Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes
Buying and Placing Your Rugs
DOROTHY G. BELL
"I LIKE that rug,” said a woman, who did no more than glance casually at the richly-colored floor-covering, hanging on the wall of a small rug store. “I think it will blend perfectly with my room. Send it up, please.” The salesman was astonished, and the woman went away apparently pleased with her purchase. A few' days later, however, she sent it back, and demanded the presence of the salesman xvho had sold her the rug.
“How dare you sell me such a rug?” she asked him. “It isn’t a real one at all— it can’t be. It must be an imitation. Why, the design is absolutely crooked! I never heard of such a thing!”
The salesman tried to explain to her that the irregularity of this design was one of the peculiarities of oriental rugs, made that way on purpose by those who weave them, denoting that Allah is perfect, that man’s handiwork is not. He told her the apparent imperfection wras considered an asset—a quality by which it might be seen at a glance that the rug was genuine —but the irate customer w'ould not let him and stamped out of the store in indignation, insisting that they send for the rug immediately.
Everyone is not as ignorant concerning oriental rugs as that woman w7as, but it behooves the decorator wdio wants to include oriental rugs in her home to know at least a little about them. There are many ideas concerning oriental rugs that have been adopted and taken for granted by the general pi blic. One of them is that one^must be a millionaire to possess one, and* another is that they never wear out.
Oriental rugs are expensive no doubt, but if a room is well-built, has good floors and rich wrood work, a small oriental rug will be sufficient—one just large enough to take away the bareness and add a note of warmth and color to the room. On the other hand an ordinary carpet, owing to its lack of lustre and richness, must be, in order to obtain the same effect, much larger. Because of the high price of certain popular carp'ets, therefore, there will be found a very little difference in the price of a large rug of these makes or a small one of oriental weave.
It is difficult for the ordinary purchasers to guard against deception when purchasing a rug, but there are certain ways of telling the original article from the imitation without much study. The first and most general way is by examination of the wrong side. The pattern will show almost as perfectly on the back of a genuine hand-made oriental rug as it will on the face of it. Then the pile is composed of rows of tied knots which are plainly visible. The sides are over-cast with colored wool or have a narrow selvage. The ends have a fringe—though often it only appears at one end. When buying it is wise to test the weight of the rug, as it should be a great deal heavier than an ordinaiy domestic rug
If it is of a good weave it will stand up of itself like a tent when lifted from the floor in the middle. A close examination of the selvage will show, too, whether it is loosely or closely woven. Rugs roughly woven with coarse wool contain from six to ten knots to the square inch. A closely woven rug of very fine yarn will carry from 400 to 600 knots to the inch. So a wise precaution in buying is to estimate the number of knots. Run your hand over the surface of the rug w'ith the nap. If the wool is f’ne it will feel smooth and soft almost like the coat of a well-groomed horse.
Placing the Rug
NOW what to do with the rug when it is purchased? An oriental rug may be used in almost any room, though of course it must be chosen with care. The floor of the room is the logical starting point for interior decoration, and therefore, the floor decoration ought to contain the strongest colors—to provide the base of the scheme as it were. Then let the walls be the next tone, the ceiling the next, yet with not too great a change. If the change is too great they will lose their relat ion to each other.
The heavy richly-colored rugs go well with a mission room. In a mahogany room the rugs with the deep burgundy
shades are favorites, as they bring out all the warmth and life in the wood. The use of terra-cotta shades, old blues, copper and chestnut browns also produce pleasing results with mahogany.
These same shades may be utilized to advantage with walnut finishing. At the present time there is a revival of the bqgcak furniture. This is a very dark wood and the rug with the warmth-creating tones such as red and_ deep mulberry are exceptionally expressive with it. The dark, rich colors, in fact, may be used with almost any dark woodwork and furniture in downstairs rooms, hall, living-room, library, and dining room. In the bedrooms, howrever, where colors are more prominent than period styles, rugs with the light colors are more suitable. For instance, yellow if the walls are buff too, will blend in well with mahogany. The oriental rug is made in every color and every design that is suitable for a dainty white or colored bedroom and it is not necessary always to choose the rich tones of the usual oriental rug.
