Persian carpets are famous for their variety in design, color, size, and weave. Moreover, they are known for the uniqueness of each and every rug produced. This uniqueness is the basis on which the quality and value of a rug are determined. The less frequently replicated the design, the more valuable the carpet, demonstrating the originality of the colors, materials, weaves, and circumstances under which it was produced. Another basic factor in determining the quality of a carpet is knot density, or the number of knots per square inch—more knots indicate fi ner work, better quality, and a higher price. Throughout Iranian history, the art of carpet weaving has changed, each change further enriching techniques, designs, and the quality of the carpets produced. Handmade carpets have warp (thread running the length), weft (thread running the width), and pile (knots, which may be made of silk, wool, or cotton). Traditional looms are usually made of timber, but newer ones are now sometimes constructed of steel. Although weaving method varies according to the design, in general weaving involves passing the crosswise strings of the weft under and over the lengthwise strings of the warp on the loom. After making several knots, the weaver levels the wefts with a heavy range comb. The threads of warp and weft are generally made of cotton, but sometimes wool and seldom silk. The pile is often colored strings completely woven into the carpet like a basket. Each twisted pile threaded into the warp is called a knot. There are two types of knots: Persian (also called Senna) and Turkish (Ghiordes). The names associated with these knots have no connection to geography or ethnicity. Both types of knots are used in carpet weaving in Iran. In the Persian knot, the pile thread forms a single turn about the warp string, while in the Turkish knot, it is taken around two adjacent warp strings. The Turkish knot is symmetrical and works better for geometric designs and is very common in tribal rugs, whereas the Persian knot is asymmetrical and lends itself better to intricate designs found in luxury carpets. Piles are often dyed wool, cotton, or silk. In earlier times, colors were made from fl ower and vegetable dyes, thus giving carpets unique colors associated with plants existing in each region. The words carpet ( farsh or qâli ) and rug , often used interchangeably, need to be distinguished. The major distinction referred to in the literature is the difference in the size and pile. However, according to A. Cecil Edwards, an authority on Persian carpet, this is a European distinction and should not be confused with the American one. In the United States, such distinction is based on the unity of the piece. A rug is a single piece usable in different settings, irrespective of fl oor size. Carpet is a stripped textile fl oor-covering matched and cut to the length of the room. As for the size distinction, any hand-woven fl oor covering larger than 6.5 feet is defi ned as a carpet and less than that as a rug. Some gelims— another word used in reference to small rugs (in Turkish, kilim )—are actually quite large. Another difference distinguishing the two is the absence of pile in gelims. Gelims are coarse, thin woolen rugs without any pile or knotted fl uff. Another term sometimes confused with gelim is zilu. While gelim is made of wool, zilu is made of cotton. Zilu is a durable and inexpensive fl oor covering often used in rural town and village mosques. Though the art of zilu weaving was strong in Iran, especially in Maybod, it has declined recently, and it is hard to imagine how zilus can compete with newer products in the market. Finally, it should be mentioned that an Iranian household may have several rugs at the same time: more expensive ones for the guest rooms, cheaper ones for the family rooms, and smaller ones for the doorways. In religious families, the one rug that is cared for meticulously is the prayer rug. Small in size, this rug is reserved only for prayer time in order to ensure that prayer is performed on a clean rug. Some families sanctify their prayer rugs by taking them to holy sites such as Mecca, the Imam Rezâ Shrine, etc. Some very dedicated believers even carry their prayer rug while traveling. Traditionally, prayer rugs had simple designs containing fl owers, calligraphy, and mosaics. In recent years, there has been a conscious change in the design of prayer rugs incorporating elements from scenes of holy sites, especially Mecca. Carpets made in different regions and by different tribes often reflect the culture and lifestyle of those people and regions. While carpets produced by small producers in rural areas are often of lesser quality and complexity, those produced by carpet factories or rural people in hire of big producers are of higher quality and more sophisticated designs. Even the availability of botanic resources in an area influences the kind of materials and colors used. One form of simple tribal rug was made more familiar to Westerners after the 1997 release of the internationally acclaimed film, Gabbeh , by Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbâf. Gabbeh was a cinematic poem that truly refl ected the beauty of simple tribal designs woven with love, hope, anxiety, and pain. A gabbeh is a triple hand-knotted wool rug with deep color, more wefts, and longer fl uff. Some dictionaries considered the name synonymous with another Iranian long-plied rug called khersak . Such rugs are often woven without a predetermined design by tribal women who incorporate their own taste and imagination into the rugs. Their designs are simple and geometric, containing a few pictures of an animal, bird, tree, or fl ower. Historically, they were made for personal use in nomadic tents. However, in recent years, they have attracted Western consumers’ attention and as such they have become more elaborate, containing scenes of rolling hills and colorful fl ower fields. Carpets are generally named after the village, town, or district where they are woven or collected, or by the weaving tribe in the case of nomadic pieces. For instance, carpets known as Baluchi represent those produced by the Baluchi tribes of eastern Iran (or western Afghanistan), and those called Sâruq refer to carpets either made in or with designs originated from Sâruq, a small village in central Iran. These names can also refer to the particular pattern, palette, and weave uniquely linked to the indigenous culture, or to weaving