05 Dec The process of creating stunningly beautiful Oriental Carpets and Rugs
The creation of Oriental carpets and rugs dates back to a few centuries and is a well-entrenched tradition followed by the artisans and weavers in the Orient.
In ancient times, Oriental and Persian rugs were symbols of regality and signified royal status. The luxury intent attached to these rugs meant that only the elite and the rich could afford these status symbols. Oriental rugs were first made in the regions of the erstwhile Persia (modern Iran), Turkey, India, and the Caucasian countries.
With the growing demand for Oriental carpets in the Western World, the contours of trade changed significantly. Many Middle East countries started making these wonderful carpets, and soon it became a key source of income for the people here.
The Changing Carpet Making Scenario
While Oriental carpets are still created using the ancient traditional method of hand-knotting, the introduction of newer tools and technologies has brought about a major change in the art of making Oriental carpets in the modern world. These tools have infused more efficiency, precision, and speed in the carpet weaving process. Traditional knotting involves months of manual work where artisans, designers, and workers toil with an unwavering focus on the wooden looms.
The culture of the Middle East has undergone a sea-change because of globalization. Till a few decades ago, Oriental carpet and rug making was a form of art that people were proud of. However, it is apparent that the younger generation is less inclined to learn a craft that involves long years of dedication and learning. Mastering the craft of making the perfect Oriental rug can take many years of dedicated effort and practice, which does not attract and captivate the younger generation of the Middle East.
Women Are The Real Artisans
Research shows that a large number of Oriental rugs and carpets are still hand-knotted in private households. The job is done mostly by women and this could be one reason rugs are still relatively lower-priced even as it takes months of hard work to create an authentic Oriental carpet of average size. Researchers are of the opinion that as the weavers grow older and with the younger generation not enthusiastic to learn the art, the future of the art of making authentic Oriental carpet and rug does not look very encouraging.
The Processes/Steps Involved In Carpet Making
There are five to six key steps/processes involved in the making of an authentic, traditional hand-knotted Oriental carpet. Only natural materials are used to create these rugs. It may contain one material or a combination of two or three. Cotton, silk, and wool are used for creating Oriental rugs and carpets.
Next comes the coloring of the carpet. Again, the old school of carpet making sticks to natural colors made with the materials available in nature. However, the modern rugs making process involves using minerals and artificial colors.
The designing process still involves using good old paper and pencil. The ancient form of carpet making art was different as weavers were not literate mostly and created stunning knots purely from going deep back into memory lane. The knotting process also varies in terms of density and the type of knots. The final steps in the Oriental carpet-making process involve polishing and drying of the carpet before it can be made available to buyers.
As mentioned earlier, the materials used for making original Oriental rugs are sourced from nature. This ensures that the carpet is durable and has the capability to withstand normal wear and tear with greater resilience. The upper part of the carpet referred to as a pile in the industry is made of sheep wool. It contains some natural fat content which helps in protecting the carpet from dirt and grime. It also provides a high level of protection from moisture.
The most commonly used material in the making of hand-knotted Oriental rugs is sheep wool also known as school wool. The wool is procured from local herds. Despite modernization in the industry, in most carpet making processes, wool is hand-spun in the same way as it was done by artisans and workers in the past. To ensure that the best quality wool goes into the making of these carpets, wool from the neck area of the sheep is used. Known as cork wool, it stands apart because of the higher fat content and enhanced level of softness.
For making premium-quality fine rugs and carpets, silk is the chosen material for many reasons:
- It enhances the details of the carpet design
- Silk shines in the light to create a stunning effect on the carpet
- It gives the carpet a unique touch, look, and feel
To meet the demand of high-end customers for the finest quality rugs, silk is used for making the entire pile as well as the weft and warp. However, the durability of silk rug and carpets are lower than carpets made of sheep wool. They are not recommended for use in places where there are heavy footfalls or in rooms where dust and grime can penetrate easily.
Cotton threads are not generally used for making an entire carpet. They are generally used for creating the warp and weft portions of the carpet. The flat weaves seen in Kilim rugs are made of cotton. This material is the cheapest for making carpets and rugs when compared to wool and silk.
A Comparison Of Different Materials
It is easy to make out the differences in carpets made of silk and wool, even for an untrained eye or amateur reviewer.
- Silk imparts a natural brightness and rich look to the carpets
- Silk carpets reflect a larger portion of light than woolen rugs and carpets
- There is a visible difference in the vibrancy and feel of carpets made of silk and wool. Silk has a richer, premium look whereas wool carpets cannot achieve that regal appearance.
This is an important part of the Oriental carpet or rug-making process. For carpets made of wool, the material is spun before it is colored. The dyeing materials are procured from Mother Nature for carpets that are made using the traditional manner.
Dyeing the carpets using natural coloring materials is a time-consuming and complex process that involves multiple steps. In most cases, it can take about two weeks for the dyeing process to complete and for artisans to achieve the desired color and effect.
