The Leading Antique
and Vintage Rug Company
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All About the Dyes in Antique Rugs

06-29-2010  |  By: Mark Mend Stern |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
All About the Dyes in Antique Rugs
All About the Dyes in Antique Rugs  Besides the age and style of the antique rug, one can truly learn to appreciate the colors present.  Modern consumers often forget that artificial dyes have only been around since the 20th Century.

Today one worries about getting an exact shade of paint, for the walls, to match the flower in a favorite throw pillow. When antique rugs started being created and designed, the colors available were those one could make oneself with vegetation or bugs.  Any child who has rubbed a dandelion flower on something or eaten a blueberry has learned that color can be transferred. The magic of dyeing though is learning how to make that color permanent.  

Fabric doesn't always keep the same color when heat is applied and oxygen can also affect the process. This is chemistry in action.   Yellow spices like turmeric and saffron, that were responsible for dying food, also found their place in fiber baths.  It was not known to be as durable a color though and would fade. One wonders though if it was as much a matter or fading as the color getting lost in the slow tracking of dirt.  

The madder root from a climbing vine would produce suitable red until a red bug was found on cactuses that produced a more vivid color. The root's dying history though is well document and was used around the world. It was first used in India, but it was  also used to make the red coats famously worn by the British Army.  

Indigo would be used in successive dips to produce a very durable and deep blue. This dye was special for being a fermented dye that would change when as it contacted with oxygen. It was produced from the leaves of a plant grown in the tropics. Production and transportation of this dye was part of what drove the exploration of the oceans for new routes to India. Land space that accounts for more than 2 times that of Luxembourg was dedicated to growing this crop before synthetic versions could be created. 

Antique rugs that wanted to display grapes or wine had to produce a suitable shade of violet . Purple was also the color of royalty. It was produced from the excretions of a shellfish. Not being easy to find or extract in large quantities, added to its valuable. Some indigos could have a purple quality and it could be mixed with a red dye. These colors would fade differently and change over time. Lightly dyed versions of the purples would produce most of the pink hues as well.  

Dark browns and blacks could be produced from bark and other dark hued vegetation. One imagines that when the color was not right it might simply have been dyed over to make a brown or black that could be used in the border or background of a design.  Henna, a flowering plant which is well known for creating non-permanent tattoos, can also be used to produce orange dyes.   All these amazing fibers would have to be dyed in vast quantities to produce a work of art. Today's shoppers can take advantage of such a wide variety of colors. One needs to remember and appreciate the wide lengths makers of antique rugs and other goods had to go through to produce the vivid colors seen in their work.

How Warp and Weft Can Help One Identify Value in an Antique Rug

06-21-2010  |  By: Nicole |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »

Antique rugs are woven and understanding the basics terms of weaving can help one understand the building blocks of the rug.  Weavers will string a warp thread through a loom and then add the weft threads. In a piece of plain fabric the weft would be the same color and with a tartan or flannel a pattern of different colors are used in both the warp and weft threads to create squares of color. Pictures emerge as multiple different weft threads are pulled to the top of left on the bottom.



Antique rugs though do not rely on these threads to produce the picture or pattern. Instead the warp and weft are the canvas one which the weaver will add the color. Wool, cotton, silk or some other spun fiber is looped on to the base. The ends of the thread produce the pile of the rug. Carpets today follow a similar principle except that most carpet fibers may only be looped once around the base and are then glued to keep them in place.



Many styles of antique rug use different techniques for their knots they will loop the thread forwards or backwards around the warp and weft threads as they have been taught. These style of knots help to define the type of rug and preserve the process of a community. 



The key though is how many of these knots will be in each inch of fabric. Anyone who has bought sheets knows higher thread counts generally relate to more expensive sheets. This is presumably because thinner threads are used to make these sheets. Thinner threads come from more expensive, softer cotton. These threads are in the same warp and waft pattern. They maker, remember, will knot the threads over the canvas. This is similar to cross stitching or embroidery but in this case the ends of each thread are part of the pattern as opposed to in embroidery where the extra threads are hidden on the backside of the fabric.  One counts the knots, in a square of fabric, from the underside to see how fine the detail work gets.



This works exactly the same as graphics on a computer screen. In the early days of graphics, games like Pac-Man and Asteroids were created with big squares of colors representing a shape. The circles would look like they were made with boxes, and the smaller the boxes the smoother the circle. Today's graphics use such small boxes that the formerly gagged lines look smooth.



Rug makers realized that the smaller the threads they tied on the smoother the rounded edges appeared and the more intricate the design could be.  Each thread still has to be tied into place though. More knots per inch means more labor and a higher price.  Any large antique rug represents a huge amount of time and patience. Delicate work that is performed by experienced hands.