techniques specific to an identifi able geographic area or nomadic tribe. It should be noted that although each of these designs (Afshâri, Bakhtiâri, etc.) started with its own unique features, in the course of time they have come to be synthesized by other elements and innovative variations. For instance, the Bakhtiâri nomads often combine fl at weave and pile weaving in the same piece. Or one may fi nd a Kâshân city carpet that uses either material or design elements of Tabriz carpets. The tremendous innovation and creativity found in the industry resists generalities and makes it hard for any description to be taken literally. Tribal and nomadic carpets are usually smaller and coarser because the looms must be portable as nomads move seasonally from one area to another. Their dyes are also relatively strong and vivid with much broader palettes. Different tribes and nomadic groups have developed different designs and techniques of producing rugs. For instance, typical Afshâri carpets have medallions, either geometric or fl oral, and typical Bakhtiâri carpets are fi lled with fl ower and tendril motifs within geometrical compartments (called kheshti design). The styles and designs employed in tribal carpets show many influences. For instance, Shâhsavan carpets are very similar to Caucasian carpets. The Qashqâis make carpets out of wool and, being descendants of the Shâhsavans, decorate their carpets with styles very similar to Shâhsavan designs. The Afshârs use Turkish patterns but also borrow from Kermân city-woven carpets of Safavid style. Carpets made in Lorestân have bronze tones and broken cross patterns. Baluchis borrow largely from Turkoman design, especially in the use of the gol (fl ower) motif. They mostly employ geometric patterns in light colors like light red, blue, and khaki, in contrast to the bright vermilion used by Turkomans. Unlike the other tribes, the Kurds beautifully combine complementary city and tribal designs on wool and other rough materials. Though many rugs are produced by nomads and villagers without predesigned drawn pattern (known as broken designs), most carpets follow carefully designed curved lines drawn on checkered paper (known as revolving designs). The latter is used as a guide by weavers while making the carpet. Rugs produced by tribal people often lack consistency in color and material. These small weavers can neither afford to purchase all the materials needed for a rug at once nor are they able to devote uninterrupted time to weaving a rug; looms would have to be disassembled should the tribe move from one place to another. Given the conditions under which these tribal rugs are produced, most are usually one of a kind. Historically, women and children, especially girls, have been weavers, and men have been in charge of the distribution and marketing of the carpets. Given that a carpet is made of millions of knots by unknown individuals whose names do not appear anywhere on the carpet, young female villagers have come to symbolize the pains of carpet laborers. There are numerous works of Persian literature referring to village girls’ injured fi ngers and loss of sight due to making carpets in dark rooms. Fortunately, the situation has changed in the past two decades. As education in rural areas has become more available and the mandatory school attendance for children is better enforced, fewer young girls are working in the carpet industry full time. Although the current labor law forbids the employment of children under the age of 15, the violation of the law in remote areas is common, especially in rural and mountainous areas. In 1992, the offi cial fi gure for child labor was 286,000, of which 62 percent were girls, mostly working as part-time weavers in the carpet industry. There are many similarities between designs in carpets and those in Persian tilework and miniature painting. Persian carpet designs can be grouped into at least 17 types. Patterns of well-known Persian designs, many inspired by nature, include goldâni (vase), derakhti (tree), Shâh ‘Abbâsi, gol farang ( European fl ower), mâhi (fi sh, a design also known as Herât ), châhâr fasl (four seasons), afshân (scattered), and shekârgâh ( hunting fi eld). The aigrette design ( boteh ) has its roots in Zoroastrian tradition and consists of the so-called “mother and child” and “ friendship and enmity” patterns. The portrait design has been used to depict kings and revered characters. Geometric designs include qabqabi (framed), moharamât (striped), and Torkmân patterns. Used on silk and wool carpets, the triangular citron design ( lachak toranj ) is usually round and sometimes elliptical, with one-fourth of a citron appearing at every angle of the carpet’s main body. Designs incorporating historical monuments include Takht-e Jamshid, Tâq-e Bostân, and Tâq-e Kesrâ. Designs are also named after the cities or regions that are centers of carpet weaving. These include Kermân, Kâshân, Khorâsân, Isfahan, Tehran, Tabriz, Hamadân, and Nâ’in. Famous for their durability and lush pile, Tabriz carpets usually have a central medallion surrounded by and complimented with fl owers and tendrils in a curvature pattern. Typical Hamadân carpets are smaller in size and have strong bright colors, a single weft medallion, and the fringe only on one side. Representing one of the highest- quality Persian carpets, Isfahan carpets are fi lled with colorful fl oral designs on an ivory background. Typically, they have a central medallion amid fl oral twines. Though close to Isfahan, Nâ’in has developed its own distinct carpet design with lighter colors and detailed curvilinear and medallion-and-corner designs. Kermân carpets are most known for their softer hues; detailed curvilinear and repetitive fl oral patterns; and vase, garden, animal, and medallion motifs. Khorâsân carpets are mostly curvilinear with the single central medallion and corner fl oral design, and very busy curvilinear fl oral motifs in the background. They include carpets made in the cities of Mashhad, Birjand, Kâshmar, Torbat-e Jam, Torbat Haydariyeh, Nishâpur, Sabzevâr, Gonâbâd, Quchân, Shirvân, and Bojnurd. To varying degrees, they all employ vivid red, purplish red, and crimson backgrounds. The famous Kâshân carpets have a central medallion with tendrils and vases. During the Safavid period, themes of birds, human beings, and mythical fi gures were common in Kâshân carpets. Kâshân is known for producing luxurious carpets made of silk and velvet.