Saroughs are hand knotted on a vertical loom using warp and weft in cotton. The weft consists of two or sometimes three threads. In carpets made before the 1915, the weft is pushed down hard against the knots, which made the carpets very compact. The pile is of very good quality wool and is cut very short. However, more recent pieces seem to have deeper piles. The Persian knot is utilized with a density of 160 to 400 knots per square inch.
Saroughs may be divided into two categories: carpets with traditional designs and those intended for export, particularly to the United States. The traditional designs consist, for the most part, of the central medallion pattern. The pattern is similar to those used in Kashans, but the different interpretations by different craftsmen give the carpets a special imprint. Although they have floral patterns, this is executed in an angular fashion, resulting in an incomparable fusion of floral and geometric styles. As well as the central medallion, there is also, in old and antique Saroughs, frequent use of the boteh motif.
In contrast, the American Sarough (or Lilian) design features large blossoming floral sprays radiating outwards from a central, medallion-like, floral form. It is so named because it was adapted for the American market from a design originating in the village of Lilian; the true Lilian design has a spidery central medallion which American Sarough do not. American Saroughs use either rich rosy reds with blues and paler rose outlining the motifs, or, less frequently, bright pastel shades (usually pale blues, turquoise or lemon yellow), used to create the same strong contrasts between motifs and field as in American Kermans.
In all Saroughs the border is simple, almost always consisting of two guards framing a wider central band, which is often decorated with heratis while the former is often of traditional rosettes and wavy line collections. The colour scheme is often a bright orange-red in the field, which is softened by ivory, dark blue, red-brown and dull green. Various shades of turquoise are common in the decorative motifs.
Shirazs are hand knotted on ground looms by the nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples living on the Fars tableland. The warp and weft of these carpets are wool except for some types knotted by semi-nomadic people who use cotton. The weft can be either single or double, according to the tribe, but the pile is always wool. Some tribes use the Persian knot, other use the Turkish knot. In both cases the number of knots per square inch is rarely more than 100. However, it is impossible to be precise about the average knot density of Shirazs because their quality varies enormously from tribe to tribe. The best Shirazs are those hand knotted by the Arab and Basiri tribes, which are known as Shiraz Extra.
Shirazs are typically nomadic in design meaning there are lots of geometric and angular designs. The motifs are simple and executed in bold straight lines and bright colours. The most common motif and one by which a Shiraz may be identified, is the diamond shaped lozenge by itself in the centre of the carpet or repeated along the length twice or three times according to the size.
The diamond shape is usually light or dark blue and the field is almost always red and decorated with stylized plant motifs. The border is nearly always made up of a number of narrow bands framing a wider band that is often decorated with a motif resembling palm or pine leaves. The edging bands are often separated from each other by a narrow band of diagonal stripes.
Tabriz is one of the most important cities of Iran. It has a population of one and a half millions and is the capital of the province of Eastern Azerbaijan. Like Mashad on the eastern side of Iran, its apparent remoteness belies the fact that when the country was larger it had an important role. Indeed, before World War I, it was Iran’s largest city. Much of the Caucasus belonged to Iran, which was administered from Tabriz. There are remains of mosques from the 15th century, but perhaps the most important landmarks are the bazaars, for trade has always been of great importance in Tabriz. Indeed, its geographical position meant that for a long time goods exported from Iran to Europe went via Tabriz, and the revival of the carpet industry in the 19th century is due largely to Tabriz merchants making carpets for export to Europe.
Tabriz carpets come almost exclusively from the city itself and the majority are woven in production centers where there are quite a large number of looms. Relatively few Tabriz are made in private households. The loom is vertical, often with metal roller beams. The Turkish knot is always used. The warp is of very strong cotton with a double weft. The pile is of wool, which usually comes from the Maku region (on the border of Turkey). This wool is very strong but rather coarse, with the result that the pile, particularly in medium quality carpets, is uneven and rough. High quality Tabriz utilizes silk and wool and the rare Tabriz are 100% silk. The decoration is floral, often with a central medallion. The motifs – flowering branches, shrubs and leaves – are large. In addition to these classic themes, plant and animal motifs also appeared. Specimens decorated with the Herati motifs are far less common. The border is usually composed of three guards and a main band decorated either with a repetition of the ground motifs or with border Herati.
