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What is KPSI? How do I know if my Oriental Rug is Valuable?


A few words about KPSI or KPI knots per square inch or knots per inch. The quality and price of a handmade oriental rug is often determined by the amount of time a weaver has to spend to knot the rug. Of course this is only one element in an antique rug to determine value. Other determining factors such as rarity, wool quality, design complexity, desirability, condition etc all come into play in the market as well. If you look at the backside of a rug and have a ruler handy you can determine the knot count by counting the knots horizontally across one inch and making note of that figure then counting the knots vertically by one inch. Multiply the two figures together and you will get the KPSI. The higher the knot count the tighter the weave and the finer the rug. BTW: An American Quarter coin measures roughly one inch across so you could throw that down to count the knots.

Rug weavers in general while working on a loom sitting side by side with three weavers working on a 9’x12’ rug could tie 18,000 knots per day. It could easily take these weavers 4 months working full time to weave a 9’ x 12’ rug.

The Back of A Turkish Sivas Rug

knot count turkish rug back

The Back of A Hadjili Tabriz Persian Rug ~ These are known for their exceptionally high knot count! Can you see the difference?

knot count of a tabriz back of rug

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Types of Antique Nomadic Caucasian Rugs

old antique kazak caucasus wool carpet

Caucasian Rugs were largely woven by the nomadic cultures from the Caucasus region in the mid to late 19th century using  long haired wool sheared from the sheep they raised. The hand spun wools were hand dyed with vegetal and mineral based dyes, and the hand knotted  area rugs have fascinating beautiful designs. The geometric and sometimes floral designs were produced on small looms  and were unique to each weaver. These rugs were utilized for all aspects of tribal living. They came to be popular in Europe in the late 1880’s and have been prized possessions ever since.
View our Antique tribal Caucasian rugs such as KazakShirvan carpetsKarabaugh, old Kuba, Talish, and Akstava rugs.

See examples:

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Information on Rugs woven in East Turkestan such as Khotan

Khotan antique Rug

E Turkestan Rugs

East Turkestan or Chinese Turkistan situated along the ancient Silk Road borders China and Mongolia to the east, Russia to the north, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to the west, and Tibet to the south. The Largest cities today are Ürümqi, Kashgar, Khotan, Ghulja, and the current Ethnic groups include Uyghur, Han Chinese, Kazakh; and Hui. East Turkistan has been a commerce center for 2000 years and is well known for the rugs woven there. Our particular collection will include all the good condition Khotan rugs that we find as these have bold interesting designs of well-drawn tableaus that delight modern interior designers. Types will include Antique Khotan, Khirgez, Suzanni, home decor from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.

See examples:

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What is a Mongolian Rug

antique mongolian rug with deer

Antique rugs made in Mongolia from 1880’s to 1930’s are very rare and collectible old carpets. Mongolia, located between Russia and China is largely situated on mountains and plateaus and produced beautiful wool. The Mongols were influenced by Persian designs as well as the Chinese designs as seen in their hand woven area rugs.

See Examples:

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Natural Dyes created from Plants and Vegetables used in Antique Rugs

A Book on Vegetable Dyes

By Ethel Mairet who was a British hand loom weaver, significant in the development of the craft during the first half of the twentieth century. Wikipedia

This book was Published in 1917 and Digitized on August 30, 2012 . This is a reproduction of a library book that was digitized by Google as part of an ongoing effort to preserve the information in books and make it universally accessible.

The Page count is 125.


Read the entire book here:


A concise listing of plants typically used to create natural dyes has been adapted from Mairet’s book and published online here:


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Types of Wool used in the Construction of Antique Rugs

A description of the Wool used in the Construction of Antique Rugs

Most handmade antique rugs are created on a large wooden loom with a foundation of warp (north and south) and weft (east and west) threads often of cotton through which wool threads are knotted to create the pile of the rug. The wool sheared from sheep is spun and soaked in natural dyes made largely from insects, plants and water. The color concentration could vary slightly between dye lots which would sometimes result in a bit of a color change or abrash in a rug. This is normal.

