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Traditional Techniques - New Interpretations

Posted on December 18, 2012 by Susan Brouwer
Several of the rug producers we represent paved the way in the world of present-day rug weaving making rugs exactly as they have been for hundreds of years.  Some of them are made to look old but haven't been distressed with chemicals or other methods that compromise the wool. Their production has been centered in Pakistan (and now Afghanistan as well) where rug making had been in the doldrums for at least 20 years: very few rug qualities, hardly any innovation, repetition of the same designs, and no handspun wool or vegetable dyes. There was a huge migration of refugees from Afghanistan to southern Pakistan beginning in the 1980s. These refugees took their sophisticated weaving techniques with them into Pakistan where the infrastructure for rug weaving and business acumen already existed. According to Jack Simantov, one of our suppliers,"I think more than any other country in any other time, these two cultures have come together and complemented each other to the benefit of the rug industry."

The rugs being produced with the best traditional techniques range from traditional to transitional to modern. They all have the character and appeal of rugs made with handspun wool and natural dyes. Don't see the perfect rug on our site? Send us a note or give us a call at 877-817-0246 -- we'd love to help you find it!

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Creative Matters and LabelStep

Posted on December 01, 2012 by Susan Brouwer
Creative Matters is a company based in Toronto, Canada, that is comprised of only women, all of whom have a background in textiles, the arts, or related fields. Together they have "created" (designed and produced) world-class Tibetan, very modern, very beautiful and very distinct rugs. These rugs go way beyond their superlative designs: most of them are a blend of Tibetan wool with Chinese silk that are combined in a complex and labor-intensive process that results in a rug that is refined and elegant but also very "organic" in its look and feel. The deceptively simple results are skillfully crafted and beautifully rendered works of art for your floor.

We are so pleased to be able to present these rugs to our customers. Not only does the owner of a Rug For All Reasons relate strongly to an all-woman company (being an independent woman herself!); it is our intention to carry the best rugs being produced, and Creative Matters certainly fills the bill there.

In addition, Creative Matters is a company of people who genuinely feel a sense of responsibility for promoting environmentally friendly production methods as well as concern for the wellbeing of the people who are involved in the hands-on process of making their rugs. Here is a quote from Creative Matters:

"We believe in the ethical treatment of the weavers and artisans who create our beautiful rugs overseas. It was these beliefs that lead us to support Label STEP and we are very proud to announce that we are Label STEPS’ first North American Partner."

LabelSTEP is an organization that’s committed to improving weavers' living conditions, working conditions and ensure fair wages. It also promotes environmentally friendly production methods. Label Step is systematically monitoring the production sites of its licensees and their suppliers, and takes measures to ensure fair conditions.

Label STEP operates at the local level in all major carpet-producing countries - Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan and Turkey. A portion of the sale of every rug we have made in Nepal goes to support this organization.

For more about LabelSTEP, also see www.label-step.org

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The Tibet Rug Company

Posted on October 31, 2012 by Susan Brouwer
The Tibet Rug Company is a joint venture between a Salt Lake rug company and a cooperative of Tibetan refugees in Kathmandu, Nepal. Long a production of Tibetan rugs woven in Nepal, the Tibet Rug Company now also produces sturdy, well-made Soumaks woven in India of 100% New Zealand wool on a cotton warp.

The Tibet Rug Company holds a special place in our hearts for several reasons. We love their rugs, which are contemporary while being light-hearted and earthy at the same time. While the quality of the rugs is very high, their designs work well in so many of our more casual homes.

We also are very fond of the people who work for the Tibet Rug Company and who we have known for years. Their spirit and enthusiasm makes them a joy to work with.

In addition to his Tibetan rug project, the owner of Tibet Rug Company, Jim Webber, was instrumental in the founding of a non-profit organization whose principal purpose is to build teaching hospitals for reconstructive surgery in Nepal. 
Caring donors have given more than $400,000 to the Cleft and Burn Center. The mission statement of the organization is as follows: "To deliver quality, deformity-correcting reconstructive surgery to the poorest of the poor of Nepal through a permanent, sustainable healthcare infrastructure." Learn more about the Nepal Cleft and Burn Center -- donations welcome!