There are some fifty varieties of oriental rugs. For ordinary every-day
household classification they may be divided into seven classes—Persian, Turkish, Caucasian, Turkoman, Beluchistan, Chinese, and Indian. Connoisseurs do not always consider the Indian rug in the oriental class. It is more or less a modern creation often made by machinery and wholly commercialized. But so are they all commercialized to a certain degree, in spite of the fact that twenty-five years ago there were few oriental rugs in any of the homes of the American continent. Since then, however, nearly all classes have become interested. The western demand has become so great that the oriental rugs in the last decade have deteriorated greatly in both workmanship and material, though the genuine oriental rug is not made by machinery. Their manufacture is supervised in factories where large numbers at a time are produced. The process is so slow that the natives, if they worked on them only in their spare time, would not be able to make a living. Before rugs were commercialized to such an extent the natives used to make them at their homes, taking months—sometimes years and in some cases a lifetime—to produce one piece.
Into these they would weave the development of their own lives, presenting the finished product to their priests or rulers or us in g them for their own convenience to hang in front of the door, to sleep on or to use as prayer rugs. Now, however, they are paid in the factories according to the number of stitches.
Many imitations are, of course, being made, but the makers of these have never been able to equal the makers of the originals.
Method of Manufacture
TO BEGIN with they lack the material.
The wool for the real products is made from goat and camel hair. The goats from some parts of Asia Minor have long, straight hair of a light, brown color that does not dye easily. That is the reason that so many Kurdistan rugs from that district have brown backgrounds.
Perhaps the owner of an oriental rug has noticed a disagreeable odor in the house sometimes and has been at a loss to know what it is. Perhaps it is the oriental rug, for the camel hair rugs have that draw-back—that on dull, muddy, hot days the camel odor is drawn out. Otherwise it is soft and fluffy and perhaps the most durable of any of the oriental type of rugs.
The wool, after it is cut, is sorted, and washed in cold water many times until all foreign substance has been removed. The idea of using cold water is that the animal fat may not be removed and this accounts for the silky appearance of most of these rugs. Next the wool is bleached in the sun, mixed with flour and starch, placed on a stone, and pounded with wooden hammers. It is washed and dried again, but by this time it has shrunk to almost half its original amount.
Another reason that human ingenuity and modern machinery cannot produce as beautiful rugs as the deft fingers and artistic eye of the natives of the East is because all Eastern dyeing methods are secrets—secrets that have been handed down from father to son for many generations
Eastern dyes are made from roots, flowers, barks and other vegetable products. Their process consists of boiling and fermenting and there is nothing in modern chemistry that can compare with it. Perhaps the oriental rug purchaser has noticed that the color, like the design, is often uneven and of d:fferent shades. This is due to the fact that pieces of the same wool, dipped in the same pot of dye, almost invariably come out a slightly different shade.
Significance of Colors
NO COLOR is put into oriental rugs without a meaning and a kind of poetry is worked into their color schemes by using the different shades. For instance, if you have a Persian rug with blue in it, you may know that the weaver while he was using that thread was weaving immortality into the design, for that is what blue means to him, and he uses it to counteract evil. To a Mongolian the blue means authority and power, black is sorrow and vice while red means joy, truth, purity and life. To the Indian, Mohammedan, the Persian, and the Chinese, white means mourning, and yellow to the Chinese means loyalty. Orange stands for sorrow to the Mohammedan, and rose for divine wisdom. Green is considered sacred by him and symbolizes immortality.
Aside from their failure to produce the color the westerner is unable to create the same designs as the orientals. He lacks the spirit and the inspiration which the original weavers put into their rugs. He cannot, of course, feel superstitions, or have faith in the beliefs which are denoted in the patterns on the genuine products.
The oriental puts his very soul into rug making. The design is a record of the development of his life, joy, sorrow, tears, loves and hates. Every tribe, family or district has its own design which has been handed down from father to son. Every sign, every twist of the oriental esign ïheâ'ùs something i'ii the life of the mn or the woman who weaves it. It rould be difficult to go into this symbol;m in detail, but it is interesting to note ;s general characteristics.
