Oushak (also spelt as Ushak) rugs originated in the small town of West Central Anatolia, which is part of Istanbul, Turkey. Originally woven by nomads and used as essential necessities, the oushak rugs became known for their beautiful designs and quality and became the favored rugs of the Ottoman Empire from the 15th century.
Oushak also become a production centre for the Oushak rugs which were known for their beautiful designs and the quality made from silky wool. The signature designs are the star and the medallion rugs which originated from Oushak. Till today, Oushak rugs are regarded as one of the most favored types of oriental rugs and carpets.
An authentic oushak rug will be handmade or hand-knotted. Do note the varying descriptions of the oushak rugs especially if you are buying online. For example, take note as to whether the oushak rug is handmade, hand-knotted, man-made, machine-made or hand-tufted. Don’t be confused by a hand-tufted rug, which is different from handmade or hand-knotted.
It is a different form of weaving technique in which a person uses a tool known as a “tufting gun” to push the wool through a base, such as a canvas backing, before glueing the materials together. Hence, it is much less labor intensive and also holds less value. Do also take note where the oushak rugs are produced from, as only certain countries produce handmade oushak rugs in the market today.
How to Identify A Good Rug
Today, with the help of advanced technology, it is almost too easy to fall prey to counterfeits or fake goods. Here are some pointers to look out before buying an oushak rug, which represents supreme quality.
1. Knots per square inch
Oushak rugs are typically hand-woven with loose, Turkish knots. One of the indicators of the quality of a rug lies in its density, which is determined by knot-counts. The higher the density, the better the quality. For example, a very fine Persian rug can go up to about 400 knots per square inch. However, it is not always necessarily so as a typical oushak rug tends to be loosely or coarsely woven with about 34 knots per square inch, and it is common to have less than 30 knots per square inch.
2. Design and Knotting Consistency
The front side of the carpet and the back side should look the same. Also, if the oushak rug is handmade or hand-knotted, the design will have slight “imperfections” or inconsistencies within the symmetrical design, such as knot-height or knot thickness, which are observable.
Similarly, the fringe of a handmade oushak rug, if any, goes into the rug and minor inconsistencies will be observable in the binding of the fringe. Machine-made or manmade carpets will have more even knotting and the fringe might seem to be affixed with precise stitching.
As Islamism is the dominant religion in Turkey, which prohibit the depiction of men and animals, this influence is evident in the designs of Oushak rugs. The designs tend to be based on geometric motifs, such as the star and the medallion motifs which originated from Oushak. Other designs might include vines, florals and leaves.
3. Malleability of the rug
While this might be difficult to put to the test before buying, an authentic oushak rug might be softer because of the good wool and hand-knots. If folded into half, the rug will be more malleable despite its large size.
4. Length of pile
While there might be exceptions to the rule, as a general rule of thumb, the longer the pile, the poorer the quality of the oushak rug. This is because long pile reduces the sharpness of the outlines of complex designs. Long pile also increases the risk of the rug or carpet developing wear patterns over time and affects its durability. However, some oushak rugs might have longer pile to enhance the soft and malleable feel.
5. Dye and Color
Natural dyes or plant-based dyes tend to be used in the coloring of oushak rugs, which are more labor intensive. The color palette of an oushak rug is also one of the reasons why it is so attractive. Some typical colors used in oushak rugs are ivory, saffron, red, gold and light blues which complement the color tones of contemporary homes very well. Green, which is a sacred color, is used on prayer carpets.
A handmade oushak rug tends to be made with good, silky wool. While good wool might reflect some lustre, it should not actually shine as artificial chemicals might have been added to create the unnatural shine.