LONG before other countries learned the art of cultivating silkworms, China was at work weaving fabrics of silk. Chinese historians claim that the origin of reeling silk and putting it to use was discovered by a woman, — Se-Ling-She, wife of Hwang-te, third Emperor of China, — and for that reason she has always been regarded by them as the "goddess of silkworms." The date of this discovery is about 2640 B. C. For about two thousand years the Chinese kept secret their methods of reeling and weaving silk, but finally Japan, Persia, and India learned the art, Persia having for many centuries transported raw silk between China and the West. Very slowly grew the process of silk-weaving. Greece, Spain, and Sicily by degrees attained the knowledge. In A.. D. 550 it was introduced into Constantinople, and in 1148 silk manufacture was carried into Italy, and the cultivation of mulberry trees was enforced by law. The industry soon spread into the south of France, where it rapidly advanced.
At the present day enormous quantities of silk are produced in various parts of the world. The principal countries are China, Japan, India, Southern Europe, and some parts of Persia and Asia Minor. During the Middle Ages and down to the seventeenth century, the province of Ghilan in Persia produced very fine silk and in large quantities. In all the countries and districts just mentioned, magnificent silk rugs have been woven for many centuries.
The silk rug when at its best is unsurpassed in beauty it is distinguished by its richness, exquisite coloring, and rare sheen. But silk rugs require the most luxurious surroundings : nothing looks so out of place as one of these costly fabrics of the loom in a poor setting. They are more suitable for decorative purposes and museums than for service; they should be used as hangings, not for floor coverings. An exquisite silk rug interwoven with pearls is hung before the famous Peacock Throne of the Shah at Teheran, Persia.
The most magnificent silk rugs have been woven in China, and these are interesting from every point of view, especially as regards history, color, and texture. The silk rugs of Khotan are remarkable for their beauty and fineness; on important occasions of state and ceremony the Chinese place them upon the table. Silk carpets of special beauty worked with gold threads are made in Pekin for the Imperial Palace, although many of this kind found at the Court are said to be of Central Asiatic origin.
In making silk rugs, the greatest care is necessary in the shading. Sometimes the shading of woollen rugs is made more effective by the addition of silk..
As the demand for silk rugs is comparatively small, they are seldom woven on speculation. When made to order in Persia, they cost from ten dollars to fifteen dollars per square foot; thus the usual price of a silk rug of Persian make is from two hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars. Those made in Turkey can be bought much cheaper.
The Turkoman silk rugs are generally twice the size of the usual sheep's wool or camel's ,hair rugs. They are very fine, and often two hundred dollars is paid for a rug of this kind eight feet square.
Rugs made of raw silk are exported from Samarkand, and silk rugs of old Persian designs are copied and woven at Caesarea. Some weavers of the modern silk rug, however, do not have recourse to established designs ; they give play to their imagination, as do the weavers of wool rugs. Other weavers copy chiefly designs from chintz, and still others work from designs introduced from Europe.
Mrs. Bishop tells us that silk produced at Resht is brought to Kashan to be spun and dyed. Then it is sent to Sultanabad to be woven into rugs. It is next returned to Resht to have the pile cut by the sharp instruments used for cutting the velvet pile. After the rugs are finished, they are sent to Teheran to be sold.
( Originally Published Late 1900's )