The Romantic Origins of Oriental Rugs

The Romantic Origins of Oriental Rugs

By definition, an Oriental rug is hand-knotted with wool or silk, made in an area that includes China, Turkey, India, and everything in between. Although different cultures and religious faiths developed their own techniques and signature styles, all are considered “Oriental rugs.”

The oldest known sample was discovered in 1948 in a frozen burial mound in Outer Mongolia near Pazryk. Believed to be from the 5th century BCE, “The Pazryk Carpet” has geometric, floral, and symbolic designs.

The fact that the person was buried with his carpet indicates the personal identification and meaning attributed to the item. The quality of this carpet demonstrates that the art of rug making had become, even by then, a sophisticated practice.

 

cyrus-the-greatOriental Rugs in History

King Cyrus the Great (circa 500 BCE) is said to have decorated his palace with carpets so intricate and so colorful that they dazzled visitors. Historians believe that artisans in the Persian and Egyptian Empires had developed weaving independently by the second millennium BCE. Evidence suggests that hand-knotted rugs existed in parts of Asia and the Middle East more than 4000 years ago. By the 8th century BCE, well-to-do families were using rugs to decorate and personalize their homes — not only on the floors, but also on the walls and even on the tables.

The Romance of Oriental Rugs

Ancient Oriental rugs weren’t necessarily made for practical reasons. As shown by The Pazryk Carpet, rugs had sentimental value. As a modern mother knits booties for her baby, the artisans of old crafted their cleopatracarpets with love to bring beauty and comfort to their families.

The vibrant colors of a rug mirrored the world around them. The symbols had personal and cultural overtones. It acted as jewelry in a time before jewels, a gift that took precious time to make, designed with a specific person in mind. The recipient of a hand-made rug likely kept it close at all times: using it during meals, prayer, and sleep.

In one believably romantic story, the beauteous and seductive Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, sailed across the Mediterranean Sea to visit Rome. In order to gain audience with Mark Antony, she had herself wrapped in an Egyptian rug of the finest texture to be presented to him as a gift. That introduction, as you may know, led to one of the most dramatic romances of all time!

Oriental Rugs Today

Because Oriental rugs developed over time from a very wide geographic area, they are named after the place where local artisans weaved them. The designs, palettes, and techniques link individual rugs to the jaipurindigenous culture that produced it, and experts can often tell at a glance where a particular rug originated. Floral or formal patterns, for example, reflect a more urban artisan, while geometric patterns indicate a rural or tribal rug maker.

Today, most Oriental rugs come from China, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tibet, and Turkey. Persian rugs, a subset of Oriental rugs, are only made in Iran (formerly Persia). These rugs are known for a thick pile, brilliant color patterns, inventive designs, and a unique weave.

The beauty of any Oriental rug is in part tied to its link to the past — in its color, design, and originality. Although Oriental rugs have their origins thousands of years ago, little has changed. True Oriental rugs are still made by human hands practicing an ancient skill. Their romance as gifts also continue.

 

 

Cleaning the Post-Holiday Mess Out of Your Rugs

after the partyYou’ve finished the cheese balls and wine, run out of desserts, and burned down the candles. The guests have finally left. After counting the silverware, you take out the trash, fluff the pillows on the sofa, and return your dining room to its normal configuration. Time to relax, right?

Wrong.

If your holiday parties are anything like ours, you’ll find a half-full glass tucked behind a chair. You’ll notice the wine stains on your beautiful Oriental rug in the living room, discover an unsightly mixture of fruit and chocolate smeared on the tufted dining room rug, and to your great dismay, see that wax dripped down onto the new throw rugs you placed in the spare bedroom.  After the expense of the holidays, the last thing you want to do is to refurnish your floors. Luckily, you can take steps to clean your rugs so you can enjoy them into the next holiday Wine on rugseason and beyond.

Cleaning Orientals

Let’s start with your fabulous Oriental rug. Hand-knotted rugs should be professionally cleaned. If you invested in a quality wool masterpiece, we recommend you take it to the experts. But you can do it yourself … if you’re very careful.  Start by vacuuming both sides, using suction from a hand tool to keep the beater bar from pulling up loose strands. Then use a mild soap — Dawn dishwashing soap is ideal — mixed in cool water. Avoid products that contain bleach, ammonia, or other strong chemicals. Test a corner of the rug to make sure the soap doesn’t alter the dye colors.

vaccumScrub the rug gently with a long-bristled soft brush or sponge, rubbing in the direction of the nap. Thoroughly soak the rug. When done, squeeze out the water — a rubber squeegee does the most efficient job. Push the moisture out towards the end of the rug along the pile of the nap. If you have enough space, hang the rug to dry. Otherwise, lie it flat to dry. Once the nap is dry, turn it over to let the back dry.

Other Cleaning Solutions

Hand-tufted rugs are a different story. These rugs have a canvas backing glued on to hold the wool fibers in place. You can’t get these rugs wet. The best way to tackle stains is with a spot cleaner such as Capture (sold at all Rug & Home locations). Clean each spot separately, patting Capture Products availabel at Rug & Homethe excess moisture quickly so it doesn’t seep through to the glue. Pat the spot repeatedly with a damp sponge. Try it again if necessary and keep at it until you’re satisfied.

Getting candle wax out of a rug requires paper towels and a warm iron. Layer paper towels over the wax and rest the iron on the spot. Do not let the iron touch the wax directly. After a few seconds, lift the iron; the wax has melted into the paper towels. Repeat with clean paper towels until you’ve lifted out all the drippings. As a final step, treat with a spot cleaner.

Once you finish cleaning, rub the dry fibers on your rugs with a soft brush to loosen them up and release any leftover soap. Vacuum. Now you’re ready to send out invitations for a spring fling!