Many centuries ago, shepherds began knotting wool into heavy woven cloth. These heavy cloths were developed into carpets that provided protection from nature's elements. Whether the first rugs were made in the near East or Siberia is not clear. However, it is clear that over the centuries, rug making evolved from a craft to a fine art form. The patterns, vibrant colors and number of knots per square inch produced beautiful handmade carpets. The early artisans showed amazing skill and ingenuity in designing, dying and producing these prized rugs. Below is a brief description of the centuries old steps used to produce handmade persian and oriental carpets :
1. Turning Wool Into Yarn:
The process of making a wool rug begins when unprocessed wool arrives at the factory in large bales. The wool is then separated by hand to remove sticks and break up clumps. Next, the wool is fed into a machine that separates and pulls the wool into individual strands. The wool is then spun into yarn. The yarn spinning process occurs over many types of machines until the yarn becomes twisted and strong enough.
2. Yarn Washing:
Before the yarn is dyed, it is first cleaned. Wool often carries dust, grease which is removed by washing it thoroughly. Yarn is submerged into a detergent bath, and then wrung out several times before moving to the next phase of washing. The yarn is washed again in clean water to remove all remnants of detergent and it is then sun dried for two to three days.
3. Yarn Dyeing:
Dyes are created using a very precise combination of colors to produce the exact desired hue. Yarn is hung onto a large rack and submerged into the dye. The dye is heated to a near-boiling temperature for a predetermined amount of time. The amount of time is based on the color, the type of dye and darkness desired. Once dyed, the yarn is placed outside into the sunlight until it is completely dry.
1. Plotting the design: Before weaving begins, an artist draws the rug's full-scale design on special graph paper. Each square on the paper represents a knot of the rug.
2. Looming: Once the design is drafted, the rug is placed on a frame called a loom. Columns of thread (called warps) are stretched vertically on the loom. Warps are usually made of cotton, providing an ideal surface for a flat, straight rug. The weaver secures the warps by arranging horizontal rows called wefts (ordinarily made of cotton, wool, or silk).
3. Knotting: When hand knotting rugs, the weaver knots a continuous strand of yarn onto itself. After creating about ten wefts, the weaver is ready to start the bulk of the work. Using a piece of wool or silk, he or she takes one or two warps in the same row and ties a knot around them. The ends of the knot become the pile of the rug. (More knots per square inch result in a more defined, intricate pattern and enhanced durability.) The weaver works meticulously, knot by knot, until the pattern is complete. Hand-knotting is the most intricate, labor-intensive rug weaving process in use today. As a result, knotted rugs take much longer to create and are more expensive than other types of rugs.
Hand-knotted rugs are generally made in one of four knots:
Ghiordes Knot (also knows as the Turkish Knot or Symmetrical Knot)
Senneh Knot (also knows as the Persian Knot or Asymmetrical Knot)
Ghiordes Knots: To make a Turkish knot, the yarn is passed between two adjacent warps, brought back under one, wrapped around both forming a collar, then pulled through the center so that both ends emerge between the warps.
Senneh Knots: The Persian knot is used for finer rugs. The yarn is wrapped around only one warp, then passed behind the adjacent warp so that it divides the two ends of the yarn. The Persian knot may open on the left or the right, and rugs woven with this knot are generally more accurate and symmetrical.
Tibetan Knots: Like the name, this type of knot is used for carpets generally made in Tibet. A temporary rod which establishes the length of pile is put in front of the warp. A continuous yarn is looped around two warps and then once around the rod. When a row of loops is finished, then the loops are cut to construct the knots.
Jutfi Knots: The Jufti knot is used for less finer rugs. This knot can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical. The knot is usually tied over four warps making the weaving process faster.
Tufted rugs have a cut pile surface.
1. Preparation: The rug’s pattern is stenciled on the primary backing material. Once the design has been drawn, the rug’s cloth backing (usually cotton) is attached to a frame.
2. Tufting: The craftsman inserts tufts of wool, silk, or another type of yarn into the backing using a hand-held, single-needle tufting tool (often called a “gun”).
3. Secondary Backing: After the tufting is complete, the primary backing is covered with a latex material. A secondary backing is then attached to protect and anchor the stitches.
4. Shearing: The surface loop pile is sheared to produce a flat surface, creating a dense, plush pile. (For hooked rugs, the yarns are left uncut to retain their rounded appearance.)
5. Edging: Bindings may be attached to the edges of the rug to add strength and prevent unraveling.
Hand-hooked rugs have a looped (rounded) pile surface. In the hand-hooked process, a rug map, cartoon or talim is used to follow the design and color scheme of the rug. Typically, two weavers will work on one rug together and use a scaffolding system to raise and lower themselves along the entire length of the rug. The weavers use a tool to push the yarn back and forth through a rug backing. Hand-hooked rugs are generally less expensive and easier to make than hand-knotted rugs. Hooked (or tufted) rugs essentially undergo the same method of construction as hand-knotted rugs; the only difference between them is the pile used to form the surface of the rug. Tufted rugs have a cut pile surface and hooked rugs have a looped (rounded) pile surface. Often, rugs will combine both cut and loop techniques.
5. Rug Washing:
Again, the entire rug is washed to remove all remaining detergent, dirt and yarn particles. The rug is laid flat on the ground, and then fresh water is poured over it. The rug washers then use a wood plank, sharpened on one edge, to force the water through the rug pile. This removes impurities picked up during the creation process. The rug then lies in the sunlight until it is completely dry.
6. Rug Shaving & Leveling:
Sometimes shaving is done by hand and at others times a special machine is used to shave and level the rug across its entire width and length. This process also brings out the details of the weave and bold colors. Next, the design of the rug is defined using a steel spike to separate the pattern and colors. Lastly, the rug is rolled, packaged and shipped for sale.