This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Rug. A small pile-woven mat or carpet, in size ranging from one foot square to the dimensions of an ordinary setting room. The cheaper grades of rugs are made on power looms in this country, while the finer sorts are imported from Asia, being hand-made. There are certain districts in Persia where whole tribes are specially devoted to the weaving of rugs. In Turkey, Persia and Arabia the rug is the finest and most highly esteemed article of the household. It is a custom among them that young girls must weave a rug of unusual excellence before their marriage, the same forming a portion of their dowry. Formerly, the wool which went to compose these family heirlooms was dyed with pure vegetable dyes, generally in shades of dark rich blues. Each family in those countries have in their keeping, handed down through countless generations, some particular design or pattern of rug, which they prize highly for the memories associated with it, and zealously guard from injury. These, when they can be purchased by American or European buyers form the genuine Antique rugs of commerce. The reason that they are finer, and consequently more desirable, is that they were not made for sale, but for the maker's own use, or for some prince or other high Oriental magnate. The wedding-bed is often a richly-wrought rug, laid over soft, sweet-smelling rushes upon the earthen floor of a tent, and many fine rugs are made as princely wedding gifts for the wealthy. For these reasons, time and price in their production cut no figure in the making. While of a close and durable texture, impervious alike to air and water, the genuine Antique rugs are generally quite flexible, and the close, short surface of the pile is delightfully soft. Nothing can exceed the tender bloom which the colors of an Antique of prime quality display when mellowed by time.
At present aniline dyes are used to a large extent by the Oriental rug-weavers, and while these are cheaper, they are not so beautiful or so durable as the vegetable-dyed specimens formerly made. The industry is a large one throughout Turkey and Persia, the rugs made for export usually being woven by the men. The rugmaker has no design or pattern to work from, but draws his inspiration solely from the instinct for certain types of the beautiful universal among the people. His techanical knowledge is acquired by seeing his father or his mother at the loom; families follow this pursuit from generation to generation. The loom stands on the porch of the flat-roofed adobe house, or under the giant shade trees. The frame is composed of rough, untrimmed limbs, on which the bark may still be seen. The warp, which is sometimes of wool or linen, though oftener of cotton cords, is stretched from top to bottom, and the weaver sits before it tailorfashion, resting on his knees and heels. The weft or woolen stuff of which the pile of the rug is made, is spun by the same individual who makes the rug, and they also dye the wool. The weaver lays the different colored thread in strands at his side. As he needs to use them, he cuts them into short tufts with scissors or with knife. These bits are twisted into the warp with his fingers, and thus form the woof or pile. When a row has been interwoven with the warp, a frame with teeth is hammered down upon it until it becomes an integral part of the layer below, and thus a consistent mass is formed with a rich even pile. When the length is finished it is fringed at the ends. The bulk of these so called Smyrna or Eastern rugs come to England and America. The seat of manufacture is in the remote parts of Asia Minor and Smyrna and Constantinople serves as the medium of transport only. The goods are shipped to this point by the native weavers, where they meet with English and American purchasers. Some of these rugs of the Orient have to come thousands of miles before they reach the Turkish capital. These caravans may have forded many dangerous streams with their valuable burden. Roving bands of Arabian robbers may have attacked the caravan in the desert sands; hence it is not to be wondered at that many of the rugs are injured before they reach the final buyer in America. No machinery has yet been introduced in Asia for making either carpets or rugs, every tuft and knot being tied by the deft fingers of the Eastern weaver. In some of these rugs there is wonderful ability of construction shown. The knots are so fine in them that they are invisible to the naked eye, and cannot be discerned in searching for them. In all likelihood generations will yet elapse before the Oriental weavers will make rugs by machinery. The Eastern governments as well as the people themselves are obstinately conservative, and are fanatically opposed to changes of any kind. Recently the Turkish government has emphatically refused the request of wealthy citizens of Symrna to build factories for the manufacture of rugs, on the ground that it would be taking away the labor of the people. A genuine Oriental rug can be identified by simply learning to distinguish its characteristics. An eye that is once accustomed to recognize the peculiar Oriental character in a rug, and understand the mystic language it seems to speak can make no mistake, and is not likely to be imposed upon. The peculiar charm and characteristic of the Antique rug is its naturalness; the soft, yet deep colors; the strength of texture, and the charming irregularity of the design suggests the beauty of natural scenery, and are equally unmistakable and inimitable. To imitate successfully by artificial means the color and texture of Oriental rugs would cost more than to purchase the original, and, as to design, the most perfect machine-made imitation would at once reveal a very regular irregularity.