How Rugs are Made.
The Art of Rug Making: A Deep Dive into How Rugs are Made
The history of rug making is a rich tapestry that stretches across time, geography, and cultures. From the intricate handwork of skilled artisans to the efficient operation of modern manufacturing machines, the methods employed in rug creation are as diverse as the designs they produce. This article is your guide to the universe of rug making, presenting the most important aspects of this complex process in an easy-to-understand way.
Human Touch vs Mechanical Precision
Rugs represent a curious dichotomy: they are either the product of human hands or factory machines. Modern technology allows us to churn out rugs in a variety of designs, colours, and sizes at a rapid pace. However, these machine-made rugs differ in several key aspects from their handmade counterparts.
Machine-made rugs are generally more affordable but lack the longevity of handcrafted rugs. With machine-made rugs, you'll have a wide selection; the same design is often available in different sizes, colours, and from different manufacturers. They are manufactured on automated weaving looms where multiple yarn colours are stitched into a backing material, creating complex patterns.
Handmade rugs, on the other hand, are often unique masterpieces that incorporate imaginative use of colour. Even when following a general pattern, handmade rugs contain unique details and intricacies based on the creative input of the weaver. Handmade rugs are typically dyed with natural pigments that ensure colour longevity. They offer enduring value and are often passed down as cherished heirlooms.
Weave, Knot, and Dyes: The Foundations of Handmade Rugs
The magic of a handmade rug lies in its weave, knot, and dye – the three elements that tie any handmade rug together.
The weave refers to the technique used in rug creation. There are three main techniques used: pile weave, flat weave, and hand-tufted.
Pile Weave: The rug is woven by creating knots, tying a short piece of yarn around two neighbouring warp strands. A comb is then used to secure the knots and weft strands. Every knot is tied by hand, resulting in a density ranging from 25 to over 1000 knots per square inch.
Flat Weave: In this technique, no knots are used. The warp strands form the foundation, while the weft strands create the patterns. The result is a flat weave rug with a distinct, knot-free aesthetic.
Hand Tufted: A hand-tufted rug is created by pushing wool or acrylic yarn through a primary backing to form a “tuft”. A latex glue holds the tufts in place, and a secondary foundation, or “scrim”, is applied, which is then covered by a third and final cloth backing. Hand-tufted rugs are less time-consuming to produce than hand-knotted rugs, making them a cost-effective alternative.
The majority of handmade rugs are woven by tying knots on the warp strands. There are two main types of knots: asymmetrical and symmetrical.
Asymmetrical Knot (Persian or Senneh): Used in Iran, India, Turkey, Egypt, and China, this knot type creates a fine weave by wrapping yarn around one warp strand, then passing it under the neighbouring warp strand.
Symmetrical Knot (Turkish or Ghiordes): This knot, used in Turkey, the Caucasus, and Iran, involves passing yarn over two neighbouring warp strands to create a symmetrical design.
Knot density, or the number of knots per square inch, can be a marker of a rug's value. Higher knot densities often equate to higher-quality rugs, and thus, higher prices.
The process of changing the natural colour of materials such as wool, silk, and cotton is known as dyeing. There are two types of dyes: natural and synthetic.
Natural Dyes: Until the late 19th century, only natural dyes were used to colour weaving yarns. These include plant dyes, animal dyes, and mineral dyes. Today, natural dyes are still used in traditional dye-houses and villages with readily accessible natural resources.
Synthetic Dyes: With the rising demand for handmade rugs in the mid-19th century, synthetic dyes were developed, offering easy-to-use, less expensive dyes in a wider colour range. Modern synthetic chrome dyes retain their intensity despite exposure to light and water and come in an infinite variety of colours and shades.
Whether you choose a rug made from natural or synthetic dyes, you can be sure that it will only improve with time. Even rugs made with aniline dyes in the late 19th century are valuable today simply because of their age.
Understanding how rugs are made can turn you into a smarter shopper, enabling you to assess a rug’s value and stay within your budget. Flexible, colourful, and capable of transforming any space, area rugs are an investment that can be enjoyed for generations. Their creation, whether by hand or machine, is a fascinating process that combines artistry, craftsmanship, and technology.