Qashqa’i (Qashq’ai, Kashkay) handmade wool Persian tribal rugs from south-central Iran.
A few centuries ago, before Nissan borrowed their name, the nomadic Qashqai tribal federation of southern Iran were roaming across the Zagros mountains and deserts of southern Iran (the Fars uplands) practising transhumance, tribal vendettas and being generally unruly and ungovernable. They were making their own highly distinctive rugs on horizontal looms which they used for the walls and floors of their goat-hair tents. All the materials were of their own production and therefore sustainable- the wool from their flocks for the pile and the warp and weft, the hand spinning done by the tribeswomen and children, the dyes were made from plants, vegetable and rocks and the rug infilling designs were, and still are, a product of the weaver’s imagination.
Qashqai rugs adhere to a fairly rigid outline of a central, or multiple, medallion with four corner spandrels but the infilling of stylised birds, plants and flowers is left up to the weaver and they use their favourites from the natural world to do so. At their best, with their own Iranian wool which has both soft and hard strands within it, due to the land the sheep roam on, and with genuine natural (vegetable and mineral) dyes, Qashqai rugs are possibly the most genuine in the world – truly the perfect expression of the signature of the living spirit.
However, the tribes are long since forcibly settled and the rugs are now made in large numbers and therefore there are many inferior examples on the market made in haste for outlets such as IKEA. You will get the best out your rug by using a suitable underlay to help prevent movement and protecting the pile from crushing against hard surfaces.
This example of a handmade wool Persian tribal Qashqa’i rug shows the lustrous wool and rich dyes accompanied by their love of bright orange and green.
Pros- almost always a unique infilling design. Lovely long staple wool that is soft but relatively wearing and extremely warm. Lovely natural motifs. Looks striking in any room. Pets and children love them to lie on. The natural oils in the wool give good stain protection. The good ones have real presence and soul. Warm and soft underfoot in bedrooms and snugs.
Cons- Many newer Qashqai rugs are inferior in all respects so beware. Are not made in larger sizes. Can suffer if used in a high traffic area. Can have problems with the tension and therefore do not lie flat. Pets can smell the lanolin in the wool and try to scent over it.