Hamadans are hand knotted on a vertical loom using cotton warp and weft. Usually the weft is a single thread and the pile is of good quality wool sometimes mixed with camel hair, which is clipped medium to medium/long. Turkish knot with a density varying between 30 and 100 knots to the square inch. Almost all Hamadans have a fringe on one side while the opposite side terminates in a narrow selvedge. They are made in a wide range of sizes, though very large items are rare.
The majority of carpets known as Hamadan come from around fifty villages scattered over an area some sixty miles around the city. They possess a certain primitive charm and village authenticity, which is often the focal point of collectable appeal. The materials, by contrast, are of a very good quality. The different Hamadan areas are often called, improperly, Mosul, perhaps because it was to this city that carpets made in western Persia were sent for onward transmission to Constantinople. The best-known carpets of the Hamadan group are Borchelu and Khamseh. The first are carpets woven in the villages found to the east of Hamadan. The field is usually decorated with herati motifs on a red background. Often, too, there is a central medallion, sometimes floral and sometimes geometric, on an ivory background. The four corners repeat the central medallion pattern. The border is the classic one of three bands; the two guards have rosettes joined by a snake-like decoration and the central one repeats the decorative motifs of the field.
Khamseh is a region situated to the north of Hamadan and Khamseh carpets are among the best of the region. Their decoration has a central medallion in geometric form. These examples have four quarters at the sides, which are triangular and are decorated with the same motifs as the central medallion. Three bands with various decorations and very stylized designs form the border.
Each village has its own distinct variations, but there are a few overall characteristics that unify them into one relatively cohesive group. The Hamadan palette is dominated by reds, blues and whites, with greens, gold and yellow ochre’s as subsidiary hues; the design repertoire is based on geometric medallion-and-corner, herati and boteh schemes, and those which employ detached floral sprays in an allover fashion, similar to those employed in the nearby village of Sarough.
The Lori are one of the most important nomadic tribes of Iran and inhabit the western and southern parts of the country. In much of their territory they live in areas adjacent to the Ghashgai. Unlike the Ghashgai who speak Turkish, the Lori are of Iranian origin and their language is similar to Persian. Various pressures in the 20-century have forced many Lori to abandon the nomadic life and settle down in villages.
There are two main types of Lori rugs on the market. The first are the nomadic carpets produced in the south; these we generally call Lori Behbehan. They are similar to Ghashgai rugs and made entirely of wool, but they use a different range of motifs and are fond of bright contrasting colours. A strong red is particularly prominent. The other type of Lori rug is marketed in the town of Khorramabad and is called Dozars. These are squarer and more restrained in appearance; a reddish-brown is the main color. The Designs are varied; all-over patterning predominates. The fringes are often beautifully braided.
Hand knotted on vertical looms, Abadehs have cotton warps, wefts and wool piles. It is very regular and, combined with the normally good quality wool, it has considerable durability and aesthetic merit. The Persian knot is used at a density, which varies between 130 to 200 knots per square inch.
All Abadehs are of recent production, the carpet making craft in this area dating back only a few decades. However, this is not evident in the quality and appearance of the carpets themselves. The designs used are not those handed down from generation to generation and linked to tradition, but are copied from carpets from other regions of Iran. The classic Persian zil-i-soltan motif, which takes the form of a vase of roses usually repeated so as to cover the field completely, is the commonest motif in Abadehs. Another decoration frequently found derives from designs used by the Ghachgai tribe for their own carpets. This influence was the result of the Ghachgai tribe setting up its tents near Abadeh in the summer months.
In this type of Abadeh a single diamond shape, which is the principal decoration motif of Ghachgais, is used in the center of the field. All the rest of the carpets are decorated with small geometric designs. These are similar to the motifs used by the Fars tribe.
Abadeh borders are small by comparison with the field and two guards framing a main central band, which stands out by virtue of its different background colour, usually form them. The colours used are vivid: deep reds and cobalt blue with hints of ochre – a perfect tonal accompaniment to the simplicity of their designs.