What's a Heading Cord?

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Posted by Marla Mallett on December 31, 1998 at 14:24:02:

In Reply to: A Few Structural Questions posted by Marla Mallett on December 29, 1998 at 19:44:46:

Michael and all:

I hope I can answer your question...A HEADING CORD is a heavy twined end finish that appears at the LOWER END of a rug as a result of a very specialized, primitive warping procedure.

When the weaver winds her warp (usually around a set of three stakes driven into the ground) she twines heavy yarns or cords through the warps at each end to separate them, secure them, and keep them in order. Then when she transfers the whole thing to the loom, she lashes one of these twined heading cords to each loom beam--top and bottom. (I do not mean to imply that every time a weaver prepares her warp off the loom that she uses heading cords. She can handle the warp in a variety of ways.)

Once the loom is warped, she begins the rug by doing at least an inch of plain weave, packing the wefts tightly against the heading cord. When the rug is finished, she simply pulls out the lashing at the bottom end of the rug, and that end is done. There are no cut warps at this lower end, and so no further finish is needed there...... At the top of the loom, since extra warp length is required for the heddles and shed stick, and for opening a shed, the warps must be cut. That end of the rug needs finishing in some way by braiding, knotting, or interlacing or wrapping the warps obliquely, etc. In the book, I've illustrated Bakhtiari, Konya, and Zemmour (Moroccan) heading cords, but I'm sorry to say that I don't remember where all I've seen this detail. I seem to recall seeing heading cords on some Iraqi Kurd rugs, but I don't know whether they've turned up on NW Persian Kurd pieces or not. This warping practice is so specialized, however, that we really should carefully record the presence of such a detail on any weaving--pile rug or flatweave. It's certainly easy enough to identify.

In the book, I've shown a couple of different ways a twined heading cord can be made, but I don't think it is important to distinguish these in analyses. The twining can either enclose single warps or cross within warp looms. An extra yarn may be inserted. Occasionally we see heading cords made with double rows of twining. The photo I've posted shows the lower end of a brocaded cicim from Konya Province in Central Anatolia.

I recently saw a heading cord on a West Persian rug (with cotton foundation) made with a kind of "blanket stitch" construction rather than twining, but that is surely rare. Unfortunately, the rug was so ugly that I gave it little attention; then when I went back to look again, it had been sold!

One further note: decorative rows of twining--either plain or countered--within a rug's "kilim end" should not be confused with twined heading cords.

Unfortunately, the presence of a heading cord--of any type--does not tell us whether the loom used was vertical or horizontal.

Marla Mallett

Marla Mallett's Web Page

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