Archive for January, 2011

What Makes an Oriental Rug Defective?

When is an Oriental rug or a Persian carpet considered to be defective? An entire book can be written on the subject, and since we are talking about handmade rugs, most people do not expect them to be flawless. Some even believe that weavers make minor mistakes intentionally to stress the fact that only God can be without imperfections.  Although there is no set of rules indicating a flaw in an area rug, some general considerations will be briefly mentioned here.

Overall Frame: A hand knotted rug is expected to be as straight as humanely possible in all 4 sides. It is also expected from a rug to have borders of relatively the same width. The pattern of the border needs to correspond to that of the field; in other words, the middle point of the border pattern should be parallel to the middle point of the pattern of the field. This is not always true in nomadic rugs with geometric designs.

Symmetrical Points: Except in some rare patterns, handmade rugs use highly symmetrical patterns. It is logical to expect that such rules of symmetry have been followed by the weaver. Minor differences, for example in the exact size of two symmetrical flowers, or the angle of a geometric line, are easier to ignore if the rug has 100 knots per square inch. Of course, when it comes to a piece with 400 knots per square inch, such imperfections become harder to overlook

Persian Mashad Rug

Abrash: The term “abrash” refers to different shades of the same color in a rug, and usually affects only the field but can sometimes extend to the colors of the border as well. Due to limited resources in villages, the wool is usually dyed in small batches, and the amount of different dyes is measured by hand. As a result, it is possible that when the weaver runs out of wool and needs additional material, the new wool will be slightly lighter or darker. This is not at all considered as a flaw in the rug. However, for a high quality rug with chemical dyes and produced professionally, very large amounts of wool can be dyed at one time, and such an “abrash” will be a minus point for the rug.

Repairs: If a rug has been repaired, no matter how professionally, then it is not a piece in perfect condition. Here again, it is understandable that an antique piece will have a few spots of low pile or minor repairs. However, such problems in a relatively new rug will adversely affect the value. Repairing a handmade rug is an art by itself, and if the original work can be imitated closely, the result will be an expert repair job, thus affecting the value in a much less degree.

Inconsistent Weave: You should remember that most hand knotted rugs are produced in villages and in the private home of the weavers, who may become ill, take on a temporary job at a farm, take time off to attend to kids, or many other reasons. In such cases, another member of the family or a relative is likely to take over the task of weaving. The result, almost always, is inconsistencies in the weave which will be easy to spot by looking at the back side of the rug. Again, higher quality rugs should not show such irregularities.

Persian and Oriental Rugs

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Oriental Rugs, Persian Carpets: Tips to Help You Select One

We all know how difficult it is for consumers to select an area rug for their home. This is not a purchasing decision they make every day, and therefore do not feel comfortable with it. Not having any knowledge as to the specific characteristics of a high vs. poor quality, as well as the required care and maintenance for these works of art, they often postpone their decisions or even abandon it altogether. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are some tips that may help you make a decision:

1- Decide on the right size and color combination as the first step in this process.  With so many beautiful floor coverings of hardwood, tile, laminate, and so many others out there, you may want to use an area rug as a centerpiece rather than coverage for the whole floor. There is no set of rules indicating that some certain percentage of the floor must always be covered by a rug. Keep in mind that the measurement of a rug, sometimes displayed on a price tag, normally does not include the fringe. So add a few inches from either side if you are trying to picture a certain size on your floor.  As for the pattern and color combination, choose what you like. You will be living with your rug for a long time, so be patient when selecting the one that best meets your taste.

Persian and Oriental Rugs

2- A handmade Rug made of natural wool is definitely more desirable compared to one made by machines and often using synthetic fibers in the pile. It has been proven that these fibers can be harmful to people exposed to them. You may have to increase your budget for such a rug, but look at it as an investment of a life-time, and not as gambling. Natural wool of Persian and Oriental rugs is a much better choice compared to artificial fibers of machine-made rugs. Why go with cheap imitations when the original is readily available? Although it is unlikely that a salesperson will sell you a work of reproduction or a machine-made rug as an authentic Persian or Oriental rug, always ask for a full description of the rug on your invoice.

