Color in any Oriental carpet or Persian rug is perhaps its most important characteristic, coming to attention before any other aspect of these works of art. It is said among Oriental rug dealers that color is what sells a rug. Long ago, artisans in rug-producing countries learned to master chromatic mysteries lurking in the shrubs of their deserts, and the leaves of so many plants abundant in their surroundings. As a tree is known by its fruits, the dyer has place among his fellows by his hues. Each family of dyers has some peculiar and secret method of producing different shades. This subtle knowledge, however, has been carefully guarded against foreign participation.
Although silk is not the primary material used in the weaving of rugs, there are many pieces entirely made of pure silk where the number of knots per square inch is often very high due to the fact that silk is much thinner than wool and the silk knots tied on a silk foundation will be a lot smaller than wool knots. In many cases, silk is only used as “highlights” by skillful weavers making some flowers or parts of the design stand out. Just like wool, silk is a protein-based fiber and therefore more difficult to dye as opposed to cotton. First of all, silk has to get well saturated so it can absorb the dyestuff. The outer layer of silk fibers must be somehow cut open so the dye can reach the main body. There are sophisticated methods of achieving this task among professional dyers. Also, the temperature of the dyeing solution has to be maintained and never exceed a certain level in order to avoid shrinkage of the material. While stirring the solution occasionally, vinegar is added for extra luster and to promote level dyeing (even color). The solution needs to be kept at this temperature for a certain period of time, or else, the fabric will lose its shiny appearance very soon after the dyeing process is completed. Temperature has to be brought up to a full simmer while stirring the solution frequently. After the pot cools down completely, the fabric need to be laid flat to dry but not before it is given a thorough wash using mild detergents. Longer time, greater concentration of dyes, and higher temperatures are generally going to result in stronger colors.
Substantive dyes (known as direct dyes) get attached to the fiber without the help of another additive or chemical. Mordant dyes on the other hand, require a metal salt to prevent the color from washing out of the fiber. Even though the whole process of dyeing silk can be accomplished within a couple of hours, working with such a delicate fiber requires some experience. Different fibers absorb color very differently. Dyes do not come out the same color on silk fibers as they do on cotton, so it may take some experimentation to achieve the desired colors. Also for silk, mixed colors usually tend to shift one way or another. Maintenance of the temperature when dyeing silk is crucial as sudden changes in temperature can damage the fiber. Dyeing is indeed hard work, but rewards of creating wonderful shades are surely worth all this work.
Although Oriental carpets and Persian rugs are amazing works of art, finding the right place for them in your home could be a bit tricky. No matter where you plan to use your Oriental area rug or Persian carpet, pay attention to details of the area. For instance, is there enough of a clearance under the door if it opens over the rug? Or is the rug going to get walked on in a certain corner because it is in the path of the foot traffic? Or is the rug going to hinder air vents, cover electrical outlets, or be unreasonably exposed to direct sunlight if used in its desired placement? In most cases, careful planning will definitely help you avoid unpleasant surprises.
Smaller pieces can often be placed wherever they look their best or wherever they satisfy a specific purpose. However, finding the right place in a room for a larger rug, which will usually be the main floor covering, requires more planning. Larger pieces are used either in front of furniture, under a dining or a coffee table. Furniture can be placed around the rug giving it the looks of a centerpiece. In cases of even larger pieces, the rug can be placed either under the sofa’s front legs, or be entirely covered by your furniture. This is basically a matter of personal taste. When used under a dining table, the rug needs to be large enough so the chairs remain on it as you pull them out. As a general rule, if you are having a hard time to get the back legs of your chairs up and over the edge of the rug when sitting at the table, you know you will have to switch to a larger size. For dining tables with usual chair sizes, a rug that is about four to five feet wider and four to five feet longer than the table itself should be sufficient. If used under a coffee table, the rug should be placed so that the table will be centered between the long ends of the rug while you are still able to see enough of its colors and design. Coffee tables with a glass top will naturally have an advantage here.