Natural dyes are preferred for coloring carpets as they create a unique and natural shine on wool that cannot be achieved using synthetic dyeing colors. Another key motivation for using natural dyes is that they are harmless and hence can be handled with relatively lesser caution and care. Also, carpets made using natural colors are extremely popular and in huge demand in the global marketplace.
Some of the chemicals used for dyeing in the modern carpet-making process are:
- Chrome dyes
- Synthetic paints
Synthetic paints provide nearly the same look and finish on carpets as natural paints. The gloss however does not have the same effect as that provided by natural colors. Besides, they also fade with time.
How Rugs and Carpets Get Its Color
Dyeing of Oriental carpets and rugs are carried out in huge containers. As rugs are knotted by the artisans at home, they are also dyed at the site. The spun yarn is dipped into vats filled with the desired color several times until the chosen intensity of the shade is achieved.
In some homemade rugs, the intensity is not uniform across the carpet in some cases. This happens because they run out of the batch of dyed wool and the next batch probably had a slightly different shade. It is not possible to achieve consistency in the color shade with natural dyes, and that’s why carpets and rugs of ancient times show a marked variation in color in some places.
Why Drying Is a Vital Step
After the dyeing procedure is completed, the next step is drying. The yarn is put out in the open to dry naturally. When it dries under the sun, the carpet gets a sheen of natural colors that’s hard to achieve with colors made using synthetic materials.
Drying carpets colored using synthetic materials can take several days, even if the coloring process is completed at a much faster pace. These carpets are either stretched out on a stone floor or tied on scaffolding to dry them out.
How Designs Find Their Way Into Oriental Carpets
The making or traditional rug began with the artisans using paper and pencil to give shape to their creative ideas. This practice continues to date. Nomadic carpets are rugs with simple designs are created by drawing designs from memory. The origin of the rug can therefore be judged by merely looking at its style and design.
Rugs are knotted using specific intensity to achieve the level of detailing of the design. Greater detailing can only be achieved with a higher knot density. There are Oriental carpets with knot densities as high as one million knots per square meter. These rugs obviously have very intricate designs, decorations, and patterns. The following patterns are generally seen in Oriental rugs and carpets with traditional designs.
- Stylized Patterns
- Figurative Patterns
- Geometric Patterns
Modern carpets and rugs have designs that make use of anything from abstract elements to nature designs and more. Many artisans and weavers combine traditional and contemporary designs to create stunning patterns on modern carpets.
Stylized patterns on Oriental carpets are defined by curved lines drawn in various forms. This type of design makes use of floral and plant motifs, but other types of motifs are also used. To create a curved line, and to ensure that they appear well-rounded, it is necessary to have a high knotting density. Else, the lines may appear as angular. Stylized patterns are synonymous with premium-quality rugs.
Figurative patterns involve the use of animals and humans in the designs. They are also used along with mythological and historical motifs in many cases. That’s why these carpets are also used at times as embroideries and wall hangings.
Geometric patterns are represented by straight as well as angular lines and include patterns in the form of geometric shapes such as rectangles, angles, and triangles. Circles are generally avoided as they end up looking angular most of the time. Geometric patterns involve comparatively lesser knotting density and are commonly seen in rugs made in the village and by nomads. Examples: Gabbeh, Shiraz or Hamadan, and Kilims rugs.
Oriental rugs and carpets with modern designs come with a series of motifs that are created by contemporary artists and designers. These carpets are knotted in the Middle East and may involve a fine combination of the traditional and the new. Carpets with modern designs stand apart by their soft colors and dense and detailed knotting. The pile is made of soft sheep wool giving these carpets a rich feel and soft touch.
Oriental Rugs – The Crafting Process
The knotting of rugs and carpets has evolved over centuries, but the basic tenets and traditions are still followed. Knotting techniques of rugs have developed differently across various regions. However, there are four distinct types of knots recognized by the industry.
- The symmetrical knot of the traditional Turkish carpets
- The asymmetrical knot from the Persian region
- The Jufti knot
- The Tibetan knot
The last two mentioned are not commonly used, and there are not many carpets and rugs in circulation with these types of knots.
All You Wanted To Know About Carpet Knotting
The carpet knotting jobs are done generally by the women of the household on their home loom. An experienced worker can create around 10,000 knots on a good working day. It is evident from this piece of data that a good quality handmade Oriental carpet takes months of strenuous effort and dedication to be completed.
A production time span of around 300 days is needed to weave a carpet of six square meters with 500,000 knots per square meter. However, the pricing of the carpet is generally cheap and not commensurate with the effort put in by the weavers and artisans in creating such an elaborate and intrinsic masterpiece.
What Do The Density of Knots Suggest?
The quality of oriental carpets and rugs is judged by the density of its knots in every square meter. It is also a reliable indicator of its excellence and resilience. A carpet with around 50,000 knots per square meter is regarded as basic and coarse. The finest carpets usually have a knot density of 1,000,000. It may take more than a year to complete such high-quality carpets. That’s why they have a premium tag in terms of pricing and categorization.