There are many ways to distinguish where a rug was woven. One way is to identify the wool characteristics and how fine the yarn is which will also impact the type of foundation material used. The thicker wool from a rug woven near a mountain region would have a denser pile and a simpler perhaps geometric design. These rugs such as Bidjar rugs are woven on a stronger wool foundation.

Rugs woven nearer the cities may have a more finely spun wool which will allow for more complex designs such as vines and flowers or complex scenes often including bucolic or energetic scenes with animals and people such as is seen in Laver Kerman Rugs.

6450 Laver Kerman


Beautifully spun very soft wool was also imported from Manchester, England. It is sheared from Merino sheep. These are some of the finest rugs made with the nicest, very finely spun soft wool. This wool was often used for fine Kashan rugs with beautiful fine intricate designs. These rugs are very soft underfoot. The Chinese were also known to import this wool and create beautiful designs.

7448 Kashan rug

The most expensive of all wool actually comes from a goat. This wool is known as mohair or angora. The pile rugs made using this rug mostly come from Turkey and have long silky feeling pile. It is very lustrous and dyed in pale beautiful colors and often found in Turkish Oushak rugs.

7765 Oushak Weigara rug

The last natural material used to weave rugs is from the camel. This is hair shed from a camel and is often used undyed and spun with sheeps wool to create a rug with a beautiful brown hue from a material that is readily available without shearing. This wool is often seen in rugs and runners from Serab and Hamadan regions of Persia.

7801 Serab camel hair rug 5-10x10-10

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Oriental Rugs captured in Mosaic Art

oriental rug mosaic

I am most happy and privileged to have recently acquired a new rug to add to our collection. This piece was handmade not in wool, silk or cotton but in glass! The illustrious mosaic artist Suzanne Spahi is the creator. Suzanne recently moved to Italy from Canada for work, love and study. She taught the art of mosaic creation in her Montreal studio and has traveled the world to view and learn from the great mosaic artists through the ages. Her love of the patterns and iconography found in tribal Oriental rug designs captured her imagination and she has a series of Oriental rug mosaics that are intricate and beautiful. These sparkling rugs have been around the world on exhibition. I am so glad that one has found its way to us!

Visit Suzanne and her world of mosaics
at and her mosaic activities
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Shopping Along the Silk Road in Taskent, Samarkand and Buhkara Uzbekistan

Robert Mosby Holly Mosby Rug Dealers in Uzbekistan

A short article about our travelling companions in Uzbekistan and photos of Suzanis in the Tashkent Museum:

Some photos on this page are courtesy of the talented mosaic artist Suzanne Spahi…

shopping for suzani and ikat in Bukhara uzbekistan                               

Shop Our Uzbek Suzani Gallery ~ Just Click here!
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Baluch or Balouch Rugs

Baluch saddlebags rug

The Baluch rugs we sell are from the 19th century and found their way into the marketplace in Peshawar, Pakistan.

All these rugs were hand woven by Nomadic tribes of Baluchistan. They would hand spin their lustrous thick wools from sheep, camel and goat and dye them using primarily the vegetal or mineral dyes available to them. These rugs would take months to weave and were used to carry grain, as saddlebags for donkeys, as trapping for their animals and wall hangings for their tents. They are very well constructed and mostly one of a kind in pattern. Often new techniques and designs would be tried out in these small pieces. Each is a beautiful work of art in itself!