The process that results in a handknotted rug is time and labor-intensive. In the case of Tibetan rugs, the raw wool is brought into Nepal from Tibet, where sheep live at high altitudes in extreme conditions that result in some of the finest wool in the world. Rich in lanolin, this wool boasts of very strong fibers. Once in Nepal, the wool is washed and hand spun. Hand spinning is a much more expensive and time-consuming process than machine spinning, but it has two distinct advantages. Hand spinning breaks down fewer fibers of wool, so the end result is a stronger fiber and longer wearing wool. Hand spun wool also has an irregular diameter so it takes up the dyes in an irregular manner, which gives the rug character and a more interesting texture.

After the wool is dyed, the rugs are "knotted" by hand on cotton warps, using looms and techniques that haven't changed since the weaving of Tibetan rugs began several centuries ago. A 4- x 6-foot rug requires approximately 250 hours to complete. The hand knotting process and the superb quality of the wool produce a rug that will last for generations, under normal wear and circumstances.

See our Tibet Rug Company rugs.

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Woven Legends and the Rug Renaissance

Posted on October 30, 2012 by Susan Brouwer

Harald Bohmer, who launched a rug renaissance in the 1980s with the introduction of natural dyes to modern rugs, was a German student who studied in Turkey. He fell in love with the country, and his interest in rugs and dyes became a passion. When he learned of a method for analyzing the dyes in fabrics (thin-layer chromatography), he began a methodical investigation into the dyes in Turkish rugs. He learned what natural dyestuffs rugmakers had used 100 years earlier, before the dyer’s art had been lost, and how these artisans had used them.

Dr. Bohmer conceived the notion of teaching Turkish rug weavers the art of dyeing with natural substances. Eventually the School of Fine Arts in Istanbul agreed to sponsor a project with Dr. Bohmer as chief advisor, called DOBAG, an acronym in Turkish meaning Natural Dye Research and Development Project. Weavers in the villages around Ayvacik started weaving natural-dye rugs under Dr. Bohmer's supervision. DOBAG was the start of the Oriental rug renaissance. 

A Turkish Bergama constructed from old wool. Antique kilims are unraveled for their wool.

George Jevremovic and his company, Woven Legends. took that renaissance much further. He was impressed when he first saw DOBAG-inspired rugs from the villages around Ayvacik.  In 1983 he began asking weavers around Ayvacik to make rugs for him, but he quickly realized that the nature of Ayvacik tribal and village life didn't allow him to make larger carpets. He wanted the same kind of charm and naivete in large rugs that one usually finds only in small ones, and he wanted to weave rugs in early tribal or village designs, especially designs from northern Iran. Up to that time, nearly every large rug, old or new, was curvilinear and formal-looking. 

Between 1984 to 1987 George Jevremovic slowly established his Woven Legedns production of natural-dye rugs in Turkey. But the major obstacle was a lack of models for what he was trying to do. Everything had to be worked out. Although handspun wool was still available in Turkey, quantities fell far short of what he needed. He had to seek the advice of experts on natural dyeing. Eventually Woven Legends employed 15,000 people: spinners, weavers, dyers, and others.

Turkish Bidjar (Euphrates line) from Woven Legends. It is based on a mid-19th century Persian Bidjar. 

Woven Legends showed that antique designs could be beautifully rendered in new carpets. These are the first new rugs with true character to be seen in the west in a century. This was due in large part to the fact that weavers were allowed the freedom to improvise enough so that they were able to imbue their rugs with some of their individual spirit.

An Early Turkish Yatak rug from Woven Legends, less finely knotted than Azeris and clipped longer in pile.

Turkish Serapi rug from Woven Legends. It is based on old Persian Serapis from northern Iran.

