Soumak rugs (also spelled Sumak) – This construction technique produces a flat-weave rug that is thick, strong and exceptionally durable. Unlike kilims, Soumak rugs are not reversible because unclipped yarns are left on the back. However, they are also stronger than kilims. Antique Soumak rugs are unique because the wefts are used to produce decorative patterns rather than as a structural element. Antique Soumak rugs are generally very finely woven and feature richly detailed motifs. Traditionally, these spectacular flat-weave rugs are decorated with ancient symbols, tiny birds and geometric animals. Many of these geometric patterns and tribal symbols are associated with the Shahsavan tribe. In the 17th century, these influential warriors served as the personal bodyguards to Shah Abbas according to historic legends. The Shahsavan, who used Soumak weaving techniques widely, inhabited modern-day Azerbaijan and parts of Northwest Persia near Ardabil.

Because Soumak rugs were woven in various carpet-producing regions, the designs they feature are exceptionally diverse. Although they are fairly rare compared to pile carpets and traditional kilims, antique Soumak rugs feature grand medallions, finely executed repeating patterns, Persian garden designs and tribal motifs that are surrounded by multiple sets of richly detailed borders. Antique Soumak rugs make outstanding floor coverings, but the technique was also used to construct bags, trappings, saddle covers, decorative bed spreads and functional household items. Like other regional handicrafts, antique Soumak rugs are highly decorative and diverse textile pieces that flatter modern furnishings and soften minimalist interiors very well.

Soumak or Sumak is a type of brocading or flatwoven pile. Thicker than kilim, it is accomplished by looping the yarn horizontally around successive pairs of warps in between passes of over-under wefting. When compressed vertically with a weaver’s comb, the resultant texture looks like cabling rising slightly from the surface of the rug. Sumak is named for the village of Shemaka in the Caucasus where this technique was widely practiced, but it certainly was not invented there. Sumak has been practiced extensively across the rug producing world, from Central Asia to Iran, the Caucasus, and Turkey.

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