Gabbeh Rugs are Part of a Rich Persian Tradition
The traditional Gabbeh Persian carpet – known as gava in Kurdish and Luri and called khersak in Bakhtiari – is a simple, hand-woven pile rug traditionally made by the nomadic Qashqai tribes who dwelled in the Zagros Mountains of southern Iran, near the city of Shiraz. Other tribes, such as the Lurs, the Kurds and the Bahktiari also weave these carpets.
In Persian, the word “Gabbeh” means “fringe” or “in the rough.” Gabbeh rugs are rough cut and long piled rugs of rich color and the best quality wool. Most Gabbeh carpets are medium size – up to 3’ x 5’ – and feature abstract designs where shapes and color dance playfully with one another.
Variations of the gabbeh rug – such as the “Loribaft”, “Amaleh”, “Kashkuli” – may reflect the heritage of the tribe by which they are woven or the name of the city in which they are most often traded, such as “a Shiraz Gabbeh.”
The 19th century gabbeh rugs were very coarsely knotted (40kpi or less), often with shaggy pile. The name of Gholam Reza Zollanvari is synonymous with modern Gabbeh rugs. Zollanvari learned the rug business from his grandfather, a merchant in the Shirazi rug bazaar. Zollanvari pioneered the construction of fine-weave gabbehs with knot counts of 200+ kpi. Today, Zollanvari rugs are among the most popular styles of Persian rugs.
The Making of a Gabbeh Rugs: A Craft Shared Across Generations
Most Gabbeh carpets are made by women, and many are one-of-a-kind works of art. Some patterns are passed down thru the generations as mothers and grandmothers teach their daughters the art of Persian rug making. Many patterns reflect the weaver’s observations of the environments through which the tribe has passed. Some rugs are even made by the hands of many weavers.
Traditional Gabbeh rugs were woven on makeshift ground looms. These looms are built with materials are carried long distances by the nomadic tribes, or materials found where the tribe settled. Since each loom is unique, each rug is unique; this is how Gabbeh rugs get their distinctive irregular in shape.
Woven with the Wool of Mountain Sheep
Gabbeh rugs are woven from high quality wool from the tribe’s own sheep. As the tribe herds its sheep over hundreds of miles, the nomads reach high altitudes. In the summers, they stay in the highland pastures north of Shiraz in the Zargos Mountains; by winter they sojourn to pasture lands near the Persian Gulf. Sheep grazed in high altitudes produce more lanolin, giving their wool a luxurious softness and resistance to stain.
Rich, Colorful Dyes Give Gabbeh Carpets a Remarkable Color
The Qashqai people find the dyes used in Gabbeh carpets or purchase them in towns where they trade their finished carpets. Often, they use all-natural vegetable dyes to give the wool vibrant color while retaining its lanolin.
Hand-Knotted Rugs with Turkish Symmetrical Knots and Persian Asymmetrical Knots
Most of the wool used in the construction of Gabbeh rugs is handspun using a drop spindle. After the wool has been dyed and handspun, the weaver uses the loom to hand-knot the rug using Turkish symmetrical knots or Persian asymmetrical knots, or even a combination of the two. Because the all the Qashqai tribes use both types of knots, it is difficult to tell from which individual tribe any one rug has come from.
Gabbeh Rugs Are Small – Often Just 3’ x 5’ in Size
A typical size for a Gabbeh carpet is 3 feet by 5 feet. It can take 18 to 25 hours to weave even a small Gabbeh rug. Tribal Gabbeh rugs usually have lower knot counts compared to other types of Persian carpet. This low knot count and the high quality of wool makes Gabbeh rugs famous for their exceptional durability.
Durable Floor Coverings, Wraps and Bedding to Protect from the Mountain Cold
Gabbeh rugs are often floppy because they have wider rows of multiple wefts. This made the soft, pliable rugs ideal as wraps or bedding to insulate against the bitter cold of the mountains.
Gabbeh rugs are often not symmetrical due to the nomadic lifestyle of their creators, and color variations within a rug are common. Often, the variation in color in a rug tells a story of the tribe’s migration, the climates and environments it encountered, and the tribe members who contributed to its creation.
Where to Buy Gabbeh Rugs
Unless you plan to travel to Iran to shop for Gabbeh rugs in the marketplace, we’d suggest buying a Gabbeh rug online from RugSource.com or visiting our showroom. We’re proud to bring these highly coveted rugs to you – please contact us if you’d like to know more.
Handwoven Kilim Rugs: Turkish Weaving with a Storied History
Kilim rugs are a handmade, flat-woven carpet with no piles or knotted fluff. Although the word kilim is of Turkish origin, kilim rugs have been made in Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Morocco, the Balkans and Scandinavia, proving the flat-weaving technique spread far. Because these antique rugs are found across the globe, each region has a different pronunciation and spelling of the name Kilim.
Most experts believe kilims originated in the Anatolia region of modern day Turkey. The earliest examples of kilim rugs date back as far as the 4th century AD, although there is evidence the flat-weave technique probably began at about 1,000 BC in Egypt.
Qashgahii kilims from the Zagros region, along with Turkoman and baluch kilims from eastern Iran and central Asia, are among the styles now highly coveted by those who buy kilim rugs.
The techniques used to make vintage kilim rugs have changed little over the centuries. Whereas a pile rug is made by knotting short strands of different color onto warps and held together by pressing the wefts tightly against each other, the design of a Kilim rug is made by interweaving the variously colored wefts and warps.
The simple interlocking strands of wool, hair or fiber requires no backing, so Kilim carpets are thinner than traditional Persian rugs and Oriental rugs, making them popular as tapestries or use as bed coverlets.
The Distinctive Motifs and Colors of Kilim Carpets
Common motifs found in Kilim carpets include serrated leaf elements, zig-zag crenellations, shield medallions, diamond borders, and geometric designs. Many of the geometric motifs in kilims – “ramshorn” motifs and serrated medallions or “ashiks” – traveled with nomads as they spread to the Middle East. Elements such as perennials, pomegranates and fronds are popular in modern kilim carpets and vintage kilims alike.
The wide-ranging palette of reds, greens, oranges, and browns in antique Kilim carpets demonstrate the quality of dyes early Anatolian weavers had at their disposal. Many traditional kilim rugs feature warm, muted colors as the primary hues, with cooler tones used to create points of contrast.
The flat-weaving technique used to make Kilim rugs makes it difficult to produce continuous separations of color, so Kilims often have a stepped or crenelated appearance.
A Traditional Kilim Was Practical Before It Was Decorative
Woolen kilims are known for their strength and versatility. Long before Kilims became decorative pieces, tribal communities used them as floor coverings; as bedding or clothing; as horse blankets; for storage of grains; or draped as a shelter against the weather.
Lightweight and easy to transport, Kilims are especially popular in rug-weaving centers with warm climates, where shaggy rugs were not needed to keep warm.
Buying Antique Kilim Rugs and Contemporary Kilims
For many decades, antique Kilim rugs were considered artifacts of primordial tribal design unaffected by the influence of high art or foreign culture. Once overlooked as low status items, antique Kilims are now cherished as examples of the authentic weaving tradition of the Middle East.
We pride ourselves on a distinctive collection of Kilims. For those interested in buying vintage Kilim rugs, our collection of antique carpets offers an extraordinary range of designs and colors. We also carry a vast selection of more modern Kilims for the contemporary home. Shop online or contact us at our Charlotte, North Carolina location to shop for kilim carpets that reflect your style.