Materials Used In Handmade Rugs

cotton pile rug silk wool

Handmade rugs are made from five basic materials such as; sheep wool, goat hair, cotton, floss silk and silk.


The quality of the wool varies according to the climate, the breed of sheep and the time of year of the shearing. Wool from sheep that live in warm and arid regions is normally dry and brittle and since it breaks so easily, it ends up being short and looks lifeless. Good quality wool comes from healthy and well fed sheep found in cold regions or at high elevations with good grazing lands and lots of water. In the colder regions, sheep grow a full fleece to keep warm and their bodies store fat which then translates to a high lanolin content within the wool fiber which reaches lenghts of 10 cm(4 inches) wool from higher elevations(cooler also) and sheared in spring time considered to be the highest quality. Wool is hand-spun by using primative utensils called "kirmen" and by spinning wheels. In hand- spun wool, the original length of the fiber stays the same throughout the spinning process; a fiber that measured 3 inches before spinning will still measure the same after spinning. Wool can also industrially spun but the hard twisting of the fibers by the spinning machines tends to break some of the fibers. Although the broken bits and shorter fibers can be made to adhere together through the use of oils during the spinning process, the fiber will lose some of its strength which in turn will shorten the life of the rugs to be woven.


In area rug and kilim rug weaving, cotton is used mostly for the warp threads as well as for the wefts. Compared to wool, cotton is generally considered to be a more resistant fiber and it is less elastic so tighter knots can be tied on cotton warps as opposed to wool. If very tight knots are tied to a wool warp, the fiber will break much more frequently that if the warps were of cotton. Consequently, woolen pile rugs with high knotting density counts will usually have cotton warps, for example in "Hereke", "Ladik" and "Kayseri" carpets.


Goat hair occasionally found in Oriental rugs in the side bin"dings but it is more frequently found in saddle bags,cushions, various types of sacks, etc.


Floss silk or art silk as it is sometimes called is actually mercerized cotton and is used in certain rugs that are woven in Turkey, Kayseri. Although not identical to silk, a somewhat similar look is obtained by mixing cypress tree fibers with cotton that has been washed in citric acid. Floss silk rugs are woven with natural cotton warp and weft threads.



Silk has a very high tensile strength  and can be twisted very finely, plus it is quinet resistant. The finest silk comes from the first part of the amazingly long single thread with which silkworm spins its cocoon can strech up to 25.000 meters. The best and finest hand knotted rugs are mostly made with pure silk.



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