The vast province of Khorasan is one of the most important weaving centers in Iran. The art of carpet weaving in this province dates back to the Sassanian period (241-641 AD). When Shah-Rokh Mirza (Timurid Dynasy), was in power (1405-1447), Harat the capital of this dynasty, which is now Afghanistan was one of the most important weaving centers in Iran.
The famous design of Harrati, that is very popular among the Persian weavers, is attributed to the designers of this city. Like other weaving centers in Iran, its progress is related to the period of Safavid Dynasty, but the real boom in the carpet industry began when the merchants of Tabriz installed many looms in this region for exportation purposes. In this province, carpets are woven both with Persia (Senneh) and Turkish (Ghiordes) knots (majority in the Persian knot). The designs that are mostly used are Shah-Abbasi, Botteh and Harati. The dyers utilize natural colors such as mauve red, dark blue, and other classic dyes.
Yazd is located on the road that leads from Esfahan to Kerman and is also on the border of the Central desert of Iran (Dasht-e-Kavir). Long ago, this city was one of the most famous hand weaving centers of Iran. After the installation of textile factories, the textile weavers worked in carpet workshops to earn their wages. In design and pattern the carpets of Yazd are very similar to those of Kerman. Normally the difference between these two is the quality of Yazd carpets, which is of even greater quality for the Yazd carpet.
The weavers of this area select the best quality natural and chemical colors for the carpets. They obtain the red color from madder root and cochineal. Craftsmen of Yazd mainly weave room size carpets up to 3 x 4 meters. Brocade and silk has been produced in Yazd. Now, there is great demand for the wool and silk carpets of Yazd (particularly those woven with Harati and medallion designs. The dominant patterns in the Yazd workshops are Shah-Abbasi medallion, tree of life, Herati, and paradise designs.
The ancestors of the Afshar tribesmen were the Turkamans, who first dwelled in the Caucasian area and around Lake Orumiyeh (north-west of Iran). Successively by order of both Shah Esmail Safavi (1502-1524) and Nadar Shah Afshar (1736 – 1747) they emigrated and settled in the villages surrounding Kerman. At present, these people live in the towns of Sirjan, Neyriz, and Shahre-e-Babak, in the heights of Bafgh, on the slopes of the Lalehzar Mountain and in the South and West of Kerman.
The Caucasian design is still dominant among these nomadic weavers. Most of these carpets, with their geometrical and stylized designs, have enriched the collection of Iran’s carpet designs. Red, blackish blue, purple and ivory are predominant colors of Afshar rugs. The Design most common are Botteh, Vase (Goldani), latticed lozenge, overall flower, and five medallions.
Sirjan rugs have mainly geometric designs with large repertoire of ornaments based on polygons, plain and hooked diamonds. Normally the sizes of Afshar rugs are small and one can rarely find rugs that exceed four square meters.
The distinguishing characteristic of these old Turkish rugs are the bright color effect- in general brighter than the Persian rugs- and the employment of much canary, lavender, and mauve, with the reds and light blue. Turkish rugs use rectangular lines and a great massing of colors. Animal or human motifs were never used because it was against the cultural practices at the time. A great number of Turkish rugs were also in Prayer designs as well.
The Oushak rugs refer to a particular type of design within the turkish rug family. Named after the city of Usak Turkey, Oushak rugs are characterlised by a predominant “star” or medallion shape in the carpet design. The colors included in Oushak rugs are cinnamon, gold, blues, greens, ivory, and grays. Following a decline and subsequent rise in Oushak rug production, a large number of rugs adopting the Persian floral pattern were made (these rugs also varied in size based on European needs at the time).
Newer Oushak designs (characterised by their creation in the late 19th and early 20th century), adopted several techniques including larger knots and a merger of styles. These were refered to as “decorative” Oushaks and were revered for their high quality wool and floral motifs.
After the fall of the Safavid dynasty, carpet weaving began to lose its importance. Towards the end of the Ghaijar Dynasty, carpet weaving once again obtained its former splendor.
