What is the Light and Dark Side of an Oriental Rug?

Posted: October 31, 2012

In order to understand why there is a light and dark side of an Oriental rug, first you need to learn a little about the parts of a hand knotted rug.

parts of a hand knotted rug

Parts of an Oriental rug; Warp, Weft & Knots

  • The warp threads run lengthwise (or north to south, top to bottom) and make up the fringes of a rug.
  • The weft threads run across the width of the rug, (or east to west, side to side.)
  • The selvage or edge of the rug is made by wrapping several warp threads at the edge of the rug with yarn to reinforce this part of the rug.
  • The knots which are tied to the warps create the pile or nap of the rug.


Custom Rug Making Virginia Beach

Oriental rugs are woven from bottom to top. The weaver ties individual knots to the warp threads (lengthwise threads) and these comprise the pile of the rug. A knot is mostly woven in a downward motion and “opens” down which creates the pile direction. This can vary depending on the loom set up, as sometimes the knots are tied so they open to the left or right.

Most rugs have a distinct pile direction that can be felt, as well as seen. If you run your hand on the pile of the rug from fringe to fringe, or diagonally, you will feel that the pile has both a rough and smooth side.

You can usually determine the ”dark side” of the rug by standing at the end of the rug and running your hand toward you and the pile will feel smoother. Alternately, the “light side” of a rug will feel rougher when you run your hand on the pile.

The rug’s light and dark sides result, in part, from the pile direction, although some Oriental rugs may have more pronounced light and dark sides because of the weaving style and the luster of the fiber.

The photographs below are the same rug under the same lighting, but taken at the two different ends. Note the distinct light and dark appearance of the rug.

Dark end of an Oriental rug Virginia Beach

Dark end of an Oriental rug


Light end of an Oriental rug Virginia Beach

Light end of an Oriental rug

Hopefully this helps you understand about the light, dark end phenomenon related to rugs. But more importantly, the issue to keep in mind is that when you are shopping for hand knotted rugs, seeing the rug in person is a much better way to select your rug. Photographs of rugs on-line often times do not accurately represent the color of a rug or the change of color from the light to dark end. If you select your rug in person, you have the benefit of no returns to hassle with, and no time wasted!

Making an informed buying decision makes all the difference when making your rug purchase. Do come by our Virginia Beach Rug Store and our helpful staff is happy to educate you about about Oriental rugs!