Tuesday, 20 September 2011 22:14

Brief History of Carpet Weaving

Picture-076The art of carpet weaving has been in existence for almost 3,000 years and formed an integral part of ancient Persian and Central Asian culture. The ‘Pazyryk Carpet’ dating back to the 4th - 5th century BCE is the oldest surviving example of a hand knotted Persian pile rug. Authentic hand knotted Oriental or Persian rugs are prized possessions and owing to their exquisite beauty and craftsmanship many priceless antique Persian rugs are displayed in museums throughout the world. From these early beginnings, hand knotted rug making spread throughout the Middle and Far East and spawned a vast cottage industry, which has provided work for countless generations of weavers. It wasn’t until the 17th century however, as overland trade routes were established, that Persian and Oriental carpets became widely known to the Western world and not until the 18th century that decorative carpets began to be used as floor coverings in European homes. A carpet (from the Old Italian carpita or carpire meaning to pluck) and a rug are not actually the same thing, in that a fringed carpet stretches from wall to wall while rugs do not.

As the rug making industry expanded, the original Persian designs, motifs and methods were much copied by other rug making areas. With time however, many different patterns and styles gradually evolved as each region developed and adopted its own distinctive style. Expert rug dealers can usually tell just by look and feel, the origin of a rug, how it was made and which materials were used. Unfortunately, there is still wide-spread confusion about what is actually a genuine Oriental or Persian rug. The indiscriminate use of Oriental or Persian to describe any patterned carpet, be it hand-woven or not, continues to mislead uninformed salespeople and buyers alike.

Generally speaking, handcrafted rugs can be woven in silk, wool or cotton and come in all shapes and sizes. Silk is the most expensive and harder to care for, which is why many rugs made of silk were often hung on walls as tapestries. This kind of wall covering has been around for centuries and was much admired for its classical beauty and art form. In years past, tapestries were also used to add warmth and colour to cold unheated palaces and large stone dwellings. Wall coverings are still in vogue today and a carefully selected rug of contemporary design can be an imaginative fashion statement for any stylish interior.


Better quality hand-made floor rugs are usually made of wool. Once upon a time, special flocks of sheep were bred in order to provide a superior type of wool specifically for Persian rug making.

The two most common methods employed in hand-made rugs versus machine-made rugs are hand-knotted and hand-tufted. The most skilled and labour intensive method is hand-knotting. The greater the knot count per square inch, the higher the quality of the finished rug. Both flat and pile wool rugs are woven on looms using cotton for the warp threads and jute for the weft. As each row of knots is completed, the knots are cut and then secured with one to four rows of weft. Some skilled weavers can achieve up to 10,000 knots per day. Persian type rugs are known for their asymmetrical knotting style. Hand-knotted rugs may cost more, but their vibrant colours, density of weave, lush softness and intricate designs more than justify the additional expense. Unlike factory or machine-made rugs, hand-knotted rugs are extremely durable, will improve with age and can become a cherished heirloom for many generations to come.

Hand-tufted rugs involve punching strands of wool into a canvas backed frame, with the aid of a hand operated tool. Once the wool pile is finished, the rug is removed from the frame and a scrim fabric backing applied with glue. The fringe is either sewed or glued on to complete the rug. Hand-tufted rugs are less durable and less expensive than a hand-knotted rug and come in a wide variety of modern and traditional patterns and sizes. Hand-tufted rugs provide an inferior but reasonably priced handmade alternative to hand knotted rugs and are readily available at most carpet dealers.

Machine made rugs can be made of a single natural fibre or a blend of natural and synthetic materials, the most common being wool and wool blends, polyester, acrylic and nylon. Though machine made rugs remain popular by virtue of their lower price, they often lack the durability, deep pile warmth and lustre of quality handmade rugs.
The British Indian Rug Co. Ltd is a direct supplier of many types of hand knotted rugs specializing in Afghan, Indian, Indo Persian, Indo Nepali and Kilim. Art lovers and carpet connoisseurs will be particularly interested in their selection of Afghanistan Tribal rugs. Long considered as unique works of art, Afghanistan Tribal rugs are usually woven by the women of the tribe to use in their nomadic homes. Afghanistan tribal rugs are a valuable family asset and each carefully woven rug is representative of the hopes, dreams and wishes of the weaver as well as symbolic tribal folklore. Afghanistan Tribal rugs usually come to market only when the family are displaced or are in need of money. As the tribes of Afghanistan increasingly adopt a more urban way of life, the supply of tribal rugs will gradually dwindle and become much more in demand. Thus the purchase now of an Afghanistan Tribal rug as an objet d’art could also be a good investment for the future.

The British Indian Rug Co. also specializes in the supply of customized hand-made rugs for any area of the home and to complement any décor. Whatever your requirement or personal taste, be it traditional or transitional; classical or contemporary, the experienced and friendly staff at the British Indian Rug Co. will help to design the perfect rug at the perfect price to give you many years of lasting pleasure.

With a large selection of hand knotted rugs in stock, the British Indian Rug Co. has rugs to suit almost every décor and budget. Rugs range from small 2 x 3 mats up to a living-room size 9 x 12 ft. as well as hallway runners from 6 to 20ft long. These lovely high quality rugs are hand woven in both traditional and contemporary styles, such as intricate flowery motifs, geometric patterns or bold swatches of colour. Thanks to its far-flung connections in Central Asia, the British Indian Rug Co. is proud to offer discerning home owners in Canada the opportunity to possess a finely woven hand knotted rug at an affordable price. Luxuriously soft hand knotted rugs will add that special designer touch to any type of flooring whether tile, marble, laminate or hardwood.

If you are interested in acquiring one or two pieces of ‘floor art’ as rugs are sometimes called, the knowledgeable staff at the British Indian Rug Co. will be happy to show you many different styles and patterns from which to choose the ultimate rug to beautify your home.

S.A.Dove/Sept 2011

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