(Posted on 03/09/13)
Oriental rugs always use natural fibers, and any rug containing synthetic material will invariably have been machine made. The only exception to this rule is the occasional use of very small quantities of gold or metallic thread in some workshop and master-workshop items. Wool, cotton and silk are main materials, although goat and camel hair are sometimes used by nomadic and village weavers.Wool The best and most widely used rug making materials. It is soft, durable and easy to work. However, the quality varies considerably and not all wool is suitable for rug making. Good carpet wool needs to combine softness with strength and springiness, otherwise the rug wears out quickly and fails to return to its original shape if creased or depressed. Only certain types of wool possess the qualities required; the best comes from lambs between 8 and 14 months old, particularly those from the colder high-land regions. Unless one has followed the rug-making process through from clipping to completion, the only way to assess the quality of the wool is to rely on the 'feel' of the item and the reputation of the individual weaving group. However, some rugs are prefixed by the word Kurk (or Kork) - as in Kurk Kashan - which indicates that the rug was made from wool taken from the flanks and shoulders - where the fibers are longest - of lambs reared in winter and clipped in the spring. Kurk wool is generally considered to be among the very best available. The process of turning freshly shorn wool into yarn suitable for rug-making is both simple and universal. The wool is first washed - normally after shearing - and then 'carded', a process that teases the wool into longer and straighter fibers. The fibers are then spun either by hand or machine, into a continuous thread which is twisted together with other threads, in opposite direction to which they were spun, to form the yarn. The individual threads are referred to as 'ply', and the more that go into making a yarn, the thicker and stronger it will be. As a general rule, the wool in nomadic items is very good. Equally, that found in Persian and Afghan rugs is of high Quality. Superior quality Australian, New Zealand and Belouch wool is often used in better items. As a foundation material it is only used by nomadic and some village weavers. It has a tendency to lose its shape and can only be spun into relatively thick strands. This can add a degree of primitive charm to tribal rugs.