In yesterdays post I discussed the first two innovations that have re-invigorated oriental rugs. Even though the vast majority of oriental rugs made today are copies of popular designs, a few innovative rug makers have started making original art rugs that compare favorably with the finest antique rugs made 300 years ago. By understanding the 4 big innovations of the last 25 years you will learn how to distinguish rugs that are original works of art from those that are copies.
3. A few rug makers start making rugs with the best handspun wool instead of machine spun wool.
When large scale commercial production of rugs got underway in the 1880’s commercial rug makers needed a plentiful supply of wool yarn. For two thousand years rugs were made with hand spun wool. But hand spinning is a slow, time consuming process so rug weavers rapidly switched to machine spun yarn. After the 1890’s most handmade rugs were made with machine spun yarns.
Then a century later, in the 1980’s, a few rug aficionados became so tired of the sameness and blandness of rugs made with machine spun wool they began experimenting with hand spun wool.
Today you have a wide choice of rugs made with hand spun yarn. The very best of these have a sincerity and natural appearance not found in commercial rugs made of machine spun yarn.
Lucia 8136RH, Brocatel weave rug is woven with a lustrous hand spun wool that has excellent strength and resilience. The surface of the Brocatel weave is a mix of a Savonnerie cut pile and a looped flat weave invented by Asmara. Brocatel rugs are finished with a “green wash” that uses no chemicals.
Detail from the original artist’s rendering commissioned by Asmara to make the Lucia 8136RH, Brocatel rug. The painting shows the artist experimented with different colors in the border.
But not all hand spun wool is alike. Most of the carpet wool on the market today comes from sheep that have been cross-bred to producers meat. Their wool is a byproduct of meat production and does not have the qualities of the best rug wool that comes from ancient breeds of sheep.
To remedy the shortcomings of commercial wool, carpet makers today use wools that are blends from different commercial breeds of sheep. But blended wools cannot replicate the character and beauty of wool from ancient indigenous sheep breeds.
The best hand spun wool has three desirable traits: strength, luster and resilience. Some wools have good luster, but poor resilience. Others have high resilience but no luster. Very few wools contain all three traits. The great antique rugs of the past were made of wool that had all three traits.
4. “Green” rug wash replace chemical washing.
To fill the appetite for antique rugs, rug manufacturers began using chemical treatments to distress new rugs and give them the appearance of antique rugs. These so called “antique look rugs” or “antique reproduction rugs” became so popular that over 99% of all rugs made today are chemically washed.
A very small number of rugs makers began using a “green wash” that has no chemicals.
“Green washing” has these advantages:
- It does not pollute ground water with harsh chemicals.
- The colors of “green wash” rugs stay true. Chemical washing alters the colors in a rug: the whites become dirty yellow, the blues turn greenish and clear colors develop a muddy look.
- “Green washing” of rugs retains the full durability and spill resistance of wool fiber. Chemical washing compromises the strength and spill resistance of wool fibers.
- Chemically washed rugs develop an artificial shine and their colors look quite different when seen from different angles.
“Green washing” is still very new. 99% of all handmade rugs continue to be washed with chemicals.
We hope “green washing methods” will become more prevalent as consumers become aware of their advantages.