I have seen these rugs and bags put to interesting tasks in modern homes. Saddlebags make a great set of matching throw pillows when cut in half and stuffed. Many still have the tabs and loops for closure. They also make a nice chairback when slipped over a ladderback or bistroback chair. A single bag makes a nice dust cover to slip your laptop in when not in use. Trappings make a great decorative valance for a window or doorway. They also look great hung on the wall. Small rugs do double duty as a table or dresser runner

These are all collectible examples of nomad art. Each piece utilizes the design skills and showcases the individuality of each weaver. Each rug is hand-woven using beautiful vegetable dyed Baluchi wools. Because of the small size of these pieces different weaving techniques and design elements are used which are rarely found in the larger rugs of this region. These pieces were woven with utility in mind. We see saddlebags, animal trappings, tent trappings, and small rugs, all woven to be used and embellish the daily lives of these nomads. In our homes of today these small pieces also have many uses. They make beautiful floor or bench pillows, sofa pillows, wall hangings.

I’d be interested in hearing from you if you have any other great uses for these small pieces that I can share on this site!

See our collection of Baluch Rugs


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Holly Mosby Rug Dealer

Robert Mosby Holly Mosby Rug Dealers in Uzbekistan

Holly Mosby Robert Mosby



Robert and Holly Mosby view the Pazyryk Carpet

Holly and Robert Mosby have been traveling the world for years in search of antique rugs to add to our collection. We have visited many cities in 44 countries. We look for old rugs to study or to buy. It has been an interesting journey. We hope you enjoy seeing the rugs we’ve collected as much as we have appreciated the travel to acquire them. In this day of commercial goods with no historic or handmade quality, it is nice to look to the past and surround ourselves with beauty conceived and woven by previous generations. The remarkable people we have met along our way have inspired us with their cultures and broadened our views. Thank you for visiting our website!

Shop our product Catalogue


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Some information on Donegal Carpets

7942 Donegal Rug at Mosby Antique rugs

Donegal Carpets  was founded in 1898 by Scottish textile manufacturer Alexander Morton in Killybegs , a town in County Donegal in Ulster, Ireland. Morton put to practice the techniques of the Donegal people who had been working with wool for generations. These carpets, known as Donegals, are hand-knotted in the Turkish style.  Killybegs became famous for its tapestries and carpets, some of which were produced on the biggest carpet loom in the world at the “Donegal Carpet Factory”. Donegal carpets can be found in Buckingham Palace, on the Cunard Oceanliners the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth  and in government offices in Washington, D.C. The Mortons sold the company to a consortium called Donegal Carpets Ltd. in 1957. There were four manufacturing houses at one time in County Donegal but three of the four facilities closed during The Great Depression and in 1987 the last facility closed. Local Donegal people petitioned the government to help re-open them and in 1999 they were making carpets again. Here is a link to a company that produces new Donegal carpets today



7942 Donegal Rug at Mosby Antique rugs

Item 7942 Mosby Antique Oriental Rugs

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Ever wonder what’s it’s like to photograph an Oriental Rug?

Here I am adjusting our ceiling mounted camera lens to take a wide frame image of a 9 foot by 12 foot rug. Down below is Robert using the computer software to shoot the photo. The adjustment is so sensitive that a slight mishandling of the camera on the mount will cause the room to skew and the rug to look like it’s not straight. This ladder is 17′ tall and I hate heights! So if our images aren’t perfect, now you know why!!

Holly Mosby Rug Dealer – ANTIQUE ORIENTAL RUGS

Photographing Oriental Rugs image

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Super Awesome Oriental Rug Art!

Red-Bear- emerges from rug
Life-Size Animals Emerge from Persian Rugs in Perception-Defying Sculptures by Debbie Lawson
This is SO cool that I had to share it with my customers.
Reprinted from the Art website COLOSSAL
British sculptor Debbie Lawson works in the space between two and three dimensions, forming wild animals that emerge from old-fashioned rugs. The artist builds her animals from scratch, using chicken wire and masking tape, and then covers them with identical or near-identical Persian carpets to create the illusion that the creature is fused with the hanging rug.

Lawson explains to Colossal, “I have always ‘accidentally’ spotted images in patterns, on textured walls and floors made of wood or lino – any material really. It’s an obsession that I decided to explore in the studio, using first wood grain and then carpet to make work in which the pattern morphed into an actual image or form…More recently I have focussed on animal forms to explore the idea of camouflage, and of its opposite: display.”

