See also Frieze.)
    Heat-Set Process of using heat to treat twisted yarns to maintain their strength.
    Herati Border A rug pattern consisting of a rosette surrounded by four leaves. The rosette is often found inside a diamond shape.
    Hereke A style of rugs made in this Turkish city that are known for their factories where the most elaborate silk rugs are created. Although Hereke is in Turkey, they make use of the famous Persian Senneh knot in their rugs.
    Heriz City on the border of Iran and Azerbaijan. Popular rugs with geometric medallions were originally woven there.
    Hooked rug Rug made by pushing loops of yarn through a canvas backing. (See also Hand-Hooked.)

    Indigo A shrub or herb in the pea family whose yellow juice oxidizes to blue when it comes into contact with air. Indigo became chemically synthesized in 1880.
    Jute Rugs Rugs woven of natural plant fibers that were originally used as doormats. Jute is grown in areas of southern Asia. The fibers are then stripped from their stalks and can be spun into yarn or rope and woven. Jute rugs are woven with loop or flat construction, and have become popular for use throughout the home. Jute yarns are strong and often used as warps in knotted rugs.

    Karabagh The district of Karabagh is located southeast of the Kazak district in the southern part of the Caucasus. Many unique designs are woven in rugs; designs that include single and multiple medallions, bouquets of roses, prayer designs, Karabagh, repeated boteh, and Herati.
    Kashan A city located in Northern Iran which acted as a major trading center for high-quality rugs during the 17th and 18th centuries. Typical pattern is one of beautiful floral motifs built off of a single, central medallion.
    Kashmir Silk or mercerized cotton carpets from the Islamic region of India. Kashmir rugs are woven with Persian knots and have coloration and ornate patterns unique to India.
    Kazak The Turkish style of rugs are made by these people of Kazakhstan.
    Kerman A city located in Southeastern Iran. These rugs are known for their beautiful floral motifs, as well as their intricate patterns composed of medallions all over the area of the rug.
    Kilim A flatwoven, two-sided rug for reversibility. These rugs are similar to a dhurrie but they are woven tighter. Most often, they are woven with wool.
    Knot Oriental rugs are made with two basic kinds of knots, Persian Senneh and Turkish Ghiordes. Persian Senneh are complex asymmetrical knots. Turkish Ghiordes are symmetrical knot. Both knots vary with different tribal and regional traditions. (See Persian Knot and Turkish Knot for more details.)
    Knot Count Number of knots per square inch of rug
    Knotted Pile Weaving style that involves wrapping tufts of wool or pile around the warps. They wool or pile is then tied around each individual warp strand to erect the pile at a 90 degree angle to the floor.
    Kufic Script Stylized calligraphic script used for decoration.

    Lapis A color that is derived from a gemstone bearing an opqaque and transclusent blue, violet-blue, or sometimes greenish-blue tone.
    Latex Emulsion of synthetic rubber or plastic, used in rug adhesives.
    Line Count Number of horizontal knots in a foot of rug. The greater the number of knots, the higher the quality of the rug.
    Loom Structure that holds warp strands taut for weaving and knotting. Looms can be vertical, horizontal, fixed or mobile.
    Loop Pile Loop pile is a hard-wearing surface, designed to minimize tracking. Loop pile is the same as cut pile before it is trimmed.
    Luster Brightness and sheen of the rug fibers or yarns.
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