When George Jevremovic was asked which rugs he considered to be collectible, he replied ’some of the Turkish rugs’. He said he experiences the weavers in China and India as being agreeable, cooperative and skillful. He has a different experience when he asks Turkish weavers to weave rugs from drawings. They too are skillful and would like to please, but there is something -- he calls it "DNA" -- that makes them a little resistant to following someone else’s drawings! **

A Sardis from Woven Legends, based on the ancient Egyptian Mamluk carpets

**Information for this article drawn from Oriental Rugs Today by Emmett Eiland.

See our Turkish Village rugs from Woven Legends.

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The Tibetan Plateau, Yayla & Machik

Posted on October 15, 2012 by Susan Brouwer

Our Tibetan rugs (see Tibetan & Gangchen Tibetan) are woven of lustrous, long-staple sheepswool from the Tibetan Plateau where the sheep are reared in the high-altitude Himalayas. With an average elevation of 14,800 feet, the Tibetan Plateau is sometimes called “the Roof of the World,” and is the world’s highest and largest plateau.  It comprises an area four times the size of France and covers most of Tibet, Qinghai Province in western China, and part of Ladahk.

The Tibetan Plateau is an ecological region of enormous significance both at the local level for Tibetan herders and farmers, and at the national and even global levels for biodiversity conservation. At the highest altitudes, conservation and management of water resources are particularly significant, as around 40 percent of the world’s population is found within the watersheds of the rivers originating on the Tibetan Plateau.

In addition, the Tibetan Plateau ecosystems influence on a large scale atmospheric patterns, such as the Asian monsoon and high-altitude jet streams. The area is also home to many unique habitats and to numerous endangered wildlife species.

Local inhabitants in the region, especially Tibetan herders and farmers (as well as several other ethnic groups), deserve increased attention for reasons of equity in development in the context of rapid globalization – and also because so little is known in the rest of the world about the people and cultures of the Tibetan Plateau region.

We became aware of an organization known as Machik through one of our rug importers, Chris Walter and Yayla Tribal Rugs, who has been a significant supporter through sales of his all natural-dye Tibetan rugs. Machik is a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen communities on the Tibetan plateau. Their work is organized at a grassroots level around six themes: Education, Conservation and Green Technology, Women's Initiatives, Economic Opportunities, Multimedia and Digital Technology, and Social Entrepreneurship.

 -- You can help strengthen communities on the Tibetan plateau by making an online donation to Machik (www.machik.org). Or send a check payable to "Machik,” 1609 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 400,
Washington, DC 20009, USA


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Tribal Rugs of Today

Posted on October 08, 2012 by Susan Brouwer

The art and craft of the tribal knotted pile carpet probably began among the pastoral nomads or herding people of central Asia who moved their sheep or goats between winter quarters and summer pasture. Their livelihoods were centered around their animals, and the items they made from their wool were absolutely essential to their lives: the walls of their tents, ropes, bags and containers of all sorts, rugs for the floor, clothing, and a variety of household items. The weaving of these things was also a medium for artistic expression and they lent so much color and beauty to the everyday lives of these nomadic people. 

The first tribal piled rugs or carpets may have imitated the texture and insulating properties of animal pelts. The oldest complete carpet was found in the frozen tomb of a nomadic chieftain at Pazyryk in southern Siberia. It has been dated to the 5th century B.C. and can be seen in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Many of the nomadic people have settled down over the centuries, and the longer they've been settled, the more diluted by other influences the 
designs have become. This has also been because of the migrations of peoples due to political upheavals all over the world.

Handmade Persian Gabbeh Runner

The term "tribal" used with rugs refers mainly to weavings made for personal use within a community. As nomadic peoples settled down, rug weaving became more of a cottage industry and rugs started to be produced as a means of livelihood. As the weavers have become subject to selling pressures, market demand has become such an influence that it has overridden communal tradition. 

These "tribal" pieces that we present here in our online store are really in the tribal style: the gabbehs, Balouch soumaks, Qashgai designs, all based on the weaving techniques and designs of the nomadic people of Iran but most probably made in village workshops and cottage weaving industries. With a few exceptions, some of the spontaneity of the antique Persian tribal pieces has surely been lost -- but those exceptions are out there still!