In the past people would purchase a rug that would cover the entire room, but if you have beautiful tiles and hardwood flooring, you would most probably want to show some of the floor around the rug as well. As a general rule, you should allow at least ten inches of a hardwood or tile floor to be exposed around the edges of your rug. If possible, the rug needs to be placed in the center of the room with an equal distance from the wall to the sides and ends. Here, you will need to focus on the wall, and not on a closet or fireplace that may stick out into the room. For a smaller sitting area with a couple of chairs and a small table, any rug with a width of four to six feet and a length of six to eight feet would probably be good enough. In many cases, a round rug would be your best choice for such settings. The same set of rules explained above would apply here as well. Using an area rug in a kitchen can make a huge difference. However, due to frequent spillage of water and foodstuff, we do not recommend it unless you absolutely dislike the floor and can go with a less costly piece of rug for your space. With so many choices in different shapes and colors readily available to you, you can be sure to find the right rug with a bit of careful planning.
The principal types of Oriental and Persian rugs is not always very easy to determine. Hand-knotted rugs are woven in so many cities, districts, and villages with such minor differences that few rug dealers can accurately distinguish all fabrics available in the market today. Substitutions, continually practiced by suppliers, are made possible by the general lack of knowledge among purchasers. To some rugs, fancy names and terms are attached by dealers, perhaps only to refer to the quality, grade, or maybe only the pattern. For Persian rugs, the name always refers to the town or village in which they have been produced. A Persian Kashan rug has been woven in the city of Kashan. In many cases though, a rug would be called a Kashan even if it resembles the traditional design and colors of a Kashan but has been produced in the immediate neighborhood of Kashan. Often the names given to handmade rugs do not indicate the town or province where the fabric has been born, but rather, it refers to the region where the rug has been taken to for marketing purposes. In most cases, consumers do not need to be concerned about this fact, because it is safe to assume that every single rug-producing region in the world is naturally capable of weaving rugs in many different grades and qualities.
Lahore, as the main center of rug weaving in Pakistan, is known for its rich supplies of native wool. To a very large number of rugs being made by Afghan weavers who reside in refugee camps behind the borders of Pakistan no name can possibly be given. Also, during recent years some interesting village rugs of Pakistan have begun to appear in Western markets with no specific name or character of their origin. In manufacturing towns of Turkey, such as Ghiordes and Ushak, several grades of rugs are made, and each grade receives its special name as a guide to a knowledge of its quality. Due to Western influences, and perhaps to native ambition, some relatively large companies have recently been established, using old and well-known fabrics as the pattern in their production to which no specific name can be assigned. Although India is one of the largest producers of handmade rugs in the world, no classification can be given to their production since they are known to be copies of original products and are made in grades arranged merely upon a trade basis. Rug production began in India during late sixteenth century not because of tradition but for purposes of exportation, generating extra income for poor families who found it much easier to copy existing designs rather than going through the expensive and painstaking task of creating them from scratch.
It should be noted that recent advancements and developments in technology and ease of access to information have made the production of rugs so much easier in most parts of the world. A dealer can travel to Turkey and buy his wool there, have it shipped to Pakistan for natural dyeing, then send it to his factory in Nepal where he has several looms set up for the production of his rugs using patterns of traditional Persian carpets. As a result, the origin of hand-knotted rugs does not seem to be as important to end users as it once used to be.
Klims (also spelled Kilims) are the hard, double-faced floor coverings that lack a pile. They are generally made of wool but flat-woven, and are exported to many countries from different parts of the East. Klims possess a prominent place within the Persian and Oriental rug industry for their strong Oriental character. Recently, a large volume of Klims have been produced in parts of Turkey, Persia, as well as India and Pakistan, the majority of which are exported to Europe and North America. In so many respects, there are no Oriental rugs or Persian carpets which are more attractive than genuinely good Klims. In the right environment, a Klim can look a lot more attractive than the highest quality hand-knotted rugs with a KPSI exceeding 500. Since the earliest times, these works of art have been used as floor coverings, wall decorations, drapes, as well as bed covers. In many Klims the artistic geometric designs together with wonderful color combinations result in the most beautiful pieces of Oriental art. The hues are broad and in some degree crude. The yarn used in Klims is twisted so that it is harder and more linen-like than any wool fabric used in pile rugs, and where entirely different colors are brought close to one another, Klims make the most severe line of demarcation.
