Archive for May, 2012

Oriental Rugs: Caucasian “Kazak” Rugs

Antique Caucasian Rug

Antique Caucasian Rug

Out of the tribes stationed along the Southeastern border of Russia to protect it from the attacks of Caucasians, a number settled permanently in Circassia, and a few crossed the mountains to the high plateau lying between Lake Gotcha and Mt. Ararat. Here they adopted a more inactive life style, but there still remains the inherited spirit that generations ago won for them the name “Kazaks”, which denotes to the Tartars, from whom many have doubtless sprung, a Marauder. All of these tribes weave, but the rugs seen in this country come principally from the Southern district, where may also be found the fabrics of other races such as Armenians, Tartars, and the native people. Nevertheless, the Kazak weaving is of a most distinct type, displaying bold geometric patterns in primary, simple color combinations. They have bright, rich colors, of which a liberal amount of green is almost constantly present, though meagerly used in other Caucasian rugs. They have, in fact, the most nomadic, unconventional patterns of all this Northern group, and in their barbaric characteristics, they bear much the same relation to other Caucasian rugs as those of Western Kurdish tribes bear to Persian pieces of woven fabrics.

Among all types of Oriental rugs, the Kazaks show a tribal fondness for large patterns. Often the field is divided into three horizontal panels, which may be entirely plain except for a simple design fringing the edges, or as is more frequently the case, it may be occupied by large, somewhat unusually long octagons, within which are displayed smaller figures. Occupying almost the entire field of some other pieces are large patterns like medallions, perfectly balanced with reference to the center and subdivided into small sections, each of which contains individual motives. A few of this class have the “sun-burst” pattern, more characteristic of pieces made in other regions. At least half the pieces now seen are without any formal pattern, but contain a heterogeneous lot of geometric designs characteristic of nomadic weaving, but even these are generally arranged with the idea of symmetrical balance.

Pakistani Reproduction Of Kazak Design

Pakistani Reproduction Of Kazak Design

Unfortunately, during recent years, many inferior rugs of other tribes have been sold as “Kazaks”, which in a measure they often resemble though they lack their spirit and character. The very modern Kazaks are often of poor quality, but those made two generations or more ago were carefully woven and built heavily, with silky wool dyed with the best of vegetable colors. There is always something interestingly barbaric in their long and shaggy nap, their masses of rich red and green, their bold designs surrounded by smaller nomadic figures, all of which collectively find no counterpart in any other Caucasian rugs.

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Persian Rugs, Oriental Rugs: The Herati Pattern

One of the most common designs in Oriental and Persian rugs, the “Herati” pattern consists of a flower centered in a diamond-like motif surrounded by curving leaves outside the diamond and parallel to each side. The leaves often look somewhat similar to a fish, so this design can also be referred to as “Fish Pattern”. The Herati pattern is most common in Persian rugs and has been woven in or around areas such as Tabriz, Kerman, Bijar, Senneh, Hosseinabad, Hamadan, Birjand, and Sarouk, just to name a few. There are many versions of the Herati design in different sizes and shapes, sometimes not in appropriate proportions to the rug itself.

Old Persian Tabriz With A "Herati" Design

Old Persian Tabriz With A "Herati" Design

Situated in Northwestern Afghanistan, and within the great lines of travel between Persia, Turkestan, and India, the city of “Herat” occupied a very important commercial position  for centuries and its people long since became so much familiar with the best fabrics of the surrounding countries. “Herat” developed an important influence on the art and culture of Western Asia as it reached its greatest prosperity during the 15th century. The capture of the city by Nader Shah in 1731 resulted in removal of of many rug weavers to Persia. However, up until that time, some of the best Persian carpets and Oriental rugs were being produced on the looms of “Herat”, surpassing the standards of delicate drawing and perfect harmony of colors. The fields contained patterns of serrated leaves entwined with flowing scrolls, often noticeable for patterns of palmettes and such flowers as the lotus and peony which were often most realistically drawn. These carpets contained in field and border the design that appears in many of the later Persian rugs as the Herati pattern, though with minor modifications.

Modern Herati rugs share no character with other Afghan rugs, just like antique pieces which show a close resemblance to Herati patterns of Persian rugs and not to Afghan rugs. Although falling far short of the high standards of the time when Herat was part of Persia, weavers of this region are still attentive to the early traditions of weaving. Having been made across the border around the city of Mashad, many of these rugs have the silky appearance peculiar to the rugs of Persian Khorassan. However, their tones of color, mainly consisting of red and blue in the field with yellow, light green, and ivory in the border, as well as most of the patterns remain distinct. In one type the fields are covered with pear designs, but their bent narrow ends always turn in the same direction, while those of other rugs turn in different directions in alternate rows. In another type fields are covered with an allover Herati or “Fish” pattern with borders following the traditional Herati design, also known as “Tosbagheh”. Seeing a large central medallion of red or blue, separated from the triangular portion of the corners by a field of lighter color would also be common in rugs of Herati heritage. For rug owners, the great advantage to this pattern is the fact that several pieces of different origin with different color combinations, will create a beautiful, harmonious space only if they all share the same “Herati” design.

