Posted by Steve Price on 04-25-2003 12:52 PM:

Red Wefts

Hi Patrick,

Last week (at ICOC-X) I gave a little talk on "stray reds" in Turkmen weavings. One of the things I pointed out is that red wefts give some Turkmen pile pieces a pale red tinge in the areas of white or ivory pile. I guess that's the reason I especially noticed your mentioning of red or orange wefting being the rule in Luri weaving.

This gets me to wondering why red wefts were used at all. It's obviously less labor to leave the weft wool undyed than it is to dye it. So, we might ask, why did they bother? It doesn't make the wool any stronger or finer, and in pile pieces the wefts don't show except to make a minimal presence of pale red in rugs with short pile (as in most Turkmen stuff, although red wefts are uncommon in Turkmen weavings). In rugs with long pile, more typical of the Luri, it doesn't even do that.

Any thoughts to the raison d'etre for dying the wool that will be used for the wefts?


Steve Price

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 04-25-2003 04:40 PM:



I suspect that the easy answer is that it is traditional to use red wefts in some areas.
If you look at the photos in the salon of the large khorjin, you will see that it, too, uses red wefts (although in the pile woven section there are some blue wefts). There is a close-up that shows this very clearly.
The possible extrapolation is that some weavers who traditionally used red wefts in their flatweaves may well have continued this tradition in their pile weaves. Similar to the way many weaving cultures used the same flatweave-based designs in their pile weavings.
You may want to take a few weeks off and do a survey to see if the cultures using predominantly red wefts also had a previous flatweave tradition using red wefts.
You mention the Turkmen not using predominantly red wefts in their pile weavings. You may also note that the backs of most of their bags are of plain white wool.

Patrick the Red

Posted by John Collins on 04-25-2003 06:34 PM:

Dear Steve,

Your question of why red wefts are used is interesting, if not unanswerable. Why did many Persian village and city pieces start to dye their cotton wefts blue? Just more work to no effect. Perhaps the most extreme example of work which is not seen is the class of silk warp Sennehs.

However, your premise that "red and orange wefts are the rule
for luri weaving" is not true. They are found, certainly. However, most feature natural brown or darker wool wefts. Many have inexplicable sections of colored wool which may simply be extra wool from the pile material, since the stray yellows, reds, greens etc. seem to match the pile. If you read the technical analysis of the Luris in my FLOWERS OF THE DESERT catalogue, you will observe that colored wefts are the minority. The fact is, as the salon points out, there are a multiplicity of groups which are caught up in the term LURI. Their wefting style varies.


Posted by Steve Price on 04-25-2003 06:49 PM:

Hi John,

Oh, I recognize that there may be no answer to the question. It may just be the way things are done, for reasons lost in the dust of history. On the other hand, I think it's usually true that when someone takes a little extra trouble and expense to do something, there's a reason. If nobody takes the time to look for what that reason was, we never find out. Sometimes we never find out anyway, but the search is more fun than knowing the answer (for some of us neurotic academics, at least).


Steve Price

Posted by Bob Kent on 04-26-2003 08:15 AM:

anticipated patina?

I have a bunch of worn rugs, mostly Kurdish, with red, orange, blue, etc., dyed wefts. Maybe dyed wool didn't cost more from the local Wool Mart, and once used and worn for a long time rugs would look better with dyed than white wefts?

Posted by Vincent Keers on 04-26-2003 08:19 AM:

Colour blind

First things first.
I thank Patrick for the salon. It got my attention nice and easy. And I like that.

Red wefts,
Think red, bleu, black, white, pink, brown wefts do intensify/enhance or weaken the overall colour
impression a piece creates in our brain. Oops!

Armenian production was mostly on black wefts so I learned from Mr. Tschebul. He told me this while I was
restoring a Chelaberd. It was strange to find that this Chelaberd had brown and pink wefts as well.
At some spots the weaver used: 1pink/1brown.
Next spot: 1pink/1pink. Next: 1brown/1brown.
Did this have anything to do with the pile colour?
I looked for the white spots.
Some white spots were intensified with pink/pink.
Some white spots were intensified with brown/pink.
Some white spots were intensified with brown/brown.
A mess?
Why did the weaver do this at random?
And why can't I see what the weaver saw?
Because, as Steve says, why bother?

