I recently visited the ancient city of Kerman, Iran (founded in the 3rd century, A.D.). The hand-woven carpets of Kerman are renowned worldwide, and I had the good fortune of visiting one of the rug-weaving factories. The workspace was filled with giant looms and this one was manned by a husband and wife weaving team. Here is the back of the loom:
This being the first time I had ever seen Persian carpet weaving in action, I was surprised to find that the back of the rug (closeup at top) showed the rug pattern much more clearly than the front:
The weavers were so kind and welcoming, and took the time to explain the whole process. Apparently, after the rug is finished (which they estimated would take the two of them a whole year), it is run through a machine that trims the fuzzy top layer and exposes the pattern, revealing what we are accustomed to seeing. Here is what their setup looks like from the front:
And here are the basic tools that they use:
Note that the pattern that they work off of is actually hand-painted and quite gorgeous itself.
Since the pattern was only propped up on one side of the loom, the husband would sing a little song that dictated the colors that came next. After every knot that was made, the blade would be used to trim the yarn. I can’t imagine how many knots are made in a typical rug.
The yarns that they used were also hand-dyed and lovely to behold even on their own.