Oriental carpets with a high knot intensity and elaborate designs can only be crafted by highly skilled and experienced knotters and weavers. To detect the knots, the carpet is reversed and knots counted over a small area of one centimeter and then scaled up to measure the knotting over the entire length of the carpet. However, this is just an approximate count and not the actual number as the same knots may run up and sideways.
What Is The Difference Between Weaved And Knotted Carpets
There is a fundamental difference between weaving and knotting an Oriental carpet. The history of Oriental carpets and its research reveals that the early carpets were made using the weaving process. The knotting techniques came into existence later and were inspired by weaving.
The woven rugs and carpets are simpler in design and construction as there are limitations placed on the designing elements. Only straight lines and geometric patterns can be achieved through the weaving process. Elaborate and intrinsic patterns cannot be created by using this technique. Rugs and carpets created by weaving are lighter and also have a shorter shelf span.
No Carpet Making Is Complete Without These Final Steps
Once the carpet comes off the loom, there are a few more critical steps that must be completed before the carpet transforms into a work of art. So what are these steps?
Trimming And Polishing
To give the carpet a great look and a nice finishing touch, the excess wool must be removed from the pile to create an even look. The trimmer has to be moved back and forth several times over the carpet to achieve the desired height of the pile. This is a manual process but in the modern world, there are tools available to achieve the task faster.
The oriental carpets and the rugs-making process involves multiple stages, and at every stage, it can likely attract dust and pigment residues. Also, loose wool segments must be removed to create a clean look. This entails washing of the carpet.
However, it is not possible to use conventional washing and cleaning methods on a carpet because of the nature of its construction. Chemicals and detergents with a high percentage of surfactants cannot be used as it can damage the texture and form of the natural grease in the sheep wool. Expert cleaners use their native washing skills and expertise to achieve the desired cleaning effect. The quantity of water used for cleaning has to be judiciously balanced as one single mistake can destroy months and years of hard work and relentless effort.
The carpet has to be completely dried after the washing process is completed to make sure that the color pigments are stabilized and there is no damage to the shape of the carpet. Improper drying can also lead to the release of unpleasant odors, which is a highly undesirable thing. If the drying process is not managed by experts and not completed professionally, it can result in the rug losing its shine, color intensity, and even its symmetrical shape.
The Oriental carpet is put through several checks, and all defects and imperfections fixed before they are packed and shipped for sale.
What Makes Hand-Knotted Oriental Carpets Unique:
The 19th century saw the loom getting transformed dramatically, with more automation being introduced in various steps of the carpet making process in a serialized manner. With time, and with the introduction of newer tools and technologies, the production methods have become more optimized leading to faster output. In some instances, carpets of specific sizes, patterns, and designs can be churned out like products from a fast-moving assembly line.
How Can You Tell A Machine-Made Carpet From a Hand-Knotted One
However, a true connoisseur of authentic Oriental carpets will be able to identify a hand-knotted carpet from a machine-knotted one quickly. What do they look for?
- Machine-made carpets have fringes sewn on merely for adding to its decorative value
- Fringes in a hand-knotted carpet are the crucial end pieces that keep the knots together.
- Hand-knotted carpets have fringes of even quality
- Industrially manufactured carpets have patterns created using software with precision symmetry. Hand-knotters with all their skills and expertise will never be able to achieve this level of precision.
According to experts, the small slip-ups and the minor, nearly invisible imperfections give the hand-knotted Oriental carpets that distinct identity and makes them inimitable. In some instances, these very imperfections can be the cause for these carpets achieving a tremendous increase in value. Imperfections reflect the human effort, and that has no substitute.
Benefits of Buying Hand-Knotted Carpets:
Hand-knotted oriental carpets and rugs are created with a lot of effort, dedication, and care. There is attention to detail in every aspect and area of the carpet-making process. Durability is another huge advantage of investing in handmade carpets and rugs. Besides, you will be the proud owner of a piece of traditional craftsmanship that has a unique history attached to it.
Machine-made carpets are epitomes of perfection with not a single knot or thread out of place. But, they are not unique because unlike handcrafted rugs and carpets where every single piece has a distinct uniqueness. Also, they use artificial materials, chemicals, and synthetic dyes which make does not make them an ideal buy unless it is for display as a mere decorative piece.
The Best Place For Buying Oriental Carpets
Istanbul Rug is a trusted name in the Oriental rugs and carpets business and recommended by various global experts and connoisseurs of art as the right place to shop for authentic and high-quality Oriental rugs and carpets. The company has its headquarters in Berkeley in California. The products are elaborately showcased at their San Rafael showroom in CL. At this reputed carpet and rug shop, you can be sure of finding the finest quality rugs amid a collection that spans a wide range of categories including traditional and modern.