It is safe to assume that Klims present the more primitive, less complicated fashion of weaving by passing the weft threads around the warp displaying similar patterns as knotted rugs. In almost all types of Klims, the methods of weaving are much the same. The work is done with shuttles, on which the threads of weft are wound. By passing them the colors are carried in and out across the warp, making an even, corded surface, the “grain” of which is the warp itself. Sellers of rugs rarely have the knowledge to distinguish between the several varieties of Klims, and in fact, it may be difficult to do so, except in the case of Persian Senneh Klims which differ radically from all the rest. In everything except the difference of method they are exact reproductions of the Senneh piled rugs. As for fineness, they excel, by far, all other types of handmade Klims. Some Kurdish Klims are made in two or more sections and sewed together afterward. The discrepancy between the two sides, where parts of the pattern are supposed to unite at the seam, is greater or less, but rather adds to the interest in the fabric than detracts from it. Kurdish Klims are made allover Kurdistan, but those from the Persian side of the border are the finest.
Many seemingly intentional irregularities are often found in Klims. Where, for example, some figure is to be repeated several times in white, it may be woven in gray or some other color once or twice, or it may be woven once or twice in cotton, while all the rest are in wool. Also, unlike piled rugs, the border stripes are not the same all the way around the fabric. The rotation of colors is by no means regular either. There is just so much latitude for the exercise of individual innovations when it comes to genuine Klims. In fact, weavers have been given a lot more freedom in their work during recent years whereby producing very unique pieces. It seems the trend is toward more and more popularity of flat-woven Klims and it will be interesting to observe newer pieces that reach Western markets in the near future.
It has been said that Persian carpets and Oriental rugs are written pages. In their maze of design is a symbolic language, the key of which, in its endless transmission through the centuries, seems to have been lost. A rather deep and complicated symbolism pervades every denomination of these rugs no matter what type of ornamentation they employ. The general pattern forms an endless universe of animated beauty in every single piece. Every color used has its own significance, and the design, be it mythological or natural, geometric or floral, has its hidden meaning. Even the representation of men hunting wild beasts have their special indications. It would be interesting to note that irregularities in drawing or coloring, almost always apparent in any hand-knotted rug, are seldom accidental, the usual deliberate intention being to avert the evil eye and insure good luck.
In view of studying genuine fabrics of Eastern countries, we must consider ourselves misfortunate as time has left very few, if any, of the more common authentic examples of extremely old pieces of Persian and Oriental rugs. As a result, actual comparison of rugs entering the American market today, with those woven for everyday use hundreds of years ago, is practically out of question. However, some of the modern Persian rugs preserve features of the wonderful old carpets contained in existing collections around the world. It is then fair to presume that the more common varieties of these rugs cannot be much different from those of the older times. Perhaps, this will explain the reluctance of experts to assign a date, or point out a definite locality of manufacture to most of the superfine antique pieces of rugs.
The strongest form of Oriental art would definitely be pieces of handmade rugs woven by the native for his own use, necessarily free from Western influences. Not pressed by outside modifying influences, nomad rugs would be the best samples of this class. Far below the high-class Persians as exponents of artistic status, the products of the mountain districts and nomads outrank many of those in point of consistency, and are to be prized as truthful reflections of the native life and character. Perhaps less credit is to be accorded to the nomad weavers for having adhered stubbornly to their distinctive colors and patterns, since inhabiting the deserts and unpopulated regions, knowing no contact with society other than their own, they have met with no temptation to vary the character of their handicraft, or to stray into the fields of strange design in quest of some device better calculated to attract the attention of buyers. They are races which do not change from decade to decade. Therefore their product, being, at least until very recently, made for their own uses, and not to please the tastes of Western decorators and homeowners, has remained unaltered. The designs are, or at least were, tribal property, almost as unmistakable as a native accent. Consistency is as decisive a virtue in an Oriental rug as in human conduct, and the lesson to be read so plainly in some of these nomad rugs is one that may well be borne in mind in judging the merits of the finer varieties. The fact is, any really good fabric should stand the test of consistency, and so many of these gorgeous rugs do.
