History, Facts & Tips

Area Rug History

Area rugs have a rich history in the new and old worlds, but the oldest surviving knotted rug is the Pazyryk carpet found in the Altai Mountains of Southern Siberia. Dating to the 5th Century BCE (about 2500 years ago), the Pazyryk carpet was discovered by archaeologists in 1949 and is currently displayed in St. Petersburg, Russia at the Hermitage museum. The practice of hand-knotting rugs today continues in contemporary area rugs as well as more traditional styles.

Throughout history, area rugs and various construction techniques have spread throughout the world. Large-scale Persian and Oriental rugs have been widely produced and used in Asia and the Middle East for centuries, but were not commonly available to average European and American households before the onset of mass production. With the relatively recent production of man-made carpets and area rugs using synthetic and natural materials, floor coverings are available to fit any budget.

Handmade Rug Facts

Hand-knotted rugs are often judged by the number of knots per square inch. On average weavers tie between 5000 to 6000 knots per day. More detailed designs typically have a fine weave, i.e. a greater quantity of smaller knots. Very fine weave is 180 or more knots per square inch, fine ranges from 90-180, medium is between 40-90 and less than 40 knots represents a coarse weave.

Weavers require a full-size chart on graph paper, called a cartoon, to assess the rug design. The design is a reference map of yarn type and color, where one graph square equals one knot.

Looms are strung in two directions. The warp is the base of the rug and is strung vertically. The weft yarns are woven, knotted, or tufted horizontally through the warp creating the pile.

Asian rug weavers typically come from families that have been weaving for generations and are usually males in their mid-twenties.

Area Rug Dyes

Natural dyes are produced from plant sources such as ochre, indigo and madder. Historical animal sources include cochineal and shellfish. Natural dyes vary widely by nature, and can be inconsistent if one rug is created from multiple batches. Natural dyes fade easily in sunlight.

Chrome dyes are modern synthetic dyes used to manufacture rugs today. They produce a wider range of color and are more colorfast. These dyes are blended with potassium bicarbonate to dye wool, which helps resist fading.

Area Rug Tips

  • Silk is a natural fiber that looks beautiful, produces a fine hand, and possesses a vibrant sheen but is difficult to clean. Consider a faux silk fiber such as rayon blended with wool to achieve the same effect.
  • Choose an area rug that fits the space. Consider the amount of traffic and use a space receives in addition to the shape, size and color of the area rug.
  • If the area rug has a fringe, make sure it is well constructed and use care when vacuuming around the rug edge.
  • Do not use the vacuum beater brush when cleaning hand-knotted, looped, or tufted area rugs.
  • Area rug underlays can be used on bare surfaces and carpet to help secure the area rug and absorb impact.

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