Rug Colors – Whether your taste in antique rugs leans towards all-overfloral patterns or more primitive tribal designs, the first factor in selecting a carpet is color. It’s the beauty of blending colors that creates a harmonious composition that makes Persian rugs so enchanting. Natural dyes made from natural materials, vegetable, plant or animal bases (bark, nutshells, berries and occasionally insects) produce the most luminous, warm and somber shades.
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Among collectors, who search the world for fine antique rugs, it is widely agreed upon that synthetic or analine dyes should not be compared to vegetable dyes. The passage of time and long term effects of using synthetic dye is unpredictable; change of color altogether and dyes eating into the rug are common. It’s clear to see the difference between the lustre and sheen of a naturally dyed antique rug compared to the dull uniform color that is produced through the use of chemical dyes.
There is more to the process than simply mixing dye with boiling water. Each plant has its own special properties and the dyer skillfully and knowledgeable prepares the yarn accordingly. The dyer’s craft is an ancient one passed down through the generations from father to son. He is an artisan whose traditions and secrets are highly regarded.
The crushed roots of madder; a climbing plant that grows wild over much of the East produces shades of red. It belongs to the genus Rubia and the root used is that of the Rubia tinctorum. The roots contain three coloring matters alizarin and purpurin which are both red and xanthin which is yellow.
Cochineal a female bug of the species Dactylopius coccus which lives on cactus was imported in 1856 to obtain a more vivid red.
Saffron, turmeric, sumac and the fruit of Perisan buck-thorns were used for yellows.
Greens were produced by combining indigo with yellow. Though Chinese green dye is obtained from Rhamnus chlorophorus a genus of shrubs.
Different blue tones are made from the leaves of the indigo plant. The color is achieved by both the number of times the yarn is immersed in the dye vat as well as the length of dyeing time.
Tyrian purple dye is found in shellfish.
Henna yields orange.
Beige is made from barley
And black, brown and grey dyes were mainly made from the shells of nuts and the leaves and husks of nut trees. The dyeing process starts with the preparation of the color. Sometimes curds or sour milk is mixed into the dye to achieve lighter colors, the color is then diluted in a vat. The quantity of water varies based on the desired shade. The wool is then placed in boiling water and after being heated for the desired amount of time the wool is allowed to cool in the dye.
The final stage in the dyeing process is to make the color fast. Once the carpet is ready, it is immersed in cold water to rinse any excess coloring and finally laid out in the sun to dry. Variations in color, streaked or uneven shading known as abrash or changes in the dye lot due to the quality of water or texture of wool add to the charm and life of the rug. Color is key, and carpets made with natural dye are to die for. Natural dyes age in a graceful way producing a mellow, faded color palate that remains unrivaled.
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