Heris rugs are woven in the villages of the slopes of mount Sabalan in the Northwestern province of Azerbaijan. Traditionally, some of the best of nomadic Persian rugs, in geometric patterns, have been made in this area. Some well-known rug producers of the region include villages of Ahar, Sarab, Gorevan, Mehravan, and Bakhshayesh, only to name a few. Rugs woven within the Heris region have always been under considerable influence of Western markets and therefore made accordingly. With the exception of antique pieces, Persian rugs of Heris group have cotton foundation of relatively heavy material with two shots of weft inserted between each row of knots. The region is sitting on a major deposit of copper which affects the quality of the water consumed by the sheep, thereby resulting in highest quality of the wool found on the face of planet. As Heris rugs began to be manufactured for commercial purposes, they naturally deteriorated in quality. A new title for the native products of Heris would have to be chosen and the neighboring village of Gorevan was the best candidate, although it had no strong status as a producer of rugs.
The carpets sold under the name of Gorevan were, at first, the traditional Heris products, closely following their patterns and color combinations. The center medallion, as well as the boundaries defining the corner spaces are more in rectilinears rather than formal curves. The corners are set off by jagged lines, somewhat like the arches of prayer rugs. The color scheme is more uniform, and the dyes are all of a peculiar tone which distinguishes the genuine Heris rugs at once from other types of Persian rugs. The color of the field, outside the central medallion, and enclosed by the serrated lines across the corners, is a rich red or a brilliant blue, which while bright is soft and of a specially pleasing quality. The corner areas are of a reddish brown, often with small motifs to break the space. The borders are in entire harmony with the rest of the design with patterns clearly defined. Gorevan rugs are generally made by female weavers who work only in their leisure. Having escaped from the control of the big contracting firms, individual weavers of Heris rugs lacked money to carry on their work. The fact that these high quality rugs have regained good standing in spite of all disadvantages is an encouraging sign of the survival of native ability. With gradual improvements, the name of Gorevan came to be applied exclusively to a new breed of rugs which aimed at perfection in weaving, solidity, and pronunciation. Heris rugs resumed their rightful place in the catalogue.
Encouraged by the success of the new Gorevans, the Heris weavers went a step further and took from Persian Tabriz rugs some designs which, while preserving the medallion forms, added floral elements in the field. These rugs were, in quality, almost if not quite as admirable as the high-class Gorevans. The general purpose of Serapi rugs was to make the whole piece light and bright, and to offer clear ground for the display of the elaborate vine and floral designs, drawn in a half impressionistic fashion and in colors strong but dull. All this light in the central part of the rug is balanced by generous use of similar values in the borders. The foundation is cotton and Turkish knots are tied in the highest possible quality of wool. The Serapi is in nearly all respects a praiseworthy and desirable piece of art. These rugs were named after the village of “Sarab”, and Western dealers and collectors have converted the Persian form into Serapi. Today, some antique pieces of Serapi rugs fetch unbelievably high prices at auction houses around the world.
Hand-knotted Persian carpets and Oriental area rugs are, without a doubt, wonderful works of art. Being produced by individual weavers with different skills and abilities, Oriental and Persian rugs come in so many different qualities. What makes an area rug a “good” piece of artwork includes the use of high quality material and dyes, an attractive pattern displaying harmony, and a professional finish to the ends and edges. The oldest piece of hand-woven rug in existence today, dating to 2500 years ago and found in Siberia, is believed to be a Persian rug. It is only then logical to assume that the best rugs belong to this group as well. However, with the new rugs made during the past couple of decades, showing so much innovation in design and colors while reviving the traditional methods of weaving, the story becomes completely different. Among Turkish, Persian, Egyptian, Chinese, Afghan, Indian, Tibetan, and Pakistani rugs available on the market today, which ones are considered “the best”? There are disagreements, of course. But the truth is that there simply is no “best” rug-producing country, and each makes so many varieties of rugs in so many different sizes, shapes, and qualities.
