A Brief Look at Carpets A Brief Look at Carpets

Nothing brings all the diverse elements of an interior space together than a well-chosen carpet. These floor coverings do more than just decorate a space or dress up an otherwise drab floor, they can do wonders for a room. Carpets can make an area appear larger or smaller than it really is, set a mood, or even reflect a corporate ideology or one’s unique personality. Though they are hardly noticed, carpets play an integral role in any environment.

History

The history of carpets is a long and multi-faceted one. No single entity or country, can lay claim to the development and use of patterned fabrics as floor coverings. The earliest proof of carpets, however, can be traced back to ancient Egypt. Archeologists have found tomb records indicating that fabrics were placed on the floor directly before the thrones of Pharaohs. During the middle ages, dried grass and rushes sprinkled liberally with fresh-smelling herbs and spices covered the floors of homes in England. The much desired Persian Rugs/Carpets have been in existence as far back as the fourth century BC. These, as well as Turkish rugs, were all crafted by hand.

It was only in the 1600s that “carpet factories” were established. The first carpet manufactory was established in 1608, in Louvre, France. This was followed by the Aubusson manufactory, which only employs women carpet weavers, in 1743. By the 1800s, over 1000 carpet looms were in existence at Kidderminster, England. Power looms were introduced in 1839 and this invention revolutionized carpet manufacturing and made carpets more accessible to everyone the world over.

Carpet Fabrication

Despite advancements in mechanized carpet making processes, some carpets are still manufactured by hand.

Machine-Made Carpets
Carpets made by machine are tufted, woven, knitted, flocked or needle-punched. Of the five methods of production, the most common of all is tufting.

A large portion of carpets today are manufactured through a process called tufting. Tufted carpets are made on machines where the yarn is stitched through a pre-constructed backing to form a loop or a tuft. To hold the loops in place, the back side of the carpet is coated with latex. Tufting is the most inexpensive and fastest ways to manufacture a rug. In addition to this, weavers can also control or vary the tuft size making it possible to create carpets with varying patterns or surface textures.

There are three kinds of woven carpets: velvet, Wilton and Axminster. Velvet is the least complicated of construction methods. Velvet carpets usually come in one solid color and a tweed effect may be noticed. Wilton carpets are more intricate. These are manufactured by using a Jacquard loom which can hold up to six different colors of yarns. The Axminster method of weaving carpets produces the most elaborate designs with a wide variety of colors.

Knitted carpets are faster to make than woven carpets. In knitting, several sets of needles create loops and these are stitched together before the backing is applied. Knitted carpets come in solid or tweed and the pile may be of the same size or of varying heights.

Flocked carpets are similar to Velvet carpets in appearance. They have a dense cut pile of short fibers that are imbedded into an adhesive-coated backing.

Needle-punching is similar to hand-hooking. Formerly used for indoor-outdoor carpets, this process is now being used for carpets that are only meant to be placed indoors as well. In needle-punching, fibers are locked into a packing by using hooked needles, which are further compressed.

Hand-Made Carpets
Hand-made carpets are traditionally more expensive than those made by machines. Though there are several carpet-making methods, including braiding, hand tying (or hand knotting), hooking, shearing and tufting, the most common of these are braiding and hand knotting.

Braided carpets are done by connecting or tying strips of fabrics together. Hand tying or hand-knotting are usually done on rugs. Countries that are known to produce beautifully crafted hand-knotted rugs include Spain, Portugal, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and Japan (among others). Hand-knotted rugs are descendants of Oriental Rugs and can be made in any shape, size, color or design.

Basic Care and Maintenance

Carpets, just like any piece of furniture or equipment, need adequate attention from the owners. These need to be cleaned on a regular basis in order to retain their luster and beauty. Basic maintenance includes regular vacuuming and the immediate removal of stains and spills. Aside from this, it may be wise to have the carpets professionally cleaned at least twice a year. With proper care, these floor coverings will serve you well and last a long, long, time.

Glossary

  • Broadloom – term used to describe carpeting that has been woven with a loom over 6 feet wide.
  • Carpet – a heavy cloth or floor covering, cut from a roll of carpeting. The term is also used to describe coverings that are large in size or affixed permanently to the floor.
  • Carpeting – term used for fabrics or textiles that are to be used as floor coverings.
  • Jacquard – a mechanical loom invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801 which made carpet weaving easier.
  • Rugs – similar to carpets, rugs are smaller in size with edges that are bound or finished. These can be placed on top of larger carpets and are usually decorative in nature.

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