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Handwoven Persian rugs are one of the most recognizable and distinguished products of Persian culture. Their history is ancient, and they remain a cherished art form. There are three major types of Persian rugs: Farsh, or Qālii, rugs are larger than 4x6 feet (1.2x1.8 meters), Qālicheh are 6x4 feet or smaller, and Kilim are flat rugs with no pile traditionally crafted by nomads.
Within the three major types of Persian rugs, there are many subtypes. Persian rug dealers have developed a classification of rug types named after the cities or regions, in which they are traditionally made. There are over 30 classifications based on the fabric, design, and weaving technique employed. Kilim rugs are classified according to their fabric type, design, and intended purpose.
Farsh and Qālicheh Persian rugs are most commonly made of wool in the modern era, but they may also consist of cotton or silk. Silk rugs are the most expensive, but the least durable, and are often displayed on the wall like a tapestry. There is a huge variety of designs used on Persian rugs, but they fall into three basic layouts: all-over, central medallion, and one-sided. Certain designs are passed down through families, either by memory, or through scale drawings, depending on their complexity.
Traditional Persian rug designs may be geometric, including striped patterns, or arabesque, including spiral and paisley patterns. Some important traditional motifs include historic monuments and Islamic buildings, tree patterns, hunting ground patterns, European flower patterns, vase patterns, intertwined fish patterns, and tribal patterns.
Persian rugs may be made with different knot types. The asymmetrical Persian knot is used in Iran, India, Pakistan, China, Egypt, and Turkey, while the symmetrical Turkish knot is used in Turkey, East Turkmenistan, the Caucasus, and some Turkish and Kurdish areas of Iran. Other, less-common knot types include the Spanish knot and the Jufti knot. Kilim differ from the other types of Persian rugs in that they are flat-woven or rough, with no pile.
Kilim rugs usually have a geometrical design. The weft strands, which run horizontally, and make up the color and design of the rug, are usually wool, while the vertical, hidden warp strands may be wool, cotton, or hemp. Some kilim rugs are embroidered after weaving. Some kilim rugs have specific functions beyond the decorative. Depending on how they are made, they may be used as prayer rugs, horse saddles, or carrying cloths.