How Rugs are Made: Traditional Hand-Knotted Rugs and Carpets
How Rugs are Made — Rugs and carpets have been made for many centuries. The first rugs were made by tribal shepherds who needed heavy clothes to shield themselves from the cold and wind, who soon started to use them as floor coverings. Over the centuries, rug makers developed techniques to weave amazingly beautiful patterns and turned rug making into a form of fine art. Today, rugs are made by both hand and machine. However, much of the process has remained the same.
Here is a step-by-step description of rug making from the moment unprocessed wool is attained:
1. Wool is turned into yarn:
Wool is the most popular material for making rugs. It is strong, soft, long lasting and beautiful. Once unprocessed wool arrives at a rug making workshop, it is separated by hand to break up the clumps and remove any foreign materials that may have got stuck in it. Then it is fed into a machine that pulls it into individual strands. The stands are then spun into yarn. In previous centuries, wool was spun by hand on rudimentary spinning wheels.
2. The yarn is washed:
The yarn is then washed to remove the dust and grease thoroughly. The process involves submerging it in a detergent bath, wringing it out several times, and then washing it with clean water to remove the detergents. The washed yarn is dried in the sun for two to three days.
3. The yarn is dyed:
The washed yarn is hung onto a rack and submerged in a dye, which is created by using a combination of natural or synthetic elements to produce the desired hue. To allow the dye to work its way into the yarn, it is heated to a near-boiling temperature for a specific period of time. The longer the time, the darker the hue. The dyed yarn is then put out in the sun to dry.
4. Carpet is woven:
Once the yarn is dry, it is ready to be woven into a carpet. There are primarily three ways to weave a carpet: knotting, tufting and hooking.
• Knotting: First, an artist draws a design for the rug on a special graph paper. A frame is then prepared by stretching columns of thread, called warps, vertically down the loom. Warps are usually made of cotton. The weaver then weaves the yarn knot-by-knot on the loom using a knotting method, such as Turkish knot, Persian knot and Tibetan knot.
• Tufting: A pattern is drawn on a primary backing material using stencil. The backing material, usually made of cotton, is attached to a frame. The weaver inserts tufts of wool into the backing material using a tufting tool. The primary backing material is then covered with a latex material and a secondary backing material is attached. Then the surface loop pile is sheared to create a flat surface with dense pile.
• Hooking: Once the design, pattern and colors are chosen, usually from other carpets or pictures, the weavers weave the rug using a scaffolding system that allows them to raise and lower themselves along the entire length of the rug. They use a specialized tool to push the yarn back and forth through a cotton backing. This is the easiest and least expensive method of making rugs.
5. The rug is washed and dried:
The rug is once again washed thoroughly to remove dirt, detergent and yarn particles. The washing process involves laying the rug on a flat surface, pouring clean water over it, and using wood planks with sharpened edges to force the water through the rug.
Rug making is a time consuming and labor-intensive process. It often takes several weeks to several months to make high quality rugs. But for the makers and collectors, the resulting works of art are worth all the trouble.