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Home » Handicrafts Of Kashmir » Kashmiri Carpets

Kashmiri Carpets

Kashmiri Carpets

Kashmiri Carpets

The origin of hand knotted carpets locally known as "Kal baffi" dates back to 15th century after which it progressively attained the high degree of perfection. It is said that Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin brought carpet weavers from Persia and central Asia in to Kashmir to train the local inhabitants.

Carpets from 200 knots to 900 knots/sq. inch both in wool & silk yarn have attained such excellence that they rank amongst the finest in the world.

The loom used in Kashmir carpet weaving is composed of two horizontal wooden beams between which the wrap threads are stretched, one beam in front of the weaver and the second behind the first. The difference between a carpet and other hand woven rugs lies in the fact that short lengths of the thread or yarn are tied to wrap chains to form the pile of the carpet. These are commonly called knots though it is a loop rather than an actual knot.

There are different types of knots and in Kashmir the Farsi baff and the Persian system known as Sehna, or Sinneh, knot is originally used. Very simple tools are used to thread these knots, a wood or Metal comb to push knots and weft tightly together and pair of short scissors to cut the pile of the carpet to an even form once it is finished.

Carpets in 18x18, or 20x20 knots per sq. inch are commonly made in Kashmir. Some very fine silk carpets in different sizes have been created with density of knots as high as 3600 knots per sq. inch but these are rare Exhibits, of skill and mainly made for display or museum pieces.

The designs are reveals itself along the weft lines in wool or silk, while the warp is drawn in cotton. Quality and hence value, is determined by the number of knots to the square inch and fineness of the material used. Kashmir also excels in manufacture of silk carpets.

Designs and patterns in Kashmir carpets continue to be predominantly inspired by classical Persian and Central - Asia rugs. Thus Kashmir has been creating Kashan and Kirman, Tabriz and Isfahan, Meshed and Bokhara with such superb artistry that these can compare with the best in the regions of their origin. attractive local variations have also been evolved.

A carpet may well be the most expensive purchase from your trip to Kashmir but it is a lifelong investment. Kashmiri carpets are known the world over for two things - they are handmade, never machine made, and they are always knotted, never tufted. It is extremely instructive to watch a carpet being made - your dealer can probably arrange this for you.

Stretched tightly on a frame is the warp of a carpet. The weft threads are passed through, the 'taleem' or design and colour specification are then worked out on this. A strand of yarn is looped through the warp and weft, knotted and then cut. The yarn used normally is silk, wool or both. Woollen carpets always have a cotton base (warp & weft), while silk usually has a cotton base. Sometimes however, the base is also of silk, in which case you will see that the fringe is silk, and the cost increases proportionately. Occasionally, carpets are made on a cotton base, mainly of woollen pile with silk yarn used as highlights on certain motifs.

When the dealer specifies the percentage of each yarn used, he is taking into account the yarn used for the base too. Therefore, a carpet with a pure silk pile may be referred to as "80 per cent silk carpet". Do not be alarmed! He is merely stating that the warp and weft are not of silk.

A third type of yarn staple, also referred to as mercerised cotton, is also mentioned here, although it is by no means traditionally Kashmiri, but a man-made fibre. Its shine is not unlike that of silk, although in price it is much lower than silk, but more expensive than wool. Staple carpets are made to fill a slot in the market - customers demand carpets, which are not unlike silk in appearance so as to blend with the decor of their houses. One important difference between silk and staple though is that pure silk is far lighter than staple per unit area.

Carpet weaving in Kashmir was not originally indigenous but is thought to have come in by way of Persia. Till today, most designs are distinctly Persian with local variations. One example, however, of a typical Kashmir carpet is the "tree of life". Persian design notwithstanding, any carpet woven in Kashmir is referred to as Kashmiri. The colour-way of a carpet and its details, differentiate it from any other carpet. It should be kept in mind that although the colours of Kashmiri carpets are more subtle and muted than elsewhere in the country, only chemical dyes are used - vegetable dyes have not been available now for a hundred years.
The knotting of carpet is the most important aspect, determining its durability and value, in addition to its design. Basically, the more knots per square inch, the greater its value and durability. Count the number of knots on the reverse of carpet in any one square inch, and it should be roughly the same as the dealer tells you, give or take 10 knots. If you are told that a carpet contains 360 knots, and your count indicates about 10 less, it simply means that the weft has not been evenly combed down in parts -- this is not a fault, and several random checks throughout the carpet will even go above the figure of the dealer's estimate. Also, there are single and double-knotted carpets. You can quite easily identify one from the other on the reverse of the carpet. The effect that it has on the pile too is important - a double-knotted carpet has a pile that bends when you brush it one way with your hand, and stands upright when it is brushed in another direction. A single knotted carpet is fluffier and more resistant to the touch, there is no 'right' and 'wrong' side to brush it.

Points to keep in mind when choosing a carpet:
Whether it has been made of silk pile on silk base, silk pile on cotton base, silk and wool on cotton base or wool on cotton base.
The number of knots on the reverse of the carpet; whether one or more line in the design has been omitted completely in which case the pattern looks lopsided;
Whether any element in the design has been wrongly woven so that one motif is larger or smaller at one end than the corresponding motif at another end, etc.
Whether each motif or element of design has clear, crisp outlines; blurred edges indicate a fault in the weaving.
Whether the edges of the carpet are crooked as if it had been incorrectly mounted on the frame, so that one end is broader than another.