3- If you happen to be travelling abroad and decide to buy yourself an area rug, make sure the merchant provides you with the proper documents, stating the USD value for the rug clearly as getting your rug through the customs can prove to be difficult and take a lot of time. Of course it all depends on the declared value by you. If buying locally, make sure you learn about the dealer’s return policy. An area rug can look very different once you get it on your floor in your own environment. Make sure you have the option of returning the rug if it did not work for you or for any other reason. Remember; do not settle for in-store credit. You may not be able to find anything that you really like.

4- The number of knots per square inch (KPSI) is definitely a factor in deciding the value of any handmade rug. But what is it worth to you if you get the highest KPSI in a rug on your floor, but you still cannot make yourself like it? Try not to pay too much attention to KPSI. Concentrate instead on the proper size and color combination best for your space.

5- The Use of padding underneath your rug is a good idea as it will keep it in place, preventing unwanted movement and wrinkles and, as a result, protecting your rug. However, a more important protective measure would be to keep your rug as clean as possible. Dust particles act as sharp razors once they get into the body of your rug, cutting the fibers of the pile as you step on it. Vacuum clean your rug as often as you wish, at least once a week. It will not harm your rug, only be careful not to get the fringe stuck in the cleaner as it can damage the rug. Have your rug washed professionally every few years. Do not attempt to wash it at home.

Purchasing an Oriental or a Persian rug is a time-consuming process and requires some patience. Do not forget that you will be living with your rug for many years to come. Take your time and select something in which you feel you will see something new every time you look at it.

Authentic Persian and Oriental Rugs

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Is it Ethically Wrong to Buy Handmade Rugs?

Some time ago, I happened to meet a lady in a gathering of some friends. She is in her late sixties, and seems to be very well-educated. We are introduced by mutual friends and start a casual dialogue. She finds that I am in Oriental rugs business, and the conversation is somehow pushed toward this subject. She tells me how fond she is of these pieces of art and loves to have a few rugs of her own. “But I can never convince myself to buy one” she tells me. Why is that? I ask her because I am just curious to know.

She goes on to explain that she just knows it would be ethically wrong. We are losing our dear soldiers in wars against terrorism and against countries where Al Qaeda has its base. Anybody purchasing a rug that has been woven in those countries is, directly or indirectly, supporting terrorism. Of course, people are entitled to an opinion. But is it really that simple to make such a connection and come to such unfair conclusions?

She felt so strongly about this issue that I decided not to pursue it any further. It was a friendly and casual gathering after all, and I was not invited there to start arguments with other guests. At any rate, ever since, I have been eager to express my thoughts on the topic. This is my business, my passion, and my hobby, and I too, feel strongly about the subject.

Old Persian Tabriz rug in Perfect Condition

I have been on many “buying trips” since I was very young. The majority of handmade rugs are made in remote villages of Iran, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and Turkey. In many villages, weaving rugs is all people do. They know of nothing else, and they can produce nothing else. Weaving has been their job, and their only means of income for generations. These are people limited to a very simple lifestyle, and the most they know about politics and international relations, is that there may be other cities and villages on the face of the planet where rug weaving is not the only job available to their citizens. There are other choices. They are in no way involved with what goes on with the games of international politics.

Once on a buying trip in Tabriz, located in northwestern region of Iran, my agent suggests that we visit a neighborhood which mainly consists of rug weavers after looking for rugs in the great Bazaar of Tabriz for two full days. We end up in a small house where the weaver has just finished a 7 X 10 Tabriz rug. This is a small family with a nine year old boy and a twelve year old girl. They were all so proud of their rug, and I admit it was a gorgeous piece with a very high number of knots per square inch, a beautiful pattern, and amazing harmony of colors. We agree on a price and end up buying it. As we approach the little gate to get into our car, I notice the little boy running after us with a healthy-looking chicken under his arms talking to us with tears in his eyes. The rest of the family never left their room, which was somewhat strange. He is speaking Turkish which I do not understand. I look at my agent for an explanation and he motions towards the car. Once we are in the car and a couple of miles away, I ask him about the incidence. The little boy was saying that his chicken had laid fresh eggs just this morning, and he would ask his mother to cook us dinner with those eggs if we could leave “his rug” behind. I felt numb for a few minutes. How could some kid get so attached to a rug is beyond the understanding of most of us. They have a single room with a loom in it. Kids do their homework around it; they play around it, they watch mom and dad work on it, they eat their food around it, and sleep around it. It becomes the centerpiece of their home just as a TV set is to our modern life. They get attached to the rug, and it gets very hard to part with it. Now I know why nobody, except for the little boy, left the room.

