How the Ardabil Carpet Was Made
The basic structure of the carpet is hidden by the pile. Like most textiles, it consists of warps and wefts. The warps are the threads running the length of the carpet. The wefts are the threads that run across its breadth. Both warps and wefts are made from silk, which is a very strong fibre when new.
The first stage in production was to tie the warps on to a huge, vertical loom. The weavers then knotted short lengths of wool around the warps to create a row of pile. When the whole row was finished, they inserted three rows of weft over and under the warps to hold the knots in place. The pile was then packed down with a special comb-like beater. Finally, the pile was trimmed with special scissors to achieve a uniform length. This process was repeated again and again until the huge carpet was finished, when a final trimming would have taken place.
The pile is made from wool, which holds dye much better than silk. The pile is very dense - there are about 5300 knots per ten centimetres square (340 knots per square inch). This density allowed the designer to incorporate a great deal of detail, but making such a large carpet with so many knots would have taken a team of skilled weavers several years.
Up to ten weavers may have worked on the carpet at any one time. Most carpet weaving was done at home by women, but for a court commission such as this, the weavers may have been men.
The weavers would have worked from drawings provided by a specialist designer. The patterns are generally symmetrical, but there are often small differences between the two halves. This suggests that the drawings showed the overall pattern required but not the colour of each knot.
The pattern includes ten colours. The wool was dyed in batches using natural materials such as pomegranate rind and indigo, so the shades vary slightly. For example, the blue background appears to 'ripple' where darker and lighter batches of wool were used.The direction of the pile shows that the weavers began at the end with the smaller lamp. The colours are best viewed from that end.