A Brief Rug History Lesson and Creating an Oriental Rug

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A short history lesson about carpet

In the Middle East and Central Asia, the complex and strict art of weaving oriental carpets has been practiced and respected since ancient times. While these carpets are beautiful and interesting in their own right, they are also considered to be a reflection of some very practical issues in everyday life.

Many cultural historians believe that the art of the hand-woven pile carpet comes from nomads as a means of mimicking the texture and warmth of animal fur. But whatever factors contributed to its initial development, the art of tapestry soon played a central role in the aesthetic and historical features of the entire region.

However, relatively few carpets that last more than 500 years are known for larger historical projects. Many of the oldest are now exhibited in museums around the world. Still, it’s not uncommon to find carpets with a history of over 100 years that are still usable, and some are even worn today by the great-great-grandson of the original owner.

Regardless of the reason for making these beautiful hand-woven oriental rugs; for the sake of warmth, capturing stories or anchoring ancient cultural symbols, handmade oriental carpets have always been highly valued, traded and sought after through many generations. Interestingly, the techniques and tools for weaving carpets have remained the same over time, so even the recently woven handmade carpets can vividly evoke the personality and romance of legendary historical works.

Making oriental carpets

Making hand-woven carpets is a complex task that requires a variety of unique skills and techniques. It goes without saying that the process is labour-intensive and time-consuming.

First, the raw wool must be washed, carded and spun into yarn. Then dye the yarn carefully. The range and subtlety of yarn colours, and their interaction in a given design, are clearly crucial to the attractiveness and uniqueness of the finished carpet. With the actual weaving and execution of the selected pattern, the dyeing process has traditionally been entrusted only to the most skilled craftsmen.

From the beginning of carpet production to the relatively recent period, the only dyes available have come from animal and plant sources. While usually very active at first, some of these dyes will fade over time. In many cases, this effect will enhance the harmony of the color palette and the soft vintage quality of the carpet. However, some natural dyes can weaken the wool fibers, causing wear and uneven color intensity over time.

Beginning in the 19th century, chemical formulations began to replace natural dyes in commercial applications. Chemical dyes offer weavers a wide and infinitely variable palette, from the richest and deepest gemstone hues to the most delicate and subtle pastels. It is also important that chemical dyes are more resistant to fading and do not damage the fibers of the yarn.

Once the carpet yarn has been spun and dyed, the loom is ready for the weaving process. Historically, nomadic tribes used horizontal looms placed on the ground, or sometimes movable vertical looms. Today, most high-quality export carpets are woven on large “roller” looms. No matter what type of loom is used, the basic principles of carpet weaving are basically the same. The vertical warp threads are tied between the upper and lower beams of the loom and determine the length of the carpet. The horizontal wefts are woven between the alternating warp threads across the carpet and determine the width of the carpet.

In knotted oriental rugs, thin threads (wool) are tied to the warp to form a pattern or design. The weft threads are fixed and aligned in rows of knots. When the knots are later cut, they move away from the warp and weft backing, forming a velvety pile of finished products.

Types of oriental carpets

There are many structures that determine the type and characteristics of carpets. Flat weaving, needlepointing, hand knotting, hand tufting, hand crochet and machine manufacturing are just a few of the many categories.
Hand-knotted rugs are hand-knotted on the warp and weft backing with fine colored yarns and then cut into a pile. There are many true knot styles, including Persian knots and Turkish knots.

The flat-woven carpet is lint-free. Here, colored weft yarns are knitted through warp yarns to form patterns. There are many types of plain weave: Killims dhurries and soumak are just a few. Needlepoint is another type of plain weave, which is made by weaving colored yarn through a prefabricated mesh or mesh backing.

Aubussons and Savonneries are similar in appearance to needlepoints, but they are formed by weaving threads with a warp and weft structure. This technique is considered the most exquisite and precise form of flat weave carpet production. Today, Savonnerie and Aubusson are increasingly becoming the generic term for certain French carpet flower patterns in almost any structure. The word Sovonnerie means soap factory, which is reminiscent of the original function of the building where Louis XIII established the first Royal Carpet Weaver School. The king created this school not only because of his love for carpets and fine furniture, but also to encourage French manufacturing and economic growth. The name “Aubusson” refers to France, a province where the unique weaving style has developed.

The production methods of hand-tufted carpets and hand-crocheted carpets are about the same. A tufting gun, similar to an oversized sewing needle, is used to push and pull the yarn through the mesh; a pre-woven mesh base. For crocheted carpets, the yarn loops remain intact and form a typical “knotted” pile. With a tufted carpet, the top of the loop is cut off to expose the thread, making the pile softer and fluffier.
Woven carpets are woven on a power loom. There are many types of power looms, each with specific capabilities for the type of design.

Number of knots

The number of knots or threads is a measure of the density of knots that make up the carpet pile. In general, the higher the number of knots, the higher the quality of the carpet. However, this is not an absolute rule. There are other important factors that also affect the overall quality and aesthetic appeal of a particular carpet. These include the skills to perform a particular design, the balance and subtlety of the palette, the quality of the wool and various finishing details.

The thread counting method is mainly used for hand-woven oriental carpets in China. The number of threads or knots per linear foot determines the number of threads. The mass ranges from 50 to over 300 lines per linear foot.
Hand-woven carpets in India are described in a more complicated way. The carpet can be called 9/60 (9:60). 9 refers to the number of knots per 4.5 inch length. In fact, the 9/60 structure will produce 135 knots per square inch.

No matter how many you count, you can easily see the density of the carpet knots by looking at the back of the carpet. Each knot is shown as a square on the back of the carpet. Here the difference between 200 knots per square inch and 400 knots per square inch is usually obvious because the knots in a 200 knots per square inch carpet are much larger and therefore less dense.

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