Old Persian Bijar With "Herati" Pattern

Old Persian Bijar With "Herati" Pattern

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Oriental and Persian Rugs: Natural And Synthetic Fibers

No matter what the material used in the pile of Persian and Oriental rugs, the fibers are either natural or synthetic. Natural fibers are made either by insects, plants, or animals. Those produced by insects or animals are referred to as “protein fibers”, and  those made by plants are known as “vegetable fibers”. Vegetable and protein fibers are both highly absorbent and will have extended drying times when washed. This is considered as a major disadvantage, because it can lead to progress of mildew, mold, shrinkage, or even dry rot in these fibers. Synthetic fibers, on the other hand, are man-made fibers that come from chemical resources. Such fibers are continuous threads that come in long lengths and so they do not have to be spun out into yarn. Synthetic fibers are manufactured using minerals and plant materials; for example acrylic, nylon and polyester come from oil and coal while viscose comes from pine trees or petrochemicals.

Wool
Wool is not only the first, but also considered to be the best of all material for production of rugs. For a detailed discussion about wool, please read our article: “Wool – The Natural Fiber”.

Persian Quom Silk Rug

Persian Quom Silk Rug

Silk
Silk comes from the cocoon of the silk worm. In other words, silk in continuous lengths from 300 to 1500 yards, is spun by the silk worms to produce their cocoons. The fact that silk requires a great deal of handling and processing makes it one of the most expensive fibers. China is the leading silk producer and exporter of the world. Other major silk producing countries include Japan, Italy, and India. Being naturally non flammable and very strong, silk rugs are very durable. Silk is sometimes used as the foundation of rugs, sometimes as the pile, and sometimes as both. Since it is thinner than wool or cotton threads, a rug woven on a silk foundation can have a very high number of knots per square inch (KPSI).  A pure silk rug would definitely need to be washed by a competent professional.

Cotton
Cotton is a natural fiber that is harvested from the cotton plant. After harvesting, cotton should be combed to remove the seeds. A cotton gin quickly separates the seeds from the fiber and combs them for spinning. As one of the most used fibers in existence today, the major use for cotton is for yarns in woven rugs, usually as the foundation. Cotton is resistant to alkaline solutions and becomes stronger when it is wet. While a single cotton fiber is not terribly solid, when multiple curling fibers are twisted together, they form a very strong and smooth thread. The greatest drawback to cotton is the fact that it is the most absorbent fiber there is, requiring extensive drying times after a wash. Also, it can easily get damaged by acids, soils quickly, stains easily, and is subject to mildew, shrinkage, and dry rot.

Cotton Tree

Cotton Tree

Cellulose fiber
These are fibers from some plant or plant-based materials. They belong to one of the categories of “natural” or “manufactured”. Natural cellulose fibers are often identified as being from a part of the original plant because they are only processed as much as needed to clean the fibers for use. For instance, cotton fibers look a lot like the soft fluffy cotton balls that they come from. All “natural” fibers go through a process where they are separated from the parts of the plant that are not used for the end product, usually through harvesting, or separating from chaff. “Manufactured” cellulose fibers come from plants that are processed into a wood and then forced out in the same ways that synthetic fibers like polyester or nylon are made. Rayon (or viscose) is one of the most common “manufactured” cellulose fibers, and it can be made from wood pulp. Rayon is used for area rugs because of its silky appearance. Rather than making up the pile of a rug, these fibers are often used as backing materials of tufted as well as woven rugs.

Jute
Jute is produced by the jute plant which grows in South America, India, and Pakistan. The longer coarse fibers are obtained from the stalk of the jute plant which is located between the outer bark and within the inner pulp. Jute is normally used as weft yarns in woven

Jute Plant

Jute Plant

rugs and, just like cellulose fibers, as a backing material in the construction of tufted carpets. Jute is an inexpensive material that also serves other uses than just carpets. Jute has its own disadvantages, like all other fibers. It gets weak as it becomes wet and is also subject to mildew, dry rot, and shrinkage. Although jute is among the cheapest of natural fibers available, the thread created from jute is very strong. Jute also has exceptional insulating properties, low thermal conductivity, and antistatic characteristics. However, synthetic materials are replacing jute in many applications, because they are still less costly to create and more efficient to use. This is partly due to the fact that jute has a tendency to become brittle and to yellow in sunlight.