Red Bear is on display until August 19 2018 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London as part of the 250th Summer Exhibition curated by Grayson Perry. Persian bear is permanently displayed (along with a moose in the same style) at London’s Town Hall Hotel. You can see more of Lawson’s finished works and take peeks into her studio process on Instagram.

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Buried in the permafrost, the worlds oldest rug. The Pazyryk Carpet.

Robert and Holly Mosby view the Pazyryk Carpet in St Peterburg Russia

Horseman, Pazyryk felt artifacts.

Treasure from St Petersburg and the Pazyryk Carpet

Horseman, Pazyryk felt artifacts.

Pazyrk rug in St. Petersburg Russia
Pazyrk rug in St. Petersburg Russia

The Pazyryk (Russian: Пазырык) burials are a number of Scythian Iron Age tombs found in the Pazyryk Valley of the Ukok plateau in the Altai Mountains, Siberia, south of the modern city of Novosibirsk, Russia; the site is close to the borders with China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Numerous comparable burials have been found in neighboring western Mongolia.

The tombs are Scythian-type kurgans, barrow-like tomb mounds containing wooden chambers covered over by large cairns of boulders and stones, dated to the 4th - 3rd centuries BCE.[5] The spectacular burials at Pazyryk are responsible for the introduction of the term kurgan, a Russian word of Turkic origin, into general usage to describe these tombs. The region of the Pazyryk kurgans is considered the type site of the wider Pazyryk culture. The site is included in the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The bearers of the Pazyryk culture were horse-riding pastoral nomads of the steppe, and some may have accumulated great wealth through horse trading with merchants in Persia, India and China.  This wealth is evident in the wide array of finds from the Pazyryk tombs, which include many rare examples of organic objects such as felt hangings, Chinese silk, the earliest known pile carpet, horses decked out in elaborate trappings, and wooden furniture and other household goods. These finds were preserved when water seeped into the tombs in antiquity and froze, encasing the burial goods in ice, which remained frozen in the permafrost until the time of their excavation.

Because of a freak climatic freeze, some of the Altaic burials, notably those of the 5th century BCE at Pazyryk and neighbouring sites, such as Katanda, Shibe, and Tuekt, were isolated from external climatic variations by a protective layer of ice that conserved the organic substances buried in them. Certain geometric designs and sun symbols, such as the circle and rosette, recur at Pazyryk but are completely outnumbered by animal motifs. Such specifically Scythian features as zoomorphic junctures—i.e., the addition of a part of one animal to the body of another—are rarer in the Altaic region than in southern Russia. The stag and its relatives, however, figure as prominently in Altaic as in Scythian art.  

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Suzanis – the world of magic and beauty

Article previously published on oriental rug news, articles, directory and e-gallery

by Dr. Elmira Gyul

Dr Elmira Gyul

Suzanis, the large-scale decorative handmade wall panels, are some of the most popular kind of Uzbeks and Tajiks embroideries. They hold a very special place in traditional Central Asian culture. Such kind of embroideries along with carpets decorate the living rooms of Central Asian inhabitants.

Admirers of traditional textiles value Suzanis for their vigorous coloring and original patterns, natural materials and refinement of embroidery skills.

Meanwhile, their true sense are often hidden from us. The important role of Suzanis are connected with the belief to the magic forces of their patterns.

Scholars have already marked the common protective value of suzani embroideries, such as their usage in ceremonial and cult practice as protective force. The patterns within the embroideries also carry the same protective meaning, as well as having their own unique historical interpretations. Each element is a part of the Universe, and the composition is a image of the World, with harmony and balance, sometimes unachievable in real life.

Suzanis of each regions or center have their own local features. Astral and solar symbols predominate in Tashkent and partly in Samarkand Suzanis. In Tashkent Suzanis are known as palak (heavens, arab.), oy-palak (moon heavens) or yulduz-palak (star heavens).

