When Does Blue Run?

When Does Blue Run in a Persian or Oriental Rug?

When does blue run? No, it’s not some bad joke (unless you bought the rug). When we look at rugs, most blues are Indigo or Chrome, and blue run is rare. But when we see what appears to be dye run, what questions do we ask?

First of all, what is dye run? It is where unstable dyes become wet and spread to adjoining colors. Given enough weavers and enough rugs and enough years, almost anything is possible, but as a general rule, weavers use a contiguous mass of color with clearly designated divisions of color areas. In other words, weavers do not just randomely mix color; they weave various colors in a logical and recognizable pattern.

So recently I was asked to look at a rug with blue in a white area. This blue was random in area and saturation. It appeared to be dye run. That presents a problem in a rug I judged to be a 1920s Kerman. With this rug at that point in time, we expect Indigo and it should be stable. Now I was at a disadvantage because I was working from pictures. I expressed my concerns to the potential buyer. He reported back that on closer inspection the rug was painted to cover bare areas. This meant that someone used a felt tip marker filled with topically applied textile dye to a badly worn rug to make it more saleable.

When we see color that appears to be in the wrong area, such as blue or red in a white area, it should be a warning to us. It would be foolish to just assume that the weaver ran out of white and used the wool from blue sheep or that to add variety she decided to liven up the design a little. We must first take into consideration that:

    1. The rug has unstable dyes.


  1. The rug has been cosmeticaly enhanced (painted).

It is not difficult to spot dye run or paint. The only trick is to know when to look.