If the pattern is very detailed the pile of the antique rug will often be kept short to allow the detail to shine. Longer piles will lead to the pattern becoming more fuzzy.  So be sure to examine the backside and the knots. Look at how small the weave is on the canvas. Think seriously about the amount of work that went into the hand knotted piece of art.


What Is That Color?

06-15-2010  |  By: Nicole |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »

Before the late 1800's, antique rugs were hand woven and hand dyed using vegetable dyes.  Some artisans who hand loom or hand tie knotted rugs still use vegetable dyes to dye the fibers of the rugs, but chemical dyes create a more even coloring and offer a wide variety of color options that are more difficult to achieve with vegetable dye baths.  Though many individuals often associate chemicals with negative connotations, the chemical dye baths used to color modern area rugs are no more harmful than most of the vegetable dye baths that have been used throughout the centuries.  Modern chemical dyes are often even more safe for the natural fibers that make up the rug than some vegetable dyes.  The vegetable dye bath sometimes used in rural areas to make hand woven and hand dyed antique Persian rugs was often a very corrosive substance that ate away at the natural wool fibers that it colored, thus significantly shortening the lifespan of the rugs.


While chemical dyeing had become quite standard over time since first introduced in the late 1800's, Turkish rug makers revitalized the use of vegetable dyes during the 1960's.  The use of natural materials to create vibrant colors for rugs was quickly rejuvenated, and spread throughout the region through the late 20th century.  Now both synthetic dyes and natural dyes are widely used, often at the same time by many rug artisans.  Though the Turkish government did attempt to cease the use of synthetic dyes in the 19th century, the regulations were not to much avail.  When the use of natural dyes reemerged, both types of dyes remained in heavy use.  There does not seem to be an industry standard as to which type of dye is necessarily superior and creates a superior product.  This is likely at least partially due to the fact that the hand-made rug industry is in many ways, still a cottage industry, practiced by individuals and collectives in remote villages throughout the Persian region.


The items used to make natural dye baths have changed over the years as different plants and insects have been found to yield different dyeing results.  Traditionally, the bright reds and orangey reds in most antique Persian rugs are not made from vegetable dyes at all.  Instead, the reds and oranges found in so many antique rugs are created by boiling insect carapaces.  Reds are also commonly derived by powdering the root of the madder plant, then turning it into a dye bath by mixing it in water.


It can be difficult for the untrained eye to determine whether an antique rug is dyed with synthetic or natural dyes, or possibly a combination of both.  If a rug predates the late 19th century, then it is certainly colored with vegetable dyes, as synthetic dyes did not come into existence until then.  The majority of rugs made between the late 1800's and the 1960's used chemical dyes.  Newer rugs run the gambit-- even those hand tied in rural areas might be colored using synthetic dyes.  


Antique rug, investment or decoration?

06-07-2010  |  By: Rebekah |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »

Many collectors will talk about the age and distinction of an Antique rug, but as with any antique object its value is only what someone will pay for it. The average customer needs to remember an Antique rug is first and foremost a decorative object. Just as a cars primary function is to move one from place to place; an antique rug should be bought to compliment the room it will go into.


Quality is important. Just as one wants a car that will retain its value, a rug and can should stand up to normal use. Antique rugs are generally at least 50-80 years old and due consideration should be made to ensure they are in good condition. If the underlying warp and weft threads are showing wear and tear or do not seem to be firmly woven, then the pile of the rug can come off and destroy the entire rug. If the woolen pile is not tied or woven tightly enough, it can also come off during normal use.


Fringe is the most susceptible to damage as it is generally made from the same type of fiber as the warp and weft but lacks the protection of the woolen pile. Care when cleaning the fringe is very important. Vacuum cleaners can pull at individual threads. Brushing the fringe also can pull apart the spun fibers and lead to further deterioration. The fringe may over time need to be replaced; always contact a reputable dealer of persian rugs for this fringe to maintain the overall value.


If the antique rug is particularly old or valuable then hanging it might be more practical than putting it on the floor where gravity pulls most dirt and debris. Investment grade rugs are very rare, and most buyers will rather be looking at a decorative floor item. Be sure to look at the rug from the correct perspective. One would not want to buy a car too fancy to drive on a regular basis. Dont let the idea that this rug is an investment cloud good judgment.


A valuable, naturally-dyed antique rug might be a good investment, but if the room is full of modern bright colors, it may not look right. Go to as many reputable shops as one can before making a final decision. Varieties of color and styles can be found even among antique rugs and limiting your selection to one shop isnt good from either a decoration or investment strategy.  A good quality antique rug should last one longer than a car, and if it is taken care of will become a family heirloom. 


Proper care should include rotating the rug and spot cleaning any spills quickly with water or club soda. Occasionally beating the antique rug outside to dislodge dirt and debris from the pile might be more gentle on the edges and fringe than running a vacuum over it.


Take time to move the rug around seasonally to prevent wear patterns from forming. This will give one the chance to keep the rooms style updated and the rug in good condition.