The images of heavenly stars are the ancient tradition, which roots go to the ancient strata of culture. The artisans considered these patterns provided the heaven protection. Step-by-step old cults were replaced by the new ones – as a result, astral symbols transformed into vegetative and floral symbols (Surkhandarya and Samarkand Suzanis, for example). Transformation of solar forms into vegetative symbols reflects the change of religious representations in a society and depreciation of old symbols.

Samarkand Suzani 19th century

Vegetative motives in Suzanis are a reflection of the everlasting nature. The content is connected with the ancient cult of fertility, which has preserved by centuries for example in Ferghana Valley Suzanis.

Some patterns are the results of the influence of creativity by professional artists, who worked in the courts of Muslim rulers and produced the so called court carpets. They created compositions with palmettes, flanked by leafs, blossoming flowers, rows of bunches of flowers etc.; these magnificent flowers were symbols of a Muslim paradise garden. Some Bukhara, Nurata and Shahrisabz Suzanis are a free imitation of popular carpet drawings (gul-buta, gul-dasta, chorshoh-u yakmoch – four branches and one moon – compositions).


Tashkent Suzani, first half 19th century
Some motives, especially in rural embroideries, are related to nomad’s art. Carpets of semi nomadic tribes are the basic source of this influence. The “carpet” motives include kuchkorak and mujiz-nuska (ram’s horns) motives, the most ancient and most widespread in steppe art. Thereby, some part of patterns is a heritage of local ancient settled and nomadic cultures; the content of these patterns have been connected with Zoroastrism, Sun and totemic cults, and also a cult of nature revival. The other part was formed under the influence of Islamic aesthetics (some floral compositions, which can also be seen in other kinds of medieval textiles).



Suzani market

The meanings of former solar, Zoroastrian and totemic symbols have been forgotten. Instead craftswomen have considered these patterns simply “useful” and protective. As a result, many names of motives don’t reflect their original sense.





Young Uzbek embroideress

Nevertheless in each case Suzani drawings is the image of an ideal universe, unity of magic and beauty. Suzani embroidery is the unique phenomenon of late medieval culture of Central Asian’s cities and villages; it has kept the ancient archetypes and medieval symbols in the patterns and has reflected interaction of various historical and art traditions.

Dr. Elmira Gyul, Fine Arts Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Contact: Robert Mosby 941-925-1025

Click here for A few images of Robert and Holly Mosby Uzbek carpet and suzani shopping in Bukara!

Shop Our Uzbek Suzani Gallery ~ Just Click here!

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Dragon and Horse Saddle Rugs

We fully recommend that anyone interested in a most fascinating book should acquire this quintessential volume on the study of Saddle Rugs. 

Dragon and Horse By Drs. Koos de Jong, The Netherlands  (info

A Comprehensive Study of Saddle rugs from Ningxia, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, and Tibet from the 5th Century BC with 288 Full Color Plates in English And Chinese!

A ‘Limited Edition Copy signed by the Author’ of this 2 volume set is available through this link to the authors website.

horse and dragon book cover

We actually have a few on hand in the US for immediate shipping if you contact us!

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The Jazz Age and Chinese Deco Carpets

Reprinted from TEA AND CARPETS Blogspot

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2008 — One of the most elegant times in America was the Jazz Age of the 1920s and 30s.

It was a time when, after the horrors of World War I, there was a taste for extravagant clothes and debonair film stars. Long silk gowns, men in ‘smoking’ attire and, on living room and bedroom floors, not antique Turkish and Persian carpets but – surprisingly – newly made Chinese ones.

Why Chinese? The answer is the strange story of the ‘Chinese Art Deco’ rugs. They were carpets that perfectly fit the spirit of their time and today still evoke that time and no other. But they came about almost by accident.