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Persian Carpets and Oriental Rugs: Caring For Your Antique Rug

Due to the relatively high price tag of antique Persian carpets and oriental rugs, it is crucial to care for them properly. It would be difficult to determine what exactly defines an antique rug. However, as a rule of thumb, any hand-knotted Oriental or Persian rug older than 70-80 years would be considered as “antique”. The justification of the elevated price for any rug of this age, would definitely require it to be in fairly good condition. There are simple precautionary steps to take in order to help keep your heirloom rugs and carpets in perfect condition thereby preserving the value of your investment.

Antique Persian Bakhtiari

Antique Persian Bakhtiari

Antique or not, always keep your rugs dust-free. Small particles of dust act as sharp razors that will cut the fibers of the pile every time you step on the rug, resulting in premature spots of worn pile. So vacuum clean your rugs as often as possible and just make sure you do not get the fringes stuck in the suction of the cleaner as it can harm your rug. Any regular, household vacuum cleaner would be preferred over industrial cleaners with extra suction powers. Have your antique rug washed by a competent professional every few years, and do not attempt to remove stains using commercial carpet stain removers. Under no circumstances should you steam clean your Oriental rugs and antique carpets.

If you use your antique rugs on the floor, make sure they are protected against heavy foot traffic and sharp edges of furniture legs. By using protective furniture guards, you can avoid damaging the fibers of the pile. Rotate your rug twice a year so it will be evenly exposed to traffic and natural light. Also, hanging an antique rug on the wall will obviously help it last much longer. You must remember to periodically take them down, lay them flat on the floor for a few days, and dust them off before hanging them back on the wall.

If possible, try to encourage the habit of walking around barefooted for everyone in your household. Or at least, promote the idea of using inside shoes to avoid transferring all the dirt and soil directly on the surface of your beloved rug. You will be doing your antique rugs a great favor. As pet urine can seriously damage your old rugs, do not place collectible pieces in areas accessible to your pets. If you intend to store your antique rug for an extended period of time, it would be wise to read our article on “Properly Storing Your Rugs”. Appropriate care and maintenance of antique rugs is really worth your attention when you consider all the warmth and beauty they can add to your home. They do not need to be fed, they do not rot or spoil, they do not break, and they can easily be transported to a new home as you move around throughout your life. Just give them a bit of your time every now and then so you can enjoy them for generations.

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Persian Rugs, Oriental Rugs: The Private Weaving Workshop

Persian carpets and Oriental area rugs are produced in a variety of different settings. Although there has been a strong movement toward production of rugs in organized factories and workshops during the last few decades, many pieces of magnificent beauty and great workmanship are still being woven in private weaving workshops. Often located in the suburbs of larger communities or major cities, a weaving workshop consists of a room adjacent to the main living quarters of the owner of the workshop. The space is usually large enough to hold two looms placed against the opposite walls, and separated by a raised wooden floor, wide enough to allow workers to sit on it and do their work. Looms are of the vertical type, barely reach the ceiling, and take up little space. Depending on the size of the rug to be woven on each loom, up to five weavers work back-to-back for several months. When about three feet of the carpet is completed, it is moved down in the frame. The process will let weavers remain seated at the same level. Ample lighting and adequate ventilation for the space must be maintained for workers to achieve efficiency. Also, humidity must be controlled in order to avoid breakage of the foundation material. In some workshops, physical exercise in regular intervals is mandatory for all weavers. However, these are often ignored by the foreman whose working habits are never overseen or supervised by any organization.

Working On The Loom

Working On The Loom

As the design for the project is shown on a piece of paper – called Cartoon – and attached to the foundation of the rug in front of weavers, they only need to raise their eyes briefly, thus allowing them to concentrate on the tying of knots and cutting off the strands. This process is repeated quickly, endlessly, and seemingly on autopilot. However, it requires lots of attention and watchfulness. This is perhaps the reason weavers in workshops spend very little time talking to one another during work hours.

Having made his workshop available to weavers and neighbors, the foreman is paid higher wages than the other workers by the master weaver. He is often in charge of placing orders for the needed material with the master weaver and regularly reporting to him as to the progress of the project. He is also responsible for the daily opening and closing times of the workshop. Weavers normally work for about eight hours a day and more than three hundred days a year. Weavers are paid on weekly basis and according to the amount of work they have completed either by the master weaver or the foreman. They will usually be awarded by means of a small gift or some extra cash if the master weaver is satisfied by their work. A professional weaver can tie between 5,000 and 14,000 knots per day depending on the difficulty of the design. For some fine rugs with 500 knots per square inch (KPSI), one weaver’s work will progress at about 1.3 inches in height by 34 inches in width every single day. By simple calculation, we find that weaving a 4 ft. by 6 ft. rug of fine quality can represent about a full year’s work. This will help us appreciate these works of art even more.

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