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Oriental Rugs For Your Home
( Originally Published 1918 )
A home is something more than a place in which to live. It is what both men and women long for, work for, and from which children receive their earliest and most enduring impressions. Their view of life is influenced by whatever of finer suggestion or of real uplift it is possible to bring into their environment. If the income is not too limited, it is a wise investment to do all that is possible to beautify the home and to add to its charm.
Oriental rugs have a power of fascination and a peculiar mystical quality which stirs the imagination and emotions, more, perhaps, than any other item of household furnishing. Each rug, laboriously made by hand, represents months or years of patient work, and necessarily reflects the changing moods and mind of the maker. Each piece of fabric has received a personal touch which gives it almost a life and personality in the family circle.
Although in some homes of unlimited means, oriental rugs may be entirely out of place because of the color scheme or the manner of furnishing - plain rugs are sometimes needed where there is much wall decoration, and mission and craftsman furniture requires floor covering of modern design - yet, the scope of the oriental weavings, old and new, is so great in variety of texture, color, and design, that suitable selections may usually be made for almost any room. The variety of colors in multitudes of tones and values tends to make the rugs blend in any setting. Some of the best effects, however, are gained by the use of rugs woven by the eastern workers from special color schemes sent over to them from this country. Where it is practical to have rugs made to order in this way, it is possible to have a wonderful harmony in color in the rooms in which they are used.
There are many oriental rugs upon the market, but it is distressingly hard for the prospective purchaser to judge of values. The uninformed person is easily cheated, so it is well to deal only with the merchant whose reputation for honesty is of the best. The innumerable oriental rugs with which America is now flooded, are usually genuine, however, in that they are really hand woven. All Asia seems to have gone to weaving since the demand for eastern floor coverings became so universal. However, this great increase in the industry has given the inevitable result of inferior production. The wool used in these days is often not so good, and poor aniline dyes are sometimes used instead of the vegetable dyes which were always used formerly. Cheap aniline dyes are never as soft in color as vegetable dyes, so rugs of this inferior dye are usually "washed" by a chemical process which softens the colors but rots the wool. A "washed" rug may occasionally be detected by rubbing a small spot with a moistened handkerchief. If the color comes off, the dye is aniline of a poor grade and the rug is doomed to lose its color with a comparatively short period of use. Before wool will take aniline dyes well, the natural oil has to be scoured out of it more thoroughly than when vegetable dyes are used. This scouring process leaves the wool looking dead and lifeless, so after the rug is dyed with aniline colors, a high luster is given by the use of a glycerine bath. The pleasing sheen which this lends soon wears off under the tread of the disappointed purchasers.
Small rugs, four by five feet and less, of modern make, of good design and color, may be purchased all the way from ten to fifty dollars. Large rugs and antiques are higher in price, varying according to age, beauty in color and sheen, and fineness of texture. The most expensive rugs sometimes contain 1000 knots to the square inch and represent the work of a lifetime.
Oriental rugs are usually divided into four principal classes, Caucasian, Turkish, Turkoman, and Persian. Each class is distinguished by some special characteristic in design, and within the classes there are many subdivisions usually easily recognized by the connoisseur, who examines not only the pattern, but the material of the warp, tuft and pile, and the length of the pile. He also counts the number of knots to the square inch, and determines the kind of knot used. After assembling all these points of identification he is usually able to give the rug which is being examined the true name.
The average buyer of the more inexpensive oriental rugs has neither the knowledge nor the time for such careful examination, and must rely upon only a few general facts on the subject, and upon the word of a trusted dealer.
Caucasian rugs come from the Russian Caucasus, once Persian territory, but acquired by Russia in the nineteenth century. These rugs bear designs which are rectilinear and geometrical. There are three principal types, the Daghestans, Shirvans, and Kabistans. Daghestan rugs are very beautiful with their silvered tones of red, blue, green, and yellow, and designs of stars, squares, and hexagons, of the most conventional type. They are suited for use in small reception rooms where dignity is desired. Kabistans are more like Persian rugs, for they are softer in color than the Daghestans or Shirvans. Stiff animal and human forms appear in the designs of Kabistans. For living rooms, libraries, and dining rooms, Turkish and Turkoman rugs are especially desirable as they are to be easily found in the larger sizes.
Turkomans are distinguished by the use of many octagons. Perhaps the best known Turkoman is the Bokhara, named after one of the most remote countries of the world, seven hundred miles east of the Caspian Sea. The rugs which come from this far country have octagons and diamonds in blue and white designs on rich red backgrounds. Long wool fringes and wide selvages prevent fraying. Bokhara rugs are strong in color and should never be used in a dainty room. Baluchistans, another type of the Turkoman class, are also well fringed and selvaged like the Bokharas, but come in softer colors, more like the Persian rugs.
The equilateral triangle can always be traced in a Turkish rug. In Ladik or Anatolian fabrics there are usually borders Turkish which are composed of figures which Rugs look like flowers, until when traced they are found to be made up of one square or triangle after another, joined to give floral form. Turkish rugs are woven in soft tones of the primary colors, blended with a skill that gives a subdued effect. The designs are apt to be very symmetrical and the center of the field of the rug is often pointed at both ends, except in the case of the prayer rugs. The Kaba-Karaman and Anatolian prayer rugs are seen most often for sale.
The finest rugs in the world are woven in Persia. Rug weaving in Persia is especially fostered by national pride and strongly encouraged by the rulers of that country. Great care is taken to keep the rugs woven here from deteriorating in excellence, and the use of aniline dyes is absolutely prohibited for this reason. Persian rugs are characterized by soft, exquisite coloring and a floral design.
The most interesting of the Persian rugs are the Kirman. The hues of these rugs are very delicate and the plant, flower, and bird form designs are treated less geometrically and more naturalistically than those of any other oriental rugs. They are unusually soft and silky and have a beautiful sheen. Saraband rugs are woven in the mountains of western Persia and derive their designs from the pine trees found there. Rows of small pine cones usually fill the central field, the stems of the cones pointing alternate ways. The colors are red, blue, and ivory. Quaint medallion effects are found in Saruk and Tabriz rugs. These rugs are delicate in coloring, and of admirable weave, and are among the most popular of the many types of Persian rugs.
There are many other types of the four classes of oriental rugs, each reflecting the thought and customs of some period in the history of the country from which they come. Commercialism has cheapened the design and color in many instances, but the charm of a human quality still remains and no manufactured rug can ever supply that personal element. The antique oriental rugs were the result of years of patient effort. The thoughts, emotions, history, and legends of the regions from which they come, are faithfully recorded in the rugs. The most beautiful rug was, to the girl of the Orient, what the painstaking sampler was to the child of our grandparents' day. No work was too fine, no effort was too great, for the rug, when at last completed, was to last a generation and more, cherished as a household treasure.
The modern rugs are made for commerce rather than for home use in their native land, but still, a feeling of loyalty to, and reverence for, the craft of their ancestors inspires the workmen and workwomen of to-day with an affectionate enthusiasm which must inevitably show in their finished products. Though the stitches are hurried and often not nearly so fine, the same ancient symbols are used in the designs, and many quaint legends may be traced through the mesh of the intricate patterns.