One of those accidents was the fact that World War I badly disrupted the usual Mideastern trade links for luxury carpets from Turkey and Iran. Another was that people wanted a break from the past in the design of virtually everything, from buildings to furniture to fabrics.

 These opportunities were recognized by American entrepreneurs working in Tianjin, China. The port city, south of Beijing, was a major center in the international wool trade and until the 1900s had no history of rug manufacturing. But the expatriate U.S. traders soon turned it into one of China’s biggest weaving areas as they filled the vacuum in the American market, first with traditional Chinese carpets and then with more and more Western-looking variations of the originals.

The most successful design that emerged was something that perfectly fit the Art Deco style of the day. The carpets so complimented what was going on in the West that they became known as Chinese Art Deco even though there was no Art Deco movement in China itself.

One American entrepreneur’s name in particular is associated with the rugs: Walter Nichols.

He produced so many of them in Tianjin that Chinese Art Deco rugs are also known generically as ‘Nichols’ rugs. But it has long been debated whether he and other American producers actually designed the carpets or whether the Chinese artists which they employed did so.

Elizabeth Bogen, one of the few rug scholars who has studied Tianjin rugs closely, believes it was the Chinese artists.

She finds her evidence in the fact that while the rugs were made for the American market – where Art Deco was characterized by industrial-looking, streamlined forms – great numbers of the Chinese weavings are effusively curvilinear and floral. And those curvilinear patterns seem much less inspired by what was happening in America than by the more naturalist-looking Art Deco tradition in France, half-a-world away.

So how to explain the contradiction in styles? Bogen observes that by the 1920s there were Chinese students who had studied art in many major art schools in Japan and Europe and were familiar with international trends.

In Paris, particularly, they found Western art was being heavily influenced by “Japonisme,” or a fascination with Japan’s styles. If these students later became artists for the Chinese Art Deco rugs, it might explain what Bogen calls the rugs’ “exuberant experimentation with Chinese, Japanese, and European design styles and pallets.”

Bogen made these suggestions in her article “What the Wool Trade Wrought,” which appeared in the September-October 2001 issue of Hali Magazine.

The design origins of the Chinese Art Deco rugs may never be fully known. But the whole story leads to some interesting speculation about how Eastern designs get modified for Western tastes and whether the results are in fact Eastern or Western creations.

Bogen argues that the Tianjin rugs were not just the result of an interplay of market forces but also of “contemporary currents in Western art – currents that in turn were heavily influenced by exposure to the arts of Japan and China.”

Put in other words, this is a reminder that the greatest tradition in art, even in the most traditional arts, is to freely borrow ideas across borders. To try to classify art – and particularly the contemporary art of any period – as belonging to one region or another is to miss the excitement of how art reflects a universal human experience as much as it does a local one.

See our collection of Art Deco Chinese Rugs here:

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Classical Chinese Carpet Designs

Reprinted from TEA AND CARPETS Blogspot
Talk, news and links about oriental carpets, carpet collecting and the wonderful world of east meets west


BEIJING, Dec. 18, 2010 – Like the other countries of the ancient Silk Roads, China has a rich carpet tradition.

But it is a younger heritage than those of Central and South Asia or the Middle East and very much unlike them.

Because the first pile carpets in China seem to have been woven only some 500 years ago – in the 15th century — it seems clear pile carpet weaving arrived to China from elsewhere.

The best guess is that the technique traveled up the Silk Road into northwestern China from neighboring East Turkestan.

Northwestern China was, and is, a vast steppe land peopled mostly by Turkic-Mongol peoples. At that time, these steppe lands, which today include Inner Mongolia, were outside the Great Wall protecting China proper.

So, the early carpets were not ethnically “Chinese” — in the sense of the Han Chinese who lived within the wall (outlined in red here).

But for reasons that still fascinate historians, they almost immediately became a medium for Chinese – not nomadic – art.

And it is that quality which makes Chinese carpets so unlike their more “oriental” relatives.