In Turkey, weaving goes back at least eight hundred years. Possession of talented weavers, together with an organized supervision of Western manufacturing firms have resulted in some top quality rugs emerging from this part of the world in recent years. Persian rugs have an enviable past and enjoyed monopolistic powers in a market with no real competitors for so many years. Many Persian weavers are the sixth generation of artists within their families. Above all other types of rugs, the best of Persian rugs
woven today, are most likely to become collector items in a hundred years from now. This region enjoys the availability of not only the best raw material for production of rugs, but also the most skilled weavers able to tie knots in a density of over seven hundred of them per square inch. The best rugs of Egypt are known as the world’s most decorative pieces. It should also been noted that the concentration of some of the most respected of all rug-makers on Egyptian rugs is perhaps the most influential element for their success.
In regards to Chinese rugs, nobody could beat them for value. At any rate, China has withdrawn from production of rugs on a commercial scale, and is now only weaving silk rugs with a very high KPSI (knots per square inch) and a single weft inserted between each row of knots. These rugs are often exported to Turkey and sold as silk Hereke. No rug expert will argue against the fact that some of the best weavers are Afghans known for their fine, authentic tribal rugs. However, Afghanistan has fallen behind in the rug industry due to its recent turmoil of foreign invasions and civil wars. We can only hope that peace and stability in the region will soon help them get back on their feet and beautiful tribal rugs of Afghan origin once again appear in retail rug stores around the globe. From the vast country of India, we will never be surprised to see so many productions in different qualities coming out. Here again, the supervision of some talented Western manufacturing companies has resulted in the production of magnificent pieces for the past thirty years, and we should expect to see more wonderful Indian rugs in the near future.
There seems to be no ending to the creative imagination of rug producers in Tibet. The woven fabrics made of native Tibetan wool are just so lovely and popular. New patterns and colors have helped Tibetan rugs gain so much fame among consumers, dealers, as well as rug collectors. Pakistani weavers, influenced by their skilled Afghan counterparts during the past couple of decades, are now capable of producing finer rugs than ever before. Perfect color combinations and wonderful patterns are being created in Pakistani rugs, helping them get noticed and recognized within the rug industry.
With today’s technological advances, the world is resembling a large village in which only the sky is the limit. The “best” rugs are made by talented artists who are willing to go the extra mile and produce extraordinary pieces without belonging to a certain region or culture.
When it comes to choices of colors in weaving Persian carpets and Oriental area rugs, just like in any other work of art, colors need to resemble words that shape a poem. The way color combinations appear to consumers may be the most important factor when choosing a rug for their home. Compromises to the size, shape, origin, and price of a hand-knotted rug may be much easier to be made than it is to compromise the colors. Traditionally, colors on these floor coverings were selected, perhaps intentionally, of sharper colors with lots of contrast because the rug was used to cover an otherwise cold floor, providing more comfort in a home. The rug did not need to match everything else in the house and only had to look good on the floor. However, the ever-changing tastes of consumers today demands more and more revised coordination between colors. During the last couple of decades, with Western rug dealers being more actively involved in all phases of production, Oriental and Persian carpets are manufactured following specific orders. Weavers have moved into concentrated workshops and are increasingly responsive to the demands of Western markets. Handmade rugs are being produced in shapes, sizes, and colors that have been unheard of only thirty or forty years ago. Decorative pieces coming into the market today consist of very few colors, mostly in lighter shades, making them much easier to match with modern homes. This is not to imply that there is no demand for traditional rugs, but it only indicates the ability of consumers to avoid compromises on colors of their choice when buying rugs.
