The Technique of Production

Kerman has been producing some of the very fine and elegant carpets of Persia. Kerman produces excellent woollen carpets and they are similar to the wools of Khorasan. They are heavier in grease than the northern wools. The principal producing districts are Bam, Rudbar, Rafsanjan, Jiruft and vicinity of Kerman city..

The sheep of Kerman province are clipped twice a year. Both clips are used for carpet yarns, but the wools from the tow clips are not blended, as they should be. The yarns spun from each clip are used indiscriminately in the same carpet.

There was the astonishing expansion which took place in the Kerman weaving industry between 1900 and 1929 was due, primarily, to the demand from the United States; and as America called for a wide range of sizes, from 9 x 6 feet to 30 x 15 feet, looms of the roller type were adopted in Kerman, because this type can carry a carpet from 9 to 30 feet long.

These looms were set up in the houses, from one to four looms in a house, first in the city and as the demand for carpets increased, in the nearby villages. Small factories containing from 10 to 40 looms, were established in the city. Of these there were about a dozen in 1948. A few were established in the villages also, but they were small and of no consequence.

The carpets woven in the nearby villages are indistinguishable from those woven in the city, for they are all identical in construction and quality.

The weavers of Kerman are Persians and they weave the Persian knot exclusively. Kerman and Bijar are the only two weaving centres of Persian where three wefts, instead of one or two are used. All three wefts are passed, one above another between each row of knots. The first and third are the same in thickness and are slightly thinner than the warp. The middle weft is very thin indeed, thinner than any weft in common use in Persian. The wefts are passed in the following manner: the first weft is passed immediately above each row of knots; the warps are then crossed by lowering the lease rod and then the thin weft is passed. Raising the lease rod then uncrosses the warps; and finally the third weft is passed.

In the 1940s there were 1800 looms in the town. Nearly all of them were in private houses, with two or four looms to a house. The householder is not, as a rule, a weaver himself. He may be a tradesman, craftsman or broker, and he employs a head-weaver, who at the same time weaves and directs the looms. The householder’s wife and children supply the labour, which may be supplemented from outside the family.

Four qualities of carpets are woven in Kerman. They are known respectively as: 70/35, 80/40, 90/45 and 100/50. The bulk of the production is in the first tow. The 70/35 quality is mainly used by the bazaar weavers; the 80/40 by the more important firms who produce for the American and European markets. The 90/45 and 100/50 qualities are expensive and are only used to weave especially fine pieces. The first figures, 70, 80, 90 and 100, indicate the number of warp strings, which are laid per gereh of 7 centimetres. And the second figures, 35, 40, 45, and 50, indicate the number of rows of knots per gereh. As the knot is woven on two strings of warp, the 70/35 quality actually means 35 x 35 knots per gereh. These qualities translated into knots per inch work out as follow:

70 x 35 quality 12.7 x 12.7 knots per inch
80 x 40 quality 14.5 x 14.5 knots per inch
90 x 45 quality 16.3 x 16.3 knots per inch
100 x 50 quality 18.1 x 18.1 knots per inch

Of Design

The renown, which the Kerman carpet enjoys throughout the world, is due primarily to happy blending of design and colour. The weavers contribute less to the distinction of the carpet than these two elements; for the weavers of Tabriz, Arak or of Kashan are as skilled as those of Kerman, yet their product falls far short of the Kerman carpet.

Of the two elements, design and colour, the former is, I think, the more important. I would hesitate to say this of any other Persian weave, because, by and large, colour is the first element to be noticed in carpet. Design appeals more properly to the trained and practised eye.

In the 1940s the famous carpet designers of Kerman were as follows:

Mohsen Khan
Hassan Khan (his son)
Hashem Khan (his grandson)
Ahmed Khan
Ahmed Ali Khan
Zeman Khan
Sheikh Hossein
Ali Reza

Of these men Mohsen Khan was the earliest. His son, Hassan Khan who died in 1945, and Ahmed Khan are the most renowned.

The variety of beautiful deigns that have been produced in Kerman are more than any other city in Iran. They have always added something of their own to the designs that have been given to them to weave by foreign firms.

The genesis of a definite style of Kerman carpet on a sufficiently important scale to warrant special recognition dates from the period of the declined of the shawl industry and its gradual replacement by the carpet weaving. That was about the late 1800s. As might be expected the designers of those early Kerman carpets borrowed freely from the Kerman shawls. It is, indeed, probable that men who had previously been engaged in designing shawls and the fine woollen materials out of which the coats of Persain grandees were fashioned in those days designed many of those carpets.

The characteristics of these early Kermans were airiness and delicacy of colour. This was achieved by the use of two-tone effects in the same flower, light blue, generally without outlines.

After the First World War the carpets that were produced were influenced by American demand, which required closely covered ground with smaller motifs. The designers of Kerman starting to redraw their designs to satisfy this requirement. Kerman produced some of its best work during this period, which lasted until 1937.

This was followed by a demand for floral patterns of a different order. Well-covered grounds but with larger detached and disconnected motives. It was in this period that the so-called broken border replaced the ancient Persian convention of the straight-line border.

In 1946 the American demand turned to French designs. In 1947 to 1948 the trend towards French design became more pronounced.

Of Dyes and Dying

In the 1940s Kerman was the only weaving centre in Persian where foreign dyes were almost entirely banned. The principal dyestuffs, which were in use in Kerman, were indigo (synthetic), cochineal, madder, walnut husks, weld, pomegranate rind, vine leaves, straw and henna. Alum is the only mordant used.