A painter can use different layers, of different colours of paint, on top of each other. I can't see this.
I can only guess. Why does this red seem to be softer and why does this red seem to be brighter?
The painter did it with a reason.
Think this is the same for a rug on red wefts and the same rug on white wefts. It makes a difference.
Can I see this? No. Does this mean it isn't there? No! Because it is.

Some painters jump around a canvas; "Oh I'm so artistic! Look at me!" emptying buckets paint on the
canvas. (One guy sits in a helicopter, while bombing the canvas below with paint). Some painters jump
around the canvas doing the same thing knowing they are only the medium: "I don't know what I'm doing,
but if I'm lucky, the result is Art." This is coincidental. Nature's at work.

The washing, sheering, selection, carding/combing, spinning, dyeing, weaving, washing in rural
environment are all coincidental. So the less planned a production is, the more lucky it can be that the
result is timeless beauty. Like nature?
Did the weaver of the Chelaberd thought about this?
No. She was a medium. Accustomed to the coincidental outcomes of spinning, dyeing etc. Why bother?
She didn't.

In wool selection by hand, done with a string that vibrates the wool up in the air, the women can sort
out fibres. So wool has a sort of transparency for her. How does this woman see her rug? Can she
see what colour wets are used? Yes, I think she can.
I can't, but I like/or do not like, the result that comes from her decisions.

So, there are two sides in this story:
What you see is what the weaver wanted you to see. Planned production. All black , all red or all white wefts.
(Planned production is a production in which a weaver acts as expected in her environment. "He you, how
come you're using black wefts? We all use red wefts. Think you're so special?")

What you see is what nature wanted you to see. Coincidental production.
The weaver knows all the materials she's working with are coincidental and sees herself as a medium.
So, why bother. It comes as it goes.

Does this make any sense?

Vincent by Coincident

1xred is 20% red

Same goes for bleu, white, yellow on red etc.

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 04-26-2003 11:48 AM:

color blind?


I might think that black wefts, such as those on the Chelaberd rug you mentioned, could be susceptible to oxidation, similar to the effect on the black pile of many Caucasian rugs with the black areas lower than the surrounding pile. Maybe because it is not exposed to wear, the black foundation is not subject to this disintegration.
One of the Luri rugs in the salon uses multiple weft colors in multiple combinations. In this photo you can see, from left to right, areas of red/blue, blue/blue and yellow/yellow wefts. These weft colors are not discernable on the front of the rug, but on some weavings with sections of lighter and then darker wefts there is a faint difference in hue on the front of the rug:

I also have an Afshar chanteh with multiple weft colors in various combinations. Is this an inadvertent use of different colored wefts due to the weaver being color blind!? Perhaps these creative combinations were due to the weaver having some extra yarns left over from other weaving projects. We often read that tribal weavers either dyed their own wool or bought wool from village or town dyers. They would certainly not want to waste any.

One explanation for using colored wefts may be to keep it separate from the yarn to be used for the warp. Some weavings use different sizes of yarn for the warp than the weft.

John Collins is certainly correct, that different Luri weavers from various areas generally tended to use the color of weft common to that area. This is one of the reasons that the rugs of the southern Lurs are often confused with those of their neighbors, the Qashqa'i, since they usually both used white wool for the wefts.
I want to thank John for not only his contributions to this discussion, but for his many years of research and interest in this fascinating area of Luri weavings.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Vincent Keers on 04-26-2003 07:17 PM:

Hi Patrick,

That's not what I said.
We under estimate the weaver.
Think we all have our mouth full about, if or not it is Art. But when it gets to the point it
matters it's: Oh yeah. She had some leftover wool. She couldn't separate the weft wool
from pile wool. This is the easy way out. Or this is, not knowing what you're talking about.
No, the weaver isn't colour blind. I am. That's what I said.

What I was trying to say was:

One side off the story:
If everything you do depends on coincidence/nature, than different coloured wefts aren't that strange.
It's the same as with the dyes or hand spun wool. These couldn't be controlled completely.
Maybe the weaver sees the different effects when the rug is finished, but I do not because I'm not
that natural. Your Luri shows this.