Sharp colors express emotion and a high level of energy. When pure and bright colors are used next to each other on a hand-knotted rug, they will not fight against one another no matter how many of them are used. By placing bright and pure colors within areas of low intensity, grayer colors, designers achieve an attractive contrast. As areas of different colors on a rug are viewed side by side rather than far apart, color shifts are perceived at their highest level. Rug designers often arrive at a great deal of harmony by using colors that come close in value or intensity, but not both at the same time. Sometimes colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel are used next to each other. The result can be a magnificent complementary contrast. Some colors are considered as “warm” and some as “cool”, and when they are allowed to work together, a wonderful sense of movement emerges. A relatively large area of any specific color is capable of making a strong statement. A high level of movement and energy in handmade rugs can be displayed when many small areas of a specific color are surrounded by a large area containing colors of lower intensity. Small bits of color within this large, low intensity area appear much brighter than they actually are.
There are endless possibilities for color combinations. To achieve an attractive final product, designers of Persian carpets and Oriental rugs utilize their expertise in selecting the “right” colors for a rug, often collaborating with not only weavers but also expert dyers. The weaving of a rug is so labor-intensive that “surprises” need to be avoided at any cost. Any master weaver will testify that the designing phase of the rug production is where you should not try to save any resources on.
Named after the city of Sanandaj, the center of Kurdistan province and located in the mountains near the Turkish border, Persian rugs of Senneh have few equals as far as the fineness of their texture. They are of a peculiar character, not resembling any other floor covering, even those of Persia. Perhaps, they come closest to Tabriz rugs in quality, but they are completely different in design, texture, and color. The region is surrounded by rug-producing districts, each with its special type and style as different as possible from Senneh rugs, but from none of those do the Senneh weavers seem motivated enough to imitate. Small motifs in the field, principally the “pear” or the “fish” pattern, woven with unlimited fineness and with a skilful toning produced not by shading or grading, but by variations in colors create pieces that are regarded as the most unique handicrafts. The pear, and other small patterns, with the arrangement of stalks with which some of them are combined in the body of the rug, as well as the fine border instruments, are all ornamented by careful and artistic methods into a harmony which makes the whole fabric at once rich and calm as it is fine of texture. In most Senneh rugs, small patterns cover the entire field, but in many a diamond-shaped center medallion appears. This is usually covered with an equally large number of small figures, while the surrounding space, save the corners, is in solid colors or in some detailed design different from that of the center either in the character or the shades of colors, or both, just sufficiently to make the elements distinguishable. In any case, the harmony and evenness are strongly preserved.
The borders in Persian rugs of Senneh are divided into well-adjusted stripes, the middle one very wide in proportion to the others, and displaying a form of the “Herati” border designs with pale yellow and red predominating within the larger motifs. Here again, the focus is on keeping the overall soft effects of the fabric. The maximum size of the old Senneh rugs is about five by seven feet, but due to the constantly growing demands for larger pieces, they are now being made in other dimensions as well but less frequently in hall runners. Modern pieces of Senneh rugs are, generally speaking, inferior to the antique. The material is somewhat coarser and the colors not so soft, so permanent or so delicately blended though patterns stay as intricate as ever.
Through the general similarities of color combinations and patterns, Senneh rugs are sometimes confused with other types of Persian rugs, notably the “Farahans”, but they may be distinguished by the weave. As far as the number of knots per square inch (KPSI), Farahans normally do not exceed 160 whereas authentic pieces of Senneh rugs have far more than that. In fact they have no equal in this respect, except for some pieces of Tabriz, Sarouk, and Kerman rugs. The warp is of cotton and rarely of silk. Knots are so compacted that, in some pieces, a curling up of the fabric at the sides is not hard to notice. This, and a growing decline in the quality of the colors, are the main shortcomings in modern pieces of Persian rugs of Senneh. The pile in the best pieces of Senneh is more closely trimmed than any other type of hand-knotted rug in existence. Imitations of the Senneh, with minor variations and adjustments, are now included in the general manufacture of such well-known rug-makers as Tabriz.