Weaving these works of art has nothing to do with politics or terrorist movements. There is a lot of “love” involved with these pieces, and politics is the main contrast to “love”. What you support when you purchase a rug is the livelihood of village families, and not Al Qaeda. It is completely ethical to buy a Persian or Oriental rug for your home.  It is!

Handmade Area Rugs

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Washing Your Area Rugs at Home Saves You Money

Can you really wash your Persian rug or Oriental rug at home? I have recently come across a few articles that claim area rug owners will save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars washing their rugs by themselves rather than having their valuable wool rugs washed professionally. Well I admit that it is not very cheap to have a large rug cleaned professionally, but let’s take a quick look at what is involved in this process in more detail. Then you can decide whether or not it is wise to push your rug into the bathtub.

A professional cleaner will first get the dust out of your rug using special devices. This cannot be achieved by household vacuum cleaners. Dust particles are very stubborn to leave their nest from inside the body of a rug. They are also as sharp as a brand new razor. As you step on a dirty rug, these particles will cut the fiber, resulting in premature spots of worn pile. Have you ever seen a rug that is only 15 years old and already shows worn spots here and there? Keep in mind that this is probably the most important aspect of the washing process. If dust particles remain in the body of the rug, the result is going to be a collection of mud inside the pile when water is added to it. As the rug dries out, so does the mud inside it. This leads to a very fragile foundation, and can damage the rug as you step on it. A rug in such a condition will not fold easily, and if pressure is applied to force the folding, the warp and weft are going to break.

Washing an Oriental Rug

Washing an Oriental Rug

A mild solution is then added to the surface in order to prevent colors from running. The exact mixture of such solutions with water, and the amount of time such a solution is allowed to remain in a rug require some expert judgments and depends on the quality of the rug, its main color of the field, and many other factors. Pouring water onto the surface of a rug at home will result in colors bleeding, especially in rugs that do not have naturally dyed wool. As a result, you will see traces of red or navy blue in spots of cream or lighter colors. At a washing facility, the rug will then be washed by regular detergents and rinsed with a high quantity of water. The excess water is removed from the rug, usually by means of simple centrifuge machines. The final step is to lay the rug flat and let it get some air to dry up. If weather conditions don’t allow the natural drying, then heating devices will have to be used, but they usually result in traces of a yellow shade on the surface. So natural drying is the best choice for handmade rugs.

Like anything else in your home, an Oriental or a Persian rug needs some maintenance from time to time. Although natural fibers of wool rugs are soil-resistant, but at the same time, they have a tendency to absorb dust. Perhaps the easiest way to protect your area rug is to avoid accumulation of dust in its pile. It is safe to vacuum clean your rug as often as you wish. In fact, it is recommended that you use a vacuum cleaner on your rug at least once a week. The only precaution here is that you should be careful not to get the fringe of the rug stuck in the suction of the cleaner. This can damage the fringe and sometimes very costly to repair. Also, it would be a good idea to vacuum the back side of your rug twice a year. This would also be a good time to rotate your rug so it receives even amounts of traffic. Considering all the warmth and beauty that an area rug will bring to your room, all this work is well worth it. What if you had a bare floor not covered with a work of art? Would it not require regular maintenance and cleaning?

Generally, Oriental rugs, Persian rugs, and hand knotted rugs of any quality can be washed at home. The question is: “Should they?” I have seen many of them washed at home and totally destroyed. Bear in mind that these area rugs do not need to be washed too often either. Like any other fabric, unnecessary washing will shorten their lifespan. As a test, rub your hand on the pile with strong back and forth motions for 10-15 seconds and if your hand gets dirty, it is time to have it washed. Professionally.

Care and Maintenance of Persian and Oriental Rugs

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