The Persian design is nearly always bral. And many patterns are made out f each by simply using different shades nd colors. _ Turkish designs are freuently a mixture of floral and geometrial patterns, while the Caucasian and ,’urkoman are nearly always strictly eometrical. The Kurdish patterns are auch like the Persian. The Chinese rug 5 easily recognized because of its designs
Contrary to a widely-prevailing impression, oriental rugs do wear out. If not properly handled and appreciated they are quite capable of going to pieces. They need as much care and attention as a Kentucky lace horse in order to keep them in perfect condition. The sooner the idea that the harder they are used the more beautiful and lustrous they become is dissipated, the sooner the oriental rug will stand a chance of long life in the west. This idea has perhaps originated from the fact that many old and priceless rugs contain a particularly handsome sheen. Tt must be remembered,
af monsters, dragons and animals of various kinds. Those of the Indian rugs ire nearly all copies and there is practically no original pattern.
The weavers of oriental rugs are very superstitious and many signs and symbols ire woven into their work.
A lock of human hair is sometimes woven in as a love message. Unclipped tufts of nap are left to bring good luck. Beads are occasionally woven in to guard against the evil eye. The oriental idea of paradise is a huge flower garden—hence flowers are used in design. Turks never use living objects in design. They are forbidden by the Koran, as it might lead to idolatry. It is their belief, too, that at the judgment day they must endue the creatures they depict with a soul. Persians are not so conservative in their ideas. Turkish girls weave rugs when they become engaged, to give to their husband as a dower. The old hearth rugs are made for strangers who enter the house. Once they step on it the host must protect and safeguard them.
A death rug is used to put on graves. The Cypress tree, the most common design, means immortality. All good Mohammedans expect to make a pilgrimage to Mecca._ They take rugs as an offering—rugs in the making of which a great deal of religious fervor has been expended. The rugs are then used on unclean places. In obedience to laws of Koran the pilgrim must remove all money from his person, then after combing his beard he spreads the rug facing towards Mecca. After placing on it a piece of earth from the holy city he prostrates himself with his forehead resting on the sacred earth.
Turkish rugs are not quite as fine as those made by the Persian workman. The Turks, perhaps, are not quite as fine a people. Thej have been quicker though, to take advantage of the great demand, and have adopted modern looms, patterns and_ factories, in order to be able to fill their orders more rapidly. Persian rugs are still in many cases made by hand in the homes of the natives.
however, that the oriental rug in its own environment receives no rougher treatment than the “pad, pad” of the bare feet of natives. The pile of such a rug is not immune from the wear and tear of modern shoes.
Large rugs in their heaviness give the impression of great strength, but it is on account of their heaviness that greater care should be given them as weight has a tendency to wear out the threads. Oriental rugs should be cleaned often—very often—perhaps once every week, but they should not be shaken, roughly swept, or hung on a line, as this will in all probabil ity loosen the knots and perhaps snap the threads. One of the best methods of cleaning them is to put them face down on the grass or on a clean basement floor and beat them gently with a pliable stick. Then sweep the back and then the face. Care should be taken never to sweep against the nap, but either with it, across it, or both. Next use a cloth slightly dampened with water, a little alcohol, ox gall, or ammonia, and wipe with the - nap. In winter there is no better treatment for the oriental rug than to wash it with snow. It will bring out the colors and brighten it better than anything else will.
Oriental rugs will wash. Spread the rug on a concrete floor with the face up and wash it with a brush, castile soap, and warm water. Rub every way except against the nap. Rinse with warm water, and then turn the hose on it. The best way of pressing out the water is with a smooth stick, rubbing it lightly over the nap. If a house is to be shut up for the summer, the rugs should never be left on the floor. They should be thoroughly cleaned and then put away in a canvas bag or wrapped up in tar paper with clean paper next to them. They should not be folded with the nap on the outside as this may cause creases which will be difficult to remove. Moths are partial to the exquisite wool in oriental rugs and no amount of sweeping or beating will suffice to keep them out altogether. It is wise then to have them cleaned once in a while by the compressed air system.