Mashad, as well as being one of the holiest cities in Iran, is one of the main centres of carpet production. Situated in the north east of Iran, in the province of Khorasan, the carpet manufacturing is extensive and produces mostly large carpets which are also sold under the name Meshed. The wool from Khorasan is recognized by its softness
An oriental (Persian) carpet, when it first comes off the loom, has a very raw and rough appearance and before it can be sold it needs to be washed so as to remove the fragments and small pieces of wool which have remained amidst the weft and warp of the carpet after it has been clipped. This operation gives lustre and shine to the fibres of the wool, and causes the pile to take its natural smooth direction.
Washing brings additional colours out of the skeins of wool giving a pleasant shade to the carpet. Many techniques are used in different countries, from simply dipping the carpet in a Persian brook and hanging it in the sun to dry, to complex chemical processing carried out in modern factories in Europe or the USA.
Alternatively, twenty or thirty years of use in an Eastern home will do the trick: there, all the loose hairs in the wool will gradually come out and the gentle traffic of feet without shoes in a room with little or no furniture will cause the fibres to begin to glow with a natural lustre.
I have a couple of the smaller carpets at home and they seem to be unwearoutable. As well as being silky smooth after all these years they have retained their colours very well.
* An earlier version of this post originally appeared at Nourishing Obscurity on 24/3/2011; that original post has been lost in Nourishing Obscurity's technical problems.