THE ART OF RUG MAKING
Handmade rugs are traditionally crafted by interweaving natural materials, such as wool and silk, to create a unique and beautiful piece of art. To ensure its quality, no synthetic materials are ever used in the pile or foundation. Merino sheep wool often plays a major role in the construction of tribal rugs, a choice of material that produces a stunning result. The richness the wool provides can vary depending on where it is harvested, ensuring that each rug is one-of-a-kind.
It's essential to consider several characteristic traits when evaluating wool- the texture should be thick and even, it should have a nice curl, and the oiliness helps to keep the strands from breaking apart, allowing for a longer, more luxurious piece of wool.
Rug-making is not only an art but a practice of extraordinary skill and care. It involves selecting the finest wool for the highest quality rugs, and attentively shearing it from the head, neck, back, and underbelly of the sheep. The second best quality wool is sheared from the sheep's feet, arms, shoulders, and sides. These fleeces are then used to craft Persian rugs which are renowned for their exceptional quality and luxurious design. For the most opulent rugs, exquisite Persian weavers may even adorn the threads with highlights of pure gold. It is no wonder why so many cultures value such precious works of art.
A hand-knotted rug is composed of two sets of threads: the warps, which are the vertical threads running the length of the carpet, and the wefts, which are the horizontal threads that run across the carpet. In Persian, Turkish, and nomadic rugs, the threads that make up these foundation vines are spun from undyed wool, making them extremely reliable and immensely strong. The highest quality Iranian rugs are even made of silk. The number of warp threads used in a rug helps determine the accuracy of the weave and the fineness of the design. For instance, a quality Isfahan rug could have thirty to forty warp threads per inch, whereas an Afghani rug will only have about eight to twelve per inch.
To craft beautiful Persian rugs, the weaver needs a range of important tools. For instance, a knife and hook combo is used to tie knots tightly and create intricate designs. A steel comb is used to micro-manage the yarn and make the weave even tighter. Various kinds of instruments, like sabers and heavy nails, are used for packing the weft in areas like Kerman and Bidjar respectively. The Bidjarian weavers also master the wet loom technique, which involves wetting the warp, weft, and threads to make sure the rug has a delicate finish. By using this technique, rug makers can produce a rug that is incredibly dense and powerful. Once it is completed and dried, the wool and cotton fibers swell up and come together, forming a rug of remarkable strength. All of this shows just how hard weavers must work to craft their stunning pieces. Truly, their work is worthy of admiration.
At the ends of the rug, the weaver has the freedom to decide how they will form the fringes. They can decide to have them braided, knotted, or simply twisting them. It is the weaver who decides the type and length of fringe, and not necessarily the same for carpets of the same area, and it has no impact on the quality of the carpet.
Some of the most stunning and vivid hues can come from natural dyes, and not only are these colors pleasing to the eye, but their longevity tends to be much higher than chemical dyes. For example, indigo, a pigment created by fermenting indigo flowers, is responsible for all the expressions of blue. The solution has to ferment for a week before it takes on an amber hue, then when wool is soaked into it and set out to dry, it oxidizes and turns a deep sapphire blue. By blending dyes, a multitude of colors can be born - saffron paired with indigo creates an emerald green, and flowers, almonds, pear leaves, and buckhorn berries give off various shades of yellow. Madder, an ever-popular plant dye, is widely used in traditional rugs and produces a rich scarlet red. Lastly, black can be created by submerging already dyed brown wool in indigo, or from dye derived from Logwood trees that grow in Central America and the West Indies. Dyers have long understood the concept of depleted dyes and have used it to their advantage by creating unique, gentle shades of color. Those most commonly used include indigo, which creates a deep navy blue, madder for a dark rusty red, and larkspur for a softly muted gold. For truly unique shades of yellow, dyers might even turn to the expensive saffron flower. Through these vegetable dyes, even long ago, dyers could create beautiful and interesting hues. Knowing the lack of options when it comes to "vegetable-dye" materials, it's extremely impressive that dyers were able to quickly learn and master the skill of combining colors to create new hues. This technique is effectively used to produce green, which is an important color for those interested in weaving floral designs. To yield a green hue, the wool is first dyed blue and then additionally dyed yellow. Although the resulting color may appear uneven or varying in different areas, with echoes of both yellow and blue, this is merely due to the double-dyeing process. Through this ingenious method of overlapping dyes, dyers can craft a large palette of colors, despite the limited variety of materials.
The structure of a rug is of paramount importance; it is the foundation on which the pile is knotted. The warp, the vertical strands which run up and down a rug, must be sturdy and firmly in place. To ensure this, the wefts are placed between each warp strand. This provides structure and keeps the knots secure. Lastly, the fringe of the rug is the tied loose ends of the warp. Another layer of security is provided when the weft is passed through the warp before and after each row of knots. This compaction on the knots results in a cohesive, tight structure.
Knowing about the two factors that are important for discussing Persian rugs is key for any collector. KPSI, or knot density, refers to the number of knots per square inch and is determined by counting the number of knots in an inch down the warp and across the weft and multiplying them together. All Persian rugs are crafted by hand with knots being carefully tied to the warp strings. This unique approach to weaving is used in Iran, and across a variety of international cultures including India, Turkey, Egypt, and China. Tying the intricate asymmetrical knot requires a bit of finesse but by following the simple steps of looping yarn around one warp strand and then passing it under the neighboring warp strand and bringing it back to the surface, you can effortlessly create a wonderfully smooth and detailed weave. The symmetrical knot, commonly known around the world, is used frequently in Turkey, the Caucasus, and northern Iran, as well as in a few European rugs. To create this lovely knot, yarn is passed over two neighboring warp strands and then each end is wrapped behind one warp each, before being brought back up in the middle of the two warps. It is a complex process, one that truly displays the care and skill of the craftsman. The Jufti knot is a popular weaving technique found in the beautiful rugs of Khorasan, Iran. It is an elegant addition to the crafts of the region, with the capability of being symmetrical or asymmetrical depending on preference. The intricate knot is typically tied over four warps, allowing the weaving process to be speedy and efficient.
The Shaving and Washing-
After rug weaving, the pile may be long and uneven, often covering the pattern. To bring out the lovely design and artwork, the rug needs to be trimmed and brushed to the proper height and texture. This brings out the workmanship of the rug and helps secure the colors for many years. Washing the rug will also ensure that no color bleeds and it will be free of debris. If necessary, this process can always be done multiple times.
The amount of care and skill that went into crafting these magnificent handmade rugs is truly amazing, allowing us to appreciate their beauty and superior quality for many years ahead.