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While most people associate oriental rugs with traditional pile rugs, there are actually many styles of rugs that are produced and sold as oriental rugs. The style of rug generally refers to the type of construction that is employed to make the rug. One broad distinction is flat-weave rugs versus pile rugs. Within these two categories, there are several further divisions. (In fact, there are many, many small variations, but we will focus only on some of the major categories.) When selecting a rug, keep in mind that flat-weave rugs tend to be thinner, while pile rugs are usually thicker and lusher.



Aubussons first produced during the 17th century in France, Aubussons are flat-weave rugs, similar to kilims. The colors are usually soft and delicate with detailed floral and architectural designs. While antique Aubussons are quite rare and expensive, manufacturers today create beautiful Aubussons using the same techniques developed by their predecessors.


Hooked rug is a cross between a needlepoint and a pile rug. The weaver starts with a piece of burlap fabric and sews the design through the material, leaving a short loop on the finished side. By varying the height of the loops, a sculptured effect can be produced.


Kilims are flat-weave rugs originally produced in a village or tribal environment. The designs tend to be geometric, often incorporating various symbolic motifs. A prominent characteristic of kilim rugs is the slits along the warp of the rug wherever there is a change of color. Since older kilims were usually woven on smaller, portable looms, it is difficult to find them in large sizes. Today, new kilims are produced in a full range of sizes at very affordable prices.


Needlepoint rug is a flat-weave rug produced by sewing the design into a large piece of fabric. Various stitches can be used to produce different patterns and appearances. When the artisan changes thread color, the excess is left hanging long on the back side.


Sumak rugs are produced using a flat-weave technique where the weft (horizontal) threads are wrapped on the warp (vertical) threads, creating a chain stitch brocade look. This process creates a rug which is reversible and which has no dark or light side. The Sumak name is taken from the Caucasian rugs that were made using this technique. Today numerous designs have been copied from original Caucasian rugs and are produced with a worn or antique look.



Tapestry is a flat-weave rug or wall hanging that generally incorporates a very detailed design or picture. Many different colored threads are woven into the piece requiring an inordinate amount of time and skill. A light fabric backing is often sewn to the back of a tapestry to cover the loose ends of the threads.


Traditional pile rugs are produced by tying the pile to the warp threads and then trimming the final rug to produce an even surface. As each knot must be hand tied, these rugs take a lot of time and effort to produce. Some rug designs, such as a Hereke, utilize very fine wool or silk pile, and contain hundreds of knots per square inch. Tribal or village pile rugs may employ thicker yarn and fewer knots, but still have a charm all their own.


Tufted rug is a pile rug where the pile yarn is wrapped around the warp threads, but is not tied. Rather, the pile is secured in place by coating the back of the rug with a latex type adhesive. This greatly reduces the time and expense of creating a rug that often looks very similar to a traditional knotted rug.