Definitions

In case you got caught up in all the gobbledygook we sometimes talk, this simple glossary should help to explain the meanings of the terms we sometimes use.


Abrash: Variations in colour on the rug surface caused by irregular dyeing of yarn, often giving a striped effect across the width of the rug.

Acrylic: A synthetic (man-made) fibre which is considered to be closer to wool in its properties than other synthetics. Less expensive to produce than wool.

Art Silk: Artificial silk generally made from rayon (viscose), polyester or mercerised cotton.

Arabesque: Design of intertwining vines, branches, leaves or flowers.

Axminster Weave: Basic carpet and rug weaving method which originated in Axminster, Devon in the 18th century.

Border: Frame around periphery of rug. Some traditional rugs may have highly ornate or multiple borders.

Braided Rugs: Made by interweaving (plaiting) three or more strands of cloth or yarn.

Chenille: Yarn with a soft, fuzzy texture that changes appearance according to direction of light.

Chrome Dyes: Synthetic dyes in a large range of colours which are more colourfast than natural dyes.

Coir: Natural fibre woven from the husks of coconuts.

Contemporary Designs: Rugs with non-traditional patterns, these may be abstracts, geometrics, stripes, floral, naturalistic themes or simply plain colours.

Curvilinear: Designs composed of smooth, flowing curving lines.

Cut Pile: A level surface created by cutting through the loops formed in the weaving process.

Density: Refers to the proximity of individual tufts of yarn in the pile of a rug.

Dyeing: Process of changing the natural colour of rug fibres. Dyes may be synthetic or natural.

Field: Central part of a rug design, the area within the border of a rug.

Flatweave: Flatweave rugs consist only of the warp and weft strands and have no pile. They can be contemporary, machine woven or traditional Kilims and Dhurries and, depending upon construction, may be reversible.

Foundation: The basic structural element of handmade rugs consisting of the warp and weft strands.

Fringe: In handmade rugs fringes are formed from the extended warp strands of the rug base and serve to hold the rug together and keep the wefts from unravelling. Some machine-made rugs have a decorative fringe sewn to the end of the rug.

Geometric: Designs consisting of straight lines and straight line figures.

Gul: Tribal design feature of Turkoman rugs, frequently in the form of a lozenge-shaped medallion.

Ground: The background colour on which the principal design of the rug is overlain.

Hand: The tactile quality of a rug such as softness, resilience, smoothness.

Hand-knotted: Handmade rugs with a pile formed by knotting tufts of yarn around the warp strands of the base.

Hand Tufted: Hand tufted rugs are made by pushing yarn through a primary backing material to form tufts which are then secured by a secondary backing.

Hand Woven: A rug woven entirely by hand on a simple wooden frame (loom) or on a hand or foot-powered loom.

Heat Setting: A process applied in the manufacture of some twisted yarns to help them retain their twist. Heat setting often causes synthetic fibers to gain volume and can also reduce fibre shedding.  

Jute: Natural fibre frequently used to form the foundation or backing for a rug.

Kilim: Flat tapestry-woven rugs produced from the Balkans to Pakistan.

Knot: The structural element which forms the pile of a hand-knotted rug. Tufts of yarn are individually tied to the warp strands of the rug foundation by hand and held in place by the weft strands. Two basic knot types are recognised: the Persian Senneh (asymmetrical) Knot and the Turkish Ghiordes (symmetrical) knot.

Knot Count: A measure of pile density, commonly in terms of knots per square inch. Chinese rug pile  density is often described in “lines” , e.g. a 65 line rug would have 65 knots per foot of length (just over 5 knots per inch) giving an equivalent pile density of 29 knots per square inch.

Loom: Frame which holds the warp strands of the rug foundation tight during the weaving process. Looms may be static or powered by hand, foot, steam or electricity.

Loop Pile: A rug surface formed from continuous loops of yarn of uniform length.

Lustre: Light-reflecting quality of some fibres such as silk, viscose and nylon.

Medallion: a large enclosed portion of a design usually located in the centre of a field. Common shapes are diamonds, octagons and hexagons.

Medallion and Corner: Design composed of a central medallion and quartered medallions at the corners of the field.

Motif: A single design element (shape or form) that makes up part of the overall rug pattern.

New Zealand Wool: Superior wool of consistent, uniform quality derived from managed environment and livestock.

Nylon: Strong and durable synthetic fibre with good dyeing characteristics.

Patina: Aged or mellowed effect on a rug’s surface, may be natural or induced by dyeing or other treatment of the fibres.

Pile: the yarn on the surface of a rug.  

Pile Height (or Depth): The distance from the top of the pile to the top surface of the rug base.

Pile weight: The weight of the pile yarn in kilograms per square metre or pounds per square yard.

Pilling: Small balls of shedded fibre on the surface of a rug.

Ply: The thickness of the yarn forming the pile. Three-ply yarn is made by spinning three strands of yarn together.

Point: One tuft of yarn. Pile density in machine-made rugs can be quoted in points per unit area.

Polyester: Polyester fibres can be produced in a wide range of attractive colours and are soft and silky with a lustrous appearance. Polyester is frequently used with a blend of other fibres to add sheen to the pile.

Polypropylene: The most widely-used synthetic fibre in machine-made rug construction. It is water and stain resistant, mothproof, highly durable, colourfast and available in a vast range of colours.

Power Loom: A loom operated by mechanical power, e.g. steam or electricity.

Primary Backing:  The woven backing into which the tufts are inserted in the production of  hand-tufted rugs.

Runner: Long, narrow rectangular rug frequently referred to as a hall runner.

Savonnerie: Designs based on those of the Savonnerie manufactory of seventeenth century France. Typified by armorial or floral medallions or dense floral bouquets often on a dark ground.

Sculptured Pile: Loop pile rugs with loops of varied height giving a sculptured, 3-dimensional appearance to the pile.

Secondary Backing: In handtufted rug production, this is bonded to the primary backing with latex to hold the tufts in place.

Shading: Apparent variations in colour on the surface of a rug caused by differential reflection of light by the rug fibres.

Shedding: Loss of loose fibres from the pile of a new rug. This may continue at a reducing rate for a period of several months.

Space Dyed: Yarn dyed in sections of different colours or shades of the same colour prior to being woven into a rug.

Static: An electrical charge accumulated due to friction on the surface of a rug which can subsequently be discharged. In fibres susceptible to static build-up, the potential increases in humid conditions.

Traditional: Generic term for patterns derived from long-established designs in the classic Persian, Oriental and European styles.

Vegetable Dyes: Natural dyes obtained from plants and containing no synthetic chemicals.

Warp: The lengthwise strands of yarn forming the foundation of a rug to which the pile knots are tied.

Weft: The widthwise strands of yarn forming the foundation of a rug and securing the pile knots in place.

Wilton Weave: Traditional weaving process commonly used in the production of machine-made (powerloomed) rugs.

Yarn: Continuous strand of twisted threads of natural or synthetic material.