Other side of the story:
So, why bleu as wefts? I think this was a choice.
They liked what it did with the rugs.
Let's make a Tabriz on black wefts. It will look different.
Let's make an ivory white Nan on black wefts!

The Azery I posted in the previous salon has a yellow, red, brown striped backing.
All wefts in the two bag faces are white.
A Kurdish one has a red backing.
All wefts in the two bag faces are beige.
Something's going on here. No leftovers etc.

Best regards,

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 04-27-2003 08:41 PM:

Hi Everyone,

To find the logic behind the use of red dyed wefts I traced their usage back to the luxury rug and carpet industry. Red wefts were used in royal and upscale workshops all over Anatolia, Persia, and elsewhere, pick one, any one, wherever red field carpets were made. The inevitable eventual pile wear that royal high heels and even silk slippers would cause to occur would be less noticeable if red wefts were part of the ground structure. Today we would call it a "value added service", analogous to spare buttons sewn into "better" garments. A selling point, but hardly something weavers would find necessary or practical for things made for their own use, but useful still. From my preliminary investigations it appears that this luxury feature was phased out, pretty much, with the advent of cotton wefts, although, in a transition period, colored wool wefts were used in a supplementary manner. Cotton is harder to dye red than wool is and the market was already beginning to falter so, apparently, the degeneration commenced.

For a visual aide look at the magnified rug on the cover of "Oriental Carpets the Philadelphia Museum of Art" book. It clearly shows the benefit of red wefts on a worn carpet which has a red field.

I think that the use in tribal rugs of red wefts probably stems from tribal or family court exposure from times before cotton warps were phased into use. Another one of those tribal traditions which weavers may, or may not have forgotten, but certainly benefited from, skill-wise, from ancestors who knew what they were doing and why they were doing it. Red wefts may be the only visible trace of court training but was probably only one skill of many which was learned at court and passed down. In the case of the Lurs, however, I think the dyers headed in a different direction.

I have read from several sources, but have not tested this myself, that Indigo dyeing strengthens fiber somehow. Indigo does not require mordanting. Cotton and wool can be dyed with Indigo in the same batch, too, so it would be a relatively easy thing to use it for wefts in rugs with dark fields.

Mamluk rugs had orange wefts in their ground, which makes sense.

What about rugs with variegated grounds? Variegated wefts, of course, a very common usage in Kermin workshops.

As for black wefts there is a dye known as "dye failure black". In the case a dye failed, and it could be any color, the yarn was redyed several times, in different exhaust baths, until it was black. If a corrosive dye was avoided in this process, which it could be, it wouldn't corrode. Sue

Posted by Richard Tomlinson on 04-28-2003 06:10 AM:


anyone come across green wefts?

i ask because if there is NO rhyme or reason for dyeing wefts red and blue, one would logically expect to find quite a few pieces with green wefts (green being one of the more common colors used)


Posted by Bob Kent on 04-28-2003 07:54 AM:

nothing royal about it

but I am with Sue on this one: I have Kurdish rugs in which red is the most common color of the design and the wefts are a similar red. they are worn and don't look great, but they'd look much worse with white wefts. any color might leave a worn rug look better than white wefts (unless the field is white).

Posted by Tracy Davis on 04-29-2003 02:51 PM:

Richard, I believe that the Mamluk rugs from 15th-16th century Ottoman Egypt used green wefts, but I don't know about any others.

Posted by Tracy Davis on 04-29-2003 03:00 PM:

In terms of *why* weavers used colored wefts, I don't suppose we'll ever know for sure, but there are many plausible theories, most of which have been mentioned here:

- Colored wefts were a "design signature" of a particular group of weavers (in some cases, possibly a left-over tradition no one remembers the genesis of)

- It was a way to use up yarn that might not have been desirable for pile

- It helped conceal wear once foundation became visible (There are examples, I believe in Caucasian or Turkish prayer rugs, I forget which, where the weaver used red wefts in dark areas and light wefts in white/undyed areas.)

It seems logical to conclude that the use of colored weft, and the choice of color(s), was in some cases integral to the design and/or weaving tradition, and other cases just a way to use up leftover wool or substandard dye batches.