Floor Coverings - Oriental Rugs

( Originally Published 1931 )

Only within the last generation has the Oriental rug become a general article of commerce in the United States. Previously it was considered a luxury which only the privileged few could afford. Now the making of these rugs for the American trade has become an important industry from Greece through to the Far East, and acceptable Orientals may be had for comparatively moderate prices, although the cheapest which it is safe to buy are 50 per cent more than the best Domestics.

All Orientals are made by hand, and a pair of hands receives as daily wage something between three and ten cents. The looms are crude affairs often set up outdoors and therefore capable of being made in any shape. Hence Orientals have no standardized dimensions. But the chief structural difference between Domestics and Orientals concerns the method of creating the pile. We have seen how a razor-edge wire cuts the loops in Domestics; in Orientals there are no loops to cut. A piece of yarn of the proper color is merely tied around a warp strand with a single knot and the ends are cut off at the proper length to create the in-tended depth of pile.

Another interesting difference is that, whereas the well-made Domestic is flawless in the detail of its design, the Oriental is never perfect. Indeed, in the case of the famous Persian rugs these imperfections are deliberate. To the devout Persian only Allah can make things perfect, and no humble follower would dare to usurp this prerogative. To this quaint philosophy is due much of the charm of the best examples from the Orient.

Before coming on the retail market, the great majority of Orientals are "washed." That is the trade term, but it is mild description. In truth they are as tortured and harassed as a small boy in the hands of a determined mother, and, like the small boy, they emerge minus all extraneous matter and subdued in tone. As a result an Oriental has little left to contribute to the carpet sweeper, whereas a new Domestic will give up billows of fluff.

The best Orientals are such splendid expressions of handicraft that they have become objects for collectors. But there are plenty of good ones left for the rest of us to choose from and enjoy. These, however, are most definitely not to be discovered in the packs of itinerant peddlers who whisper at our back doors stories of smuggling and are vanished into thin air by the time we discover that the "Oriental" which we have bought as a bargain is in actual fact an overpriced Domestic of inferior grade. The buyer of an Oriental is strongly advised to go only to the most reliable rug departments or stores in making her selection, as it takes years of study to recognize the fine points which make for merit and value in Orientals.

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