Lori Gabbeh Persian Fine Weave Carpet

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The Story of the Tribal Rugs of Iran

Posted on October 07, 2012 by Susan Brouwer

The supply of these rugs is very limited and what you see on this site from Iran you won't see again because of the embargo on Persian rugs.  We've chosen to feature these Balouch Soumak and Gabbeh-type rugs, even though they're unique and can't be duplicated in the much more profitable "programmed" rugs, because we feel they lend a special interest and beauty to our store.

Unlike cottage weavers, workshop weavers, or city weavers, the tribal weavers achieve expressive power in their rugs through the use of color, space and proportion. The best examples are very appealing and very creative as they are one-of-a-kind works of art.  Unlike the other more refined types of rugs, they are woven without a graph -- each piece is a creation of the weavers imagination. Many of the tribal rugs, such as the Gabbehs or Kashkuli rugs, are also woven on more primitive looms than the more refined types of carpets.  Often these looms were designed to be rolled up and unrolled when the nomadic herders arrived at new grazing grounds.

Some of these rugs, such as the older gabbehs, are reminiscent of animal pelts -- thick and shaggy. Some historians believe pelts were the inspiration for these primitive types of rugs.

Persian Handmade Rug

Green Persian Handmade Runner Rug

The Rugs we show here are modeled after gabbeh designs, including the Balouch soumak rugs. (The rugs previously known as Balouch soumaks are much more muted.) These are interpretations of gabbeh designs done with vegetal dyes in knotted pile combined with a fine soumak weave. When they're done well, these modern-day versions of the gabbehs and Balouch soumaks have great appeal to western rug buyers because of their spontaneity and charm as well as value as pieces of wonderful art.

***A caveat from A Rug For All Reasons: The photographs of these rugs don't represent these rugs as well as they could. While we aren't happy to have photographs that don't show a rug to its best advantage, our devotion to these rugs surpasses those considerations. We feel that you'll understand how special they are, even with the limitations of the photos. 

Persian Tribal Handmade Carpet

When the old Gabbehs became rare, Gholamreza Zollanvari started to work together with the Gashgai Nomads to produce new ones. By this time, the natural dyes had disappeared along with the use of handspun wool. Zollanvari started producing the Gabbeh with handspun wool, vegetable dyes and in european sizes. That is why, still today, Gholamreza is called “the father of the modern Gabbeh.” They have found tremendous popularity in Europe and the Americas. Unfortunately, because of the embargo on Persian rugs in the United States, these are the last of this type of tribal rug from Iran that we may see for sale here -- ever.

View our Persian Tribal collection

The following books give you a good overview of the history of the patterns, the carpets and the nomads:

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Current Trends in the Rug-Making World

Posted on August 01, 2012 by Susan Brouwer

The rug-making world has been immersed in a swirl of change for many years. People in the rug-weaving countries have been subject to the whims of political changes, movements of peoples, the dictates of style and taste. There have been two embargoes on Iranian (Persian) rugs, one of which is currently in place.  

Because the west was not able to acquire Persian rugs for so many years in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the weavers of other countries, notably Pakistan, India and China, began making rugs emulating the Persian designs.  

9/11 drove many of the weavers in Paksistan and Afghanistan out of work because of the disappearing market in the west for their rugs. The refugee Afghani weavers in Pakistan returned to Afghanistan, some of them continuing to practice their trade.  

When the crash of 2008 occurred, much of the middle class in the west stopped investing in art and high-quality objects such as handmade rugs. The weavers have had to find other work, partly because of less demand, but also because many of the weavers have gone into jobs where they can make equal or better pay for less difficult and demanding work, such as jobs in the technology field. As fewer people make rugs, there are fewer high-quality rugs in the marketplaces of the world, prices gradually are increasing, and fewer people are able to experience the joy of seeing and owning this type of rug, especially the younger generation.