The whole process of producing Persian and Oriental rugs consists of so many stages, each one of which is carried out by a specialist. Among all these tasks, dying the wool is perhaps one of the most difficult and sensitive as colors play a major role in determination of value (and of beauty) for these works of art. The best expression of a dyer’s skill is, without a doubt, found in different shades of red, a color so often used in hand-knotted rugs. In what apparently conflicting colors the yarns are dipped, to lay a foundation for the final shades of red, is a science in itself. Madder, the root of rubia tinctorum, ground and boiled, is a basis for a large number of the reds of Persian carpets and Oriental rugs. Its flowers, too, are soaked in water, and the liquid made from them fermented, to secure some extraordinary shades of this color. The red most common in Persian rugs is made by combining alum-water, grape juice and a decoction of madder, and drying the yarn in a sunlight of medium temperature. Many degrees of redness, from pale pink to strong and glowing crimson, can be made from madder alone, by different treatments, and in combination with other materials it plays a part in over half the hues which appear in Oriental and Persian carpets. One of the oldest dyes is sheep’s blood, from which, by a secret method, a rich and durable vermilion is achieved.
Another material for deep red is kermes, a variety of bacterium insects found upon oak trees around the Middle East. The normal color produced from it is a rich crimson. It is one of the oldest of natural dyes, but it has been replaced by the Mexican cochineal, which after the capture of Mexico, and the importation of its products into Spain and from there into the Orient, took its place as an Eastern dye. This is used for the strongest reds, as well as in combination with other materials to give quality to more subdued shades. It is sharper than the native kermes, but not as permanent, according to expert dyers. With the old vegetable mordant, it produces a comparatively fast dye. Also, in dilution with madder it provides scarlet, cherry and various degrees of pink. Rich pink shades are often obtained from the rochella or orchil, a lichen which grows on the rocks around the Eastern seas. Singular reds are also obtained from onion skins, ivy berries, beets and a vast number of other plants, of which only expert dyers know the secrets.
The great majority of blues contain indigo as the main basis, which for the hundreds of shades used is mixed with almost every other dyeing substance known in rug-producing countries. In Persia, dyeing with indigo is considered as high an art as is the science of reds in Turkey and Pakistan. The principal yellows are obtained from Persian berries, which although native to Asia Minor, attain a more noticeable yellow color in Persia, from turmeric, the extract of the East Indian root curcuma, and from saffron and sumac roots. The turmeric yellow is not by itself a completely fast color, but transmits a life to other shades when used in combination. It serves as a mordant for certain dyes, and owing to its instant change to brown, when brought into contact with any alkaline substance, is used in chemistry as a test for alkalis. Some yellow shades are produced also by combination of the wood dyes and saffron roots and flowers and a variety of ochra plants. Indigo, in combination with the yellows, furnishes most of the beautiful greens used by native dyers. With the buckthorn, or rhamnus, it produces the Chinese green, and with turmeric and the Persian berries, a wide range of intermediate greens, both bright and dull.
The deepest shades of brown are arrived at by dyeing with madder over indigo, and the deep Persian blue is obtained from applying indigo over pure madder. The darkest blacks, which are seldom used except for outlining patterns, and defining border stripes, are made chiefly from iron filings, with vinegar and skin of pomegranate and sometimes with the addition of Campeche wood. Gray shades are secured by the use of Smyrna gallnuts. The schedule of purples is one of the richest in the whole realm of Eastern dyes. The different red ingredients mentioned above are used in combination with indigo to create most beautiful shades of purple.
This article will justly indicate the honesty which dominates the traditional Oriental coloring. It can also suggest the great variety of materials employed , and the high level of skills required in the blending of substances. Vine leaves, mulberry leaves, laurel and angelica berries, artichokes, capers, ivy and myrtle – all things that grow within the reach of the dyer – have been tried to their fullest extend as possible color-makers and color-changers. Many of the vegetations are cultivated by the dyers on their own land, in the intervals of their momentous labor in weaving rugs.