Carpet scholars Muray L. Eiland Jr. and Muray Eiland III write in their book Oriental Carpets (1998) that “although it is possible that the pile carpet is not indigenous to China and was introduced from Central Asia, its designs have become as classically Chinese as those of textiles of porcelain.

“The same floral forms, of lotus and chrysanthemum, appear repeatedly, while the same simple devices of frets and swastikas are common in the borders. There is a lavish style of mythical animals and scrolling vines and more styles of the repetition of simple geometric figures.”

That the carpets should become so classically Chinese is surprising because the steppe lands — which are a rich wool producing region — had a millennia-old tradition of felt carpet making with its own rich vocabulary of motifs.

But it may be that by the 15th century, the people of northwest China already were heavily influenced by the overwhelming culture of China proper.

It is likely, too, that in many of the main commercial centers for the rugs, such as Ningxia right beside the Great Wall, urban populations were already ethnically mixed.

The rugs woven in northwest China had several markets.

One market was the nomadic lands to the north, Mongolia and beyond, where the rugs were used to decorate yurts.

A second market was Chinese Muslims who needed substitutes for prayer rugs, which were not woven in China.

And the third and richest market – and the one which undoubtedly did the most to determine styles and designs — was temples and noble homes.

Ningxia rugs, for example, were used extensively in the monasteries of Tibet and northwest China. The temple carpets included Banner rugs, Hanging rugs, Curtain carpets and Pillar carpets.

The Pillar carpets were sometimes made in two halves to fit around a column. Picture here is a column carpet from the 1880s in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection.

Interestingly, special colors were reserved for special audiences. Yellow was reserved for royal use, such the court and temples, while red was for gift carpets exchanged between aristocrats.

But if these pile carpets are so distinctly Chinese in appearance, does it mean that the indigenous people of the northwest contributed no influence of their own?

Hans Bidder, a German diplomat and carpet historian who lived many years in China before his death in 1963, believes the felt carpet culture of the steppe lands had a great effect on how the pile woven carpets were decorated.

Bidder is particularly intrigued by the way the fields of Chinese carpets so often appear to be blank canvases upon which motifs – from animals to Taoist and Buddhist symbols – are placed in almost ‘applique’ fashion.

Often the motifs stand out so dramatically from the background that almost appear to have been inlaid into the field of the carpet the way motifs are rolled and pressed into the plain backgrounds of felt carpets.

The appearance is sometimes heightened by cutting the pile to put the motifs in even higher relief – a practice that remains very common in Chinese carpets today.

That preference for high relief makes a fascinating link not only to the art sensibilities of the nomadic felt makers but also to a period in China’s own history when – due to the Mongol conquests of the 13th century – felt carpets briefly and unexpectedly rose to the level of a court art in Beijing.

Bidder writes that “during the period of Mongol Chinese rule (1260 to 1341) the felt carpet developed into a very luxurious object.”

He continues, “in the year 1299 felt carpets with an area of 331 square meters were manufactured for the ‘Palace of the Special Chambers’ (imperial harem) … felts became so refined and improved in quality that the artistry of felt carpets finally equaled that of the best Oriental carpets and sometimes exceeded it.” (Bidder, Carpets from Eastern Turkestan, published 1964.)

It is interesting to speculate on how much this experience may have helped set the subsequent taste for bold, high-relief motifs on knotted rugs. But the impact of Mongol rule on Chinese rugs may have been still larger than that.

Bidder notes that ancient China – the Han peoples within the Great Wall – traditionally associated wool with the barbarian world. Their fabrics of choice were cotton and silk, instead.

It was only through centuries of contact with nomads on the northern border that Chinese slowly began to adopt the use of felt mats as utilitarian floor coverings or insulation padding on beds. The example of the Mongol court would have done much to convince Chinese to regard wool as an artistic medium, as well.

Still, when weaving looms for carpets arrived in China, many people still regarded them as something alien.