At present, some beautiful Kerman carpets of that period can be seen in some of the museums of the world. In the 19th century, Kerman was one of the leading producers of a type of cloth named “Shawl”, which gained fame in Europe, particularly in England. After a while the Shawl became out of the fashion and the Shawl weavers of Kerman began to weaver carpets. Even now the Botteh (Paisley) patterns that originally were used in shawl cloth are in demand both in Kerman and the other carpet centers of Iran.
Kerman was one of the first cities in Iran where many foreign companies installed carpet workshops to supply the needs of the western markets. The demand for these fine and desirable carpets increased after they were exported to the farthest corners of the world. The essay and the article written by various researchers also contributed to their fame. During the First World War and beyond (due to the financial crisis in the United States), the trade of Kerman rugs became somewhat shaky, but after the crisis was over, it regained its former fame and splendor.
The American population became fond of carpets with high pile and large flowers. After a short period their taste changed and they preferred carpets with a plain background and design with small flowers. So, the Kerman designers compiled with the wishes of the American and produced beautiful carpets and rugs with harmonious and attractive colors. Every now and then one comes across old Kerman carpets which are even more interesting. This is why the old and antique Kerman’s are favorites of collectors. The dominant patterns which are mostly used in the Kerman workshops are Shah-Abbasi, Botteh, Eslimi medallion, corner, turreted Shah-Abbasi, hunting scene, Gobelin, and Heap.
About 100 years ago, portrait weaving in Kerman became very popular. Thereafter, the skilful artists started to weave rugs of famous, political, historical, and religious personalities. Almost all carpets in Kerman are woven with local wool and some other with the wool obtained from the provinces that produce wool which are Rafsanjan, Bam, Jiroft, and the areas surrounding Kerman. In spite of the spinning factories that exist in the province, the weavers still prefer to use their own hand spun wool.
Hiebat-lu, Moharramat, Zel-e-Sultan, and sometimes Botteh Kordestan designs are woven into the carpets produced in Abadeh.
Abadeh carpets are good furnishing, the colors are generally a brick red or beige and various shades of blue, yellow, and green. The weave is fairly fine and the wool pile, on cotton warps and wefts clipped quite thin. The knots are generally Persian from 1500 to 3000 knot per square meter.
Although during the Zandieh dynasty (1750-1779) the art of carpet weaving was not equal to that of the Safavid dynasty, the art continued to progress. Some rugs, which have remained from the era of Karim-Khan Zand in Shiraz, are proof of the importance of this art during that period. However, it should be remembered that Shiraz production has never had a top rank among the other fine and exquisite ones produced in Iran. In fact, there are very few carpet workshops in Shiraz and this city is only the center of marketing the rugs woven by the tribesman and those made in the villages.
The rugs produced in some of the villages surrounding Shiraz are woven in horizontal looms. They are of low quality, and are not to be compared with those made by tribesman who settled in this area. The dyes are natural and the predominant colors of red, brown, yellow, and blue. Shiraz carpets have a large design catalog that includes a variety of floral repeat patterns as well as medallion compositions. A famous design, which is attributed by some to weavers of the Ghashgha’i and by others to the old and skilful artists of Shiraz, is cypress and lily of the Valley design.
Many experts recognize that as “Millefleurs” design. The field of this rug is designed as a Mehrab (altar). From the pillars of this Mehrab two half-length cypress trees are included in the inner part of the border (the cypress tree being the symbol of Shiraz). At the tip of these trees or in the other words at the top of the pillars there is a turreted bow. From a big vase placed in the lower part of the rug covering the whole field some flowers emerge together with lily of the valley twigs and the narcissus (there are plenty of these in the fields of the Shiraz area). Another turret or bow, which is situated under the vase, connects the pillars to each other.
Depending on the locality of its production, the border of the rug is decorated with Harati motifs or repeated designs of birds facing each other on both sides of the Harati flowers. Most Shiraz carpets are coarsely knotted and may be either in the Senneh or Ghiordes knot. Warps and wefts are mainly of sheep’s wool.