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What the heck is abrash anyway?

It’s a term you need to know if you own a rug or are thinking of buying one. First of all, abrash is not necessarily a defect. It’s part of every rug and is now actually applied intentionally to new rugs to make them look old or antiqued. A good example of something “new, but old looking” is the rug featured in my previous post The Ardor of Agra.

Abrash naturally occurs in rug weaving and is a result of the weavers using the same colour of wool that comes from a different dye lot or dye batch.

For a better understanding, imagine the weaver using red to fill in the field. When their ball of yarn runs out they need to start another and then another after that. Those balls of yarn may or may not have been dyed in the same vat of red and may not have been dyed exactly the same way.

Even though their dye recipe for blue is the same, there’s always a factor that isn’t identical from one lot to the next. Maybe the person mixing the dye has a heavy pour versus the guy the week before. Perhaps the wool was a little drier or it was a rainy day adding more moisture in the air.

Freshly dyed wool drying in the sun

These small variations can change the chemistry of dying ever so slightly causing each dye lot to react differently over time to sun, oxygen, cleaning and general use.

Abrash always travels across the width of the rug from left to right because this is how we weave rugs. Abrash always looks linear and never curved.

Abrash travels across the width of the rug fromleft to right.

Here’s an example of a hundred year old Persian Afshar with abrash:

Antique Afshar

Find the abrash!

It’s all over the rug, but in this case it looks like it’s part of the design and in my opinion adds beautiful character.

Here is a close up. You can see colour variations in the rust board, but especially in the blue field. Notice the abrash travels in a straight line across the width of the rug.

When this rug was originally created, the colours would have looked solid and very uniform. The abrash usually appears over time.

Sometime rug washing can remove weak dyes and reveal abrash after a cleaning. While this is not as common, it can happen and now you know why. In the case of the antique Afshar, the abrash would have been revealed over many years through sun exposure etc.

I always believe the beauty of a rug lies within its imperfections –  it’s usually something a little out of the ordinary that makes something (or someone) gorgeous in the eyes of the beholder.