Bidder, a scholar of Chinese texts, cites the earliest known mention of the technology as noting the “weaving process has been taken over from the barbarians and is performed in their strange way.” The book was written sometime in the Ming period of the 14th to 17th centuries.

But if wool carpet weaving took hold relatively late in China, it rapidly developed into a major industry.

The most active centers in the northwest – the ones most early carpets are named after – became the provinces of Kansu, Ningxia, and Suiyan (a now defunct province located in today’s Inner Mongolia), as well as another part of Inner Mongolia near the city of Baotou (or Paotou)

These centers thrived in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, setting the stage for the phenomenal growth of the Chinese export carpet industry when China opened to the world and major new weaving centers appeared in Peking and its nearby port Tiantsin.

From historical records, it appears wool looms appeared in Beijing in the early 1860s. There carpet-maker developed new patterns based on Ningxia carpet designs but which progressively responded to Western market demands.

Like the earlier Chinese carpets, the new Peking rugs depicted Chinese symbols and designs used for hundreds of years.

But where the symbols tended to be profuse and cluttered together on domestic rugs, the new rugs spaced them out — usually around a central medallion — in harmonious designs more suited to western tastes.

Blue Peking rugs made in Western room sizes gained huge popularity, particularly in America. They were followed by other rugs directly produced for the American market, often by companies owned by American expatriates in China.

The most famous of these “American” exports were the Chinese Art Deco rugs of the 1920s and 1930s.

Posted by Tea and CarpetsSee more:

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Helen Fette and Walter Nichols Art Deco Rugs   

6150 feti chinese rug





6866 ad Chinese feti




6817 feti art deco chinese




7679 Feti Chinese rug




7727 Art deco chinese rug


Excerpts from an article by: Jane Tulanian 

The term Art Deco refers to the style launched at the 1925 Paris World's Fair Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Art.

Art Deco rugs introduced a new, nonrestrictive color palette. Bright, never-before-used combinations were the new trend. The soft blue of traditional Chinese rugs was replaced by a more vibrant lapis blue, while the traditional calm gold gave way to varying shades of ochre, green, raspberry, plum, purple and teal also became popular.

Because of its low production costs, China became the hub for weaving Art Deco rugs exported to the States. There were hundreds of factories producing rugs but it was two enterprising Americans who dominated: Helen Fette and Walter Nichols. Little did they know their names would become synonymous with the term and virtually all rugs woven during that era, which ran from the mid 1920's to around 1935.

Helen Fette went to China as a missionary, selling small rugs to raise funds for charities. She teamed up with Chinese rug manufacturer Li Meng Shu to form the Fette-Li Company. They started producing rugs out of the Peking area in the early 1920's and were one of the largest exporters of the period. Fette rugs are recognizable by their floppy feel. The cotton warps are thinner and more pliable than those used in Nichols carpets, resulting in a soft, supple feel to the pile.

In 1924 Walter Nichols opened the doors of his venture, Nichols Super Yarn and Carpets in Tientsin, North China. Super Yarn because of the machine spun yarn, the strong cotton used for the foundation, and the overall tightly packed weave of the rugs. In stark contrast to his Fette counterpart, a Nichols rug was quite dense and heavy.

Both Fette and Nichols placed identifying fabric tags on the back of their rugs. Nichols also stamped his name onto the backside of the fringe, however if the fringe has worn down or been repaired, the mark is usually absent. Because Fette and Nichols were so closely associated with the Deco period, rugs woven in their trademark style, absent any remaining identification marks, are routinely referred to as Fette or Nichols style.

No other Oriental rugs are as representative of their time as the Chinese Decos. The dynamics of the designs and the colors used are hallmarks of the era. It was a time of experimentation with abstract forms and unrestrained colors. The style arrived energetically, but was cut short due to the Great Depression. The few remaining factories were destroyed when Japan invaded China during World War II.

See our collection of Art Deco Rugs for sale here: