Archive for August, 2011

Persian Rugs, Oriental Rugs: What Does The Warp Tell You?

Oriental rugs and Persian carpets come in many different qualities. As for the quality of the pile, natural wool would be our best guess, in some cases with silk highlights, and still in rare cases for very fine rugs, of pure silk. But what about the material used in the foundation (warp and weft) of a rug? Here we are going to concentrate on different qualities of the warp, and how they affect the appearance and value of an area rug. Since each single knot is tied on a pair of adjacent warp threads, the quality of the warp plays a major role on the quality of the finished product. For handmade rugs, the warp can be either of the following: Wool, Cotton, or silk.

Persian Shiraz - Wool Warp

Persian Shiraz - Wool Warp

Wool Warp: Wool is mostly used as the warp in nomad rugs due to the fact that it is more easily available to “village” weavers. In a rug with wool warps, we will usually expect a geometric, less detailed pattern, and a less expensive piece. Wool is a relatively thick fiber causing the knots to get larger, and resulting in a coarser weave. In fact, the number of knots per square inch (KPSI) usually does not exceed 120 in these rugs. Wool tends to shrink more as opposed to cotton and silk. This is why a rug with wool warps develops bubbles and creases after a wash and needs to be stretched. These nomadic rugs can be very decorative, and are in great demand by Western markets. Some antique pieces in this category can be quite valuable.

Persian Sarouk - Cotton Warp

Persian Sarouk - Cotton Warp

Cotton Warp: Perhaps it would be safe to claim that over 90% of handmade rugs have a cotton warp. It is a relatively strong, inexpensive, and durable fiber. On most rugs with a cotton warp, we expect to see a more intricate pattern as opposed to a rug with wool warp due to the fact that cotton threads are much thinner than wool. The KPSI for rugs in this category can go as high as 400, and rugs belonging to this category are somewhat more expensive than those from the previous group. A major drawback to cotton is that it absorbs the dust particles and shows stains easier than other fibers resulting in dirty-looking fringes on rugs. However, the fact that cotton can be washed and cleaned with minimal effort compared to many other fibers is a relief. Cotton fringes can be washed at home using a mild solution of dish washing fluids and a soft brush. However, chemical fabric whiteners should be avoided as they can cause premature wear of cotton warps.

Pure Silk Persian Quom - Silk Warp

Pure Silk Persian Quom - Silk Warp

Silk Warp: Silk is used for the warp threads in “city” rugs and those produced in workshops. Despite the general belief, silk is much stronger than wool and cotton, but a bit more expensive. On rugs of this category, the pile normally shows silk highlights, or is pure silk, with a KPSI reaching as high as 1800 (hard to believe) just because it is much thinner than wool and cotton threads. Since a much more detailed pattern can be woven on silk foundation, rugs with a silk warp and a geometric pattern are very rare. Silk does not absorb dust as easily, and at the same time, is a little tricky to wash and clean. For the same pattern of rug woven on a silk foundation as opposed to a cotton foundation, you can expect to pay 30% to 50% more. However, a silk foundation does not automatically result in a better or higher quality rug, but we can not argue against the fact that a silk foundation is a matter of luxury and therefore more desirable by some people.

The quality of the warp can greatly affect the value of a rug. A certain pattern woven on a wool foundation will produce a larger rug as oppsed to the same pattern on a cotton foundation. Same holds true for a cotton foundation compared to a silk foundation. A higher KPSI means a more intricate pattern showing more detail, and usually a higher price tag. Knowing all this, if you are in the market for an area rug, the material used
as the foundation of a rug should not, by itself, have any significant impact on your decision.

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Oriental Rugs, Persian Carpets: Using them as a wall hanging

You have purchased the Oriental or Persian rug of your dream and you just think it is too nice, or perhaps too fine, to be laid on the floor and exposed to regular wear and tear. Maybe you just want to display it more effectively by hanging it on the wall. In fact, there are certain patterns that look much better on a wall than on a floor, such as designs of a vase with flowers in it, or motifs of animals, pictorial motifs, fine silk pieces, or any pattern that does not show points of symmetry. The latter are normally patterns that look right from one end, but every detail of the pattern would look upside down when you look at the rug from the opposite end (often called one-way designs). Whatever the case may be, you should know that a finer and lighter piece of rug would make a more suitable wall hanging. Not only it will appear more straight on the wall, a relatively light piece will exert less pressure on its foundation. Follwing is the safest way of hanging a rug on the wall, as far as we at Rug Firm can recommend:

Persian Pictorial Tabriz

Persian Pictorial Tabriz

Have a localbrug dealer that is capable of doing repair work on rugs sew a strip of strongbfabric or leather (about 2 inches wide and 4 inches long) at equal intervals ofbabout 10 inches  apart alongside the topbof the rug forming loops of equal size. This is of course done from thebbackside of the rug. Do it yourself if you are good at this type of work. Pass a circular wood (or metal) rod through the pocket, making sure that the rod is
at least a couple of inches longer than the width of the rug. Then attach the rod to the wall brackets that you have already inserted into the wall. Take your time and do your measurements very carefully. The equal intervals between the loops of about 10 inches can be reduced for heavier pieces. At the end, push the fringe on the top side of the hanging to the back of the rug and hide them there so they do not cover the rug itself.

Hanging a rug in this manner distributes the pressure over its foundation. Maintaining a distance between the rug and the wall not only looks good but also ensures that the rug is free to breathe. However, every six months or so, take the rug off the rod and lay it flat on the floor for a week before you hang it up again in order to help the fibers spring back into their original shape. Never use nails or screws to fix a rug into the wall, nor should you hang a rug from its fringe. These incorrect methods can cause serious damage to your rug. A good lighting will provide a beautiful exposure for the rug, but try to avoid direct sunlight as it can fade your rug over time. Remember this process is reversible, and you can take the fabric off easily should you decide to use your rug on the floor at a later time.

Hanging a rug, forming the loop

Hanging a rug, forming the loop

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Persian And Oriental Rugs: A True Investment?

For most potential Oriental or Persian rug buyers out there in the market, the process of buying a rug comes down to selecting an attractive piece that will cover the floor, give their room some color, go well with the décor in their home, be reasonably priced, while being durable enough that it will not need to be replaced every other year. This is understandable. However, for a minor group of consumers, the idea of purchasing a rug goes a bit farther. They expect to buy an Oriental or Persian rug, walk on it for many years, and end up selling it at a higher price. This is not very difficult to understand either. But there are a few points to keep in mind:

1- A handmade rug needs to get as old as about 100 years before it can be looked upon as “antique”. All natural fibers, such as wool and cotton, have a limited lifespan and will not last forever. The percentage of rugs that have been used on floors for such a long time, and are still in a good overall condition, is not very large. A rug may have been hung on a wall and seldom walked on, thus in perfect condition after 120 years. Such a piece is not necessarily going to be a valuable antique though. There are certain types of rugs that will qualify for the criteria of an antique piece, but the subject is beyond the scope of this article. Aging by itself does not necessarily give way to high prices in the rug industry.

2- For any handmade item, the most important factor determining the value as an antique piece, is the “condition”. An antique area rug with many repairs and worn spots is unlikely to fetch a high price no matter how unique the pattern and colors are. Not every single old piece of rug would necessarily fall into the category of “antique rugs”.

3- The value of any antique rug is set by collectors. Department stores do not offer antique pieces to compete in this market, and therefore, antique rugs are much dependent on the “demand” factor. Believe it or not, opinions about the real value of antique rugs highly differ among these collectors. There is an even higher level of disagreement regarding the origin of such pieces among the expert collectors, where the origin is the most influential aspect there is.

4- Over 90% of the cost for an Oriental rug is labor. With the global rise of living costs, it is reasonable to assume that rugs will appreciate in value. Historically, however, the currencies of rug-producing countries have been devalued in relation to the currencies of Western countries over time. This means that rugs keep being offered at lower prices in Western markets. This phenomenon keeps pushing the “appreciation” force down.

If you belong to the group of rug buyers concerned with the future value of your selected rug, rest assured that your rug will at least hold its original value, provided you take good care of it. Please understand that a normal human life will never see an antique rug unless an old
piece is purchased to begin with. However, you also need to understand that rare circumstances, political unrest, and currency fluctuations all come into play in the estimation of the potential future value of your beloved rug. As a piece of advice, make sure you invest your money on the right piece, if you are looking at the “investment” side of the coin. Hand knotted rugs could be perfect choices of investment, but they travel long distances and are subject to unfair and harsh political as well as global fluctuations.

Old Persian Tabriz Rug

Old Persian Tabriz Rug

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Persian Rugs, Oriental Rugs: Online Shopping

In the last few years, buying Persian and Oriental rugs on websites has steadily increased. In many cases, rugs that would not be available locally, are offered for sale online. Some of these websites make educational material readily available to users through blogs and articles, and are often very user friendly. However, most people are not easily convinced to submit their personal information, including their credit card number, to websites for the purchase of such “big ticket” items. If you are among this group, consider that you are just a phone call away from human communication.Learn about the seller and what they offer as far as their shipping and return policies are concerned. In most cases, seeing positive feedback and testimonials from satisfied customers on a website will help you feel more comfortable with your purchasing decision.

An Old Persian Tabriz Rug

An Old Persian Tabriz Rug

There have been rare instances when buyers claim that a rug they have purchased online shows a bit different colors from their computer monitors once they get it on their floor. Of course, the resolution and color settings on monitors are to be blamed, and a rug buyer needs to leave room for minor compromises for such variations. This is where a clear return policy by the online dealer can come to rescue. If in doubt about the colors in a rug, communication with your dealer will prove to be worth the phone call.

The issue of the size is much easier to deal with. One thing to consider and to think about before you make a final decision regarding the right size of the rug for your room is whether you want to use it as a focal point with no furniture on top of your rug (what many would call a center piece), or cover it partially with your furniture. If the floor is boring, you might want to cover as much of it as possible. On the other hand, if the floor is attractive, you may want more of it to be exposed around your rug.

Once you are happy with your choice of size and color combinations, the right type of rug needs to be selected. With so many different names and terms used in the handmade rug industry, most end users do not have enough information to make the right choice here. This is where you need to trust your dealer and seek help. Remember that “word of mouth” is the least expensive, and yet the most effective source of advertising for a dealer. An ethical retailer will go to great lengths to ensure that you are completely satisfied with your purchase. Your positive feedback is going to be a valuable asset to be used on the “testimonials” page.

Although a large number of consumers tend to avoid buying relatively expensive items on websites, the fact remains that the trend is toward online shopping. Retail spaces disappear to make room for warehouses used by online sellers. Higher overhead costs make it more and more
difficult for retail shops to compete with online entities. Take some time to learn about your online rug dealer, and the experience of purchasing a rug can prove to be rather enjoyable.

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Persian Rugs, Oriental Rugs: The Issue of Child Labor

The concept of illegal child labor within the handmade rug industry cannot be denied. Workshops with inadequate lighting and high levels of humidity often create unhealthy conditions for children. One common outcome in such workshops is the development of respiratory diseases from cotton and wool fibers inhaled by children. A study by United Nations in June 2004 indicates that children employed in any industry are likely to be transferred into another, more profitable industry as they grow older. Illegal child labor forces adult wages down while depriving kids of education, thereby passing down poverty from one generation to the next.

However, the concept is often misunderstood within the rug industry. It is estimated that illegal child labor takes place in only about 2% of the workforce. Attended by their parents, some children work at home on looms, often doing the work as a hobby. To correct the problem, major steps have been taken by governments, local and international institutes, as well as rug-makers. Recent legislation in Germany and the U.S. are among the strongest forces against child labor. Reputable rug producers provide workers with health insurance, create schools for children, and promote the overall welfare of their weavers, keeping children completely out of their workforce. The most recent trend in this direction is the formation of a non-profit organization called “Rugmark (also referred to as Goodweave)”. Rug producers that are willing to sign a contract with this organization guarantee that no illegal child labor will be utilized in their production. They also allow unannounced inspections of their workshops to be made by “Rugmark”, whose recent efforts have been concentrated to end child labor in Nepal. In return, these rug-makers receive a prestigious certificate from “Rugmark”. Rugs that show a lable of this organization are imported at slightly higher prices. This premium will then be spent to provide schooling and improve the overall quality of life within the rug-producing communities.

No Child Labor

No Child Labor

As a cooperative of 12 rug merchants, “Behbaf Co.” was established in Hamadan (Iran) about 16 years ago to improve the livelihood of rug weavers in the area. Not only “Behbaf” made sure kids stayed in school, but they also provided weavers with hand-spun wool, natural dyes, as well as innovative patterns. The end result was good quality rugs that sold for as much as six times their traditional “Herati” patterns, with the profits going back into their communities and making interest-free loans to weavers and their families.  Later, the organization was downsized to four merchants who decided they would monopolize the production if they could have their own patterns and colors woven exclusively for their
exports. Rug Firm has been a proud member of “Behbaf Co.” for 12 years.

Although the phenomenon is scattered around the world and seen in many countries, we can only hope that the efforts of organizations and individuals will one day remove it altogether from the face of the planet. It can safely be assumed that the benefits of a child-free labor force outweighs the initial investments needed now to fight it.

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Persian Rugs, Oriental Rugs: Pakistani Rugs

Pakistani rugs began to get more popular about 35 years ago by introduction of Bukhara pattern, inspired by Persian “Turkeman” designs, produced with soft wool and sharp colors of red and black (a blue so dark it almost looks black). In later production of Pakistani Bukhara rugs, many other colors, such as green, blue, and rose in different shades began to be used by weavers. People liked them specially because of their simple geometric patterns and a wool that looked and felt almost as silk, imported from New Zealand. Since they did not have too many colors in them, they were much easier to match with interiors compared to most other rugs. Today, Pakistan is considered as one of the major producers of Oriental rugs, and makes them in many different patterns and qualities.

Innovation in rug production: A New Pakistani Rug

Innovation in rug production: A New Pakistani Rug

For the past dozen of years, rugs woven in Pakistan have been produced exclusively for exportation. Almost all handmade rugs woven in this region have been made in concentrated workshops and factories, often supervised by experienced weavers. In these factories, and upon completion of the work, rugs will be graded, and weavers paid accordingly. As the embargo against Iran was imposed in the 80’s, Pakistan came up with a new line of production with a higher number of knots per square inch, using Persian designs, known as Pakpersian rugs. These were the only tightly-woven, Persian-looking rugs available in the U.S. market during the period of the embargo against Iranian goods. At the same time, the Afghanistan’s civil war, resulted in a large number of Afghan weavers settling behind their borders with Pakistan. These weavers were put to employment as a means of producing rugs specially ordered for the Western markets. A lot of these pieces were produced with handspun wool and natural dyes to become valuable antique pieces many years from now.

In the rug industry, like many others, production and trade are two completely separated branches. However, if one functions well, it will
help the other. With the emergence of new technology and selling techniques, the trade side of the industry seems to be moving along in the right direction. At the same time, reviving traditional methods of rug production by using hand-spun wool and natural dyes is resulting in creation of new pieces of Oriental rugs looking better than ever before. With so many small and large entities involved in the production of high quality rugs in Pakistan at this time, it would be reasonable to expect these rugs to contribute greatly to the future of the rug industry.

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