Choosing Your Rug

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When considering the purchase of an Oriental rug there are few guidelines which help in making a wise choice. Since there are many factors that influence the value of a given rug, it is important to remember the steps of its manufacture. With this understanding, better choices can then be made, and possibly a costly mistake avoided.

As we have mentioned, oriental carpets are woven on looms. Obviously, the size of the carpet is dependent on the loom. Rigid looms, also called horizontal looms, are those used by most nomadic tribes. The rugs produced on these are limited to the height and width of the loom, usually no longer than seven feet. Adjustable looms, with rollers to accommodate the long warp threads on one end and finished section on the other, are adapted to much larger sizes. Generally, the rugs produced in the “factories” where many weavers work on one carpet, and where adjustable looms are used, are the only sources of room-sized carpets.

Natural dyes:
Oriental carpets are produced from yarn dyed with either natural or synthetic dyes. The natural dyes are made from plant and animal sources, which have been processed to produce the desired hues. Synthetic dyes are chemically manufactured and are available prepackaged, thereby saving months of preparation otherwise required.

Color range:
Generally, specific types of carpets are available in a limited range of colors or combinations of colors. This is not an absolute standard, however it is something to consider when purchasing a carpet. For example, if pastel tones are desired, the varieties of carpets available are limited to a few Persian and Chinese rugs and some Indian reproduction. Likewise if red tones are required, the choices is vast including almost every variety of Turkoman, Caucasian and Persian carpet.

Carpets have varying textures resulting from: the foundation threads (warp and woof), the knots (type and number per square inch), length of pile, and the type of wool used in manufacture. An excellent carpet need not have and extremely right weave, long or short pile, or finely spun threads. Each distinct type of carpet has its own characteristics that lend it its particular qualities. For example, kirman rugs have been traditionally associated with their soft, lustrous wool, whereas Hamadan carpets are produced from coarser fibers somewhat dull by comparison. These distinct features lend themselves to certain kinds of wear. It is important to consider this factor of wear before purchasing a carpet for a particular use. If the chosen carpet is to be used in a high traffic area, a hallway for instance, one of the more durable rugs would be best suited.

Design features:
Designs range from simple, geometric forms to extremely ornate floral and animal motifs. Historically, designs used in rugs manufacture were associated with either specific areas of production or with the tribe who produced the carpet. These motifs were, more or less, the trademark of a given rug type. Thus, with most old carpets and many of the ones still made today, one can identify the carpet through design and physical characteristics. We can only discuss the origin of the design in many modern machine made carpets but modern carpets are just as durable and rewarding as the old ones.

Overcast or salvaged sides:
rugs are finished on the sides and the ends. The sides are most commonly overcast with yarn or salvaged. Overcast sides are bound with yarn the full length of the rug. This protects the foundation threads from wear.  Salvaged sides are produced by weaving the warp and woof threads together on the outer edges of the carpet. End finishing include web (selvage),  fringe, and combination of the two.

Careful inspection:
Rug finishing should be inspected to make sure they are secure. If the end are wearing, or the side finishing is not secure, the carpet will eventually begin to unravel. Carpets used in entry halls and positioned under doors where they are constantly rubbed will tend to wear most readily on the edges and ends. This type of damage can be prevented by proper maintenance. If a rug begins to wear, have it repaired immediately. To prevent uneven wear, periodically rearrange the rug, and always keep a mat under it.

Wool quality:
the quality of wool contributes to the value and durability of a rug. It can be stiff or supple, fine or thick, but most of all it should be strong and resilient. Brittle wool, or moth damaged areas, can totally destroy a carpet’s value and eventually its usefulness. Because these problems are not always readily apparent, it is very helpful to inspect a carpet under a magnifying glass. Try pulling some of the fibers under magnification to test their resiliency, they should break readily. The spin of the wool can also be checked at the same time. Properly spun wool is strong and the individual threads that form the yarn should be securely bound together to withstand wear.

Knot forms:
there are primarily two basic knot forms used in Persian, Turkoman, Caucasian, Chinese and Indian carpets. The two most common knot forms are the Senneh or Persian knot and the Ghiordes to Turkish knot. To determine the type of knot used, one method is to separate the nap threads of the carpet. If the threads appear in pairs, most likely the Turkish knot has been used.

Knots per square inch:
knots per square inch is a term frequently used, often as a gauge to rug’s quality. The number of knots per square inch determines the density of wool, and the more wool, the more durable a carpet will be. Tightly woven carpets are generally speaking, the most durable and the most expensive;