As part of our mission, A Rug For All Reasons hopes to provide a source of information about handmade rugs as well as a source for acquiring really good rugs.  Hand-knotted rugs are expensive, but we strive to keep our prices as reasonable as possible. We hope to enable the weavers to continue producing rugs that are not only durable and beautiful but also represent an age-old, traditional art.

To learn more about handmade rugs, visit our Rug Info section, starting with our article on "What is an Oriental rug?," as well as our blog article "A Short History Of Rugs."

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Living In A Rug Family

Posted on July 28, 2012 by Susan Brouwer

My father had a floor-covering business. When I was little he took me with him sometimes and I saw him lay linoleum, often with fancy inlays. I remember a rooster he carved out of linoleum and laid into the main material of a kitchen floor.

He stocked some tufted wool rugs as time went on.

When he retired at a youngish age, my mother decided she’d become an oriental rug dealer. She was a wiz. It was a time when many people remembered growing up with oriental rugs, but then they had gone out of fashion with the onset of wall-to-wall carpeting in many homes. Some customers remarked to me that they remember small oriental rugs being put in the dog’s bed!

My mother took me with her to San Francisco and New York from time to time to visit her sources for rugs. Exposure to the rugs combined with her enthusiasm and love of the rugs she brought into her shop were contagious. One day I saw a Persian Afshar in her store, which I fell in love with and purchased from her on a lay-away plan (at a discount, if I remember!) I have it next to me to this day and continue to treasure that rug.

My mother acquired many rugs of her own, which have been passed down to my brothers and me: a very fine silk and wool Persian (Iranian) Nain, some quirky, dense “iron rugs,” another name for Persian Bidjars, Turkish rugs from the ‘70s and ‘80s that were made by rug makers bringing back handspun, vegetal dye rugs as part of the “rug renaissance” that was taking place.

I consider myself to be very lucky to have been exposed to the beauty and character of wonderful handmade rugs and to have been part of this amazing Renaissance. Hand-knotted rugs, now more than ever, are to be treasured, as fewer and fewer people are involved in the skilled and labor-intensive craft of rug-weaving. (See our related article on “Current Trends in the Rug-Making World”).

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A Short History Of Rugs

Posted on July 28, 2012 by Susan Brouwer

The origin of oriental carpets has been attributed to the nomadic tribes originating in Central Asia. The earliest carpet, the famous Pazryk Carpet (seen below), which was


discovered in a Siberian burial site, is more than 2,500 years old (note how well the intricate design has held up - a tribute to the craft and construction of handmade rugs). It is generally accepted that the special craft was developed simultaneously in different parts of the world, probably around the same period of time and spread throughout the world by nomadic tribes. Since then, carpet weaving has been a mainstay in countries such as Persia (Iran), Egypt, Turkey, China, Pakistan, and India, and in more recent times Tibet and Nepal.

Carpet weaving was a craft of many nomadic tribes and developed because of the need for protection from the elements. The Kazak design (seen below - our Kazak design 5), is a

perfect example of the nomadic styles of past and present. The geometric designs were easily woven by nomads who migrated throughout the world. Most were woven on horizontal looms that could be easily taken up when the tribes moved from one place to another. A high level of detail that can be achieved with fine yarns and an upright stationary loom. The striated colorations of the tribal rugs also denote the different dyes and wool used as they moved from one place to another and produced the wools and dyes, as they were needed.

The Tabriz, as well as Sarouk, Keshan, Bidjar, Herati and others are designs that are depicted by the actual city where they originated from. So-called "city"rugs, these works of art show exquisite detail due to the fine knotting and quality-controlled materials.

The rugs from each country, and even each region of a country, often have their own unique characteristics of construction and design, which help in their identification. However, in modern times many of these characteristics have been "hybridized" because of the movements of refugee weavers and because many of the Persian designs are being made in other countries such as India and Pakistan with innovations and colors that may not have been used traditionally.

This informative Wikipedia reference on Persian carpet has more on the Pazryk Carpet, as well as history on other rug making periods, materials, designs, and motifs.

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