You can find quite a few gems at garage sales these days.
With people trying to downsize and get rid of clutter, they often get rid of stuff they no longer have use or space for.
A lot of times you’ll find exceptionally good rugs going for next to nothing at a garage sale. And if you happen to find one be sure to bring it to Luv-A-Rug where we’ll take even the most heavily pet stained used rug and make it look beautiful again – just like we did for this customer….
The most popular rug of the twentieth Century was the American Sarouk. It came roaring out of Persia in the roaring twenties. But what were Sarouk rugs before the detached floral sprays rug of the twenties?
This design was inspired by the Strapwork pottery of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth century Mongol Pottery.
Major producers of carpet such as Ziegler & Company merged the great art of the classic era with designers from fashion setter such as B. Altman and Liberty of London as inspiration for the great Feraghan rugs.
The Province of Arak was a key center of the carpet business in Persia.
The Commercial period started in Persia in about 1880 but the first European producers set up in Arak in about 1860. Perhaps the most important company in the early days was Ziegler & Company of Manchester England. Ziegler was a trading company that was trading Opium and Tobacco into Persia. The problem was that there was a huge market for foreign trade goods but the pricing did not work if Ziegler demanded hard currency such as silver and gold. So to make the trade work Ziegler had to find things it could take in trade in the Persian market.
One product available in the early stages of the trade that was a real success was Persian Carpets.
A scene from the popular TV show Downton Abbey. When the wealthy of England were furnishing their “Great Houses” it was often with Ziegler & Company rugs
The problem with buying Persian Carpets in Persia for sale in England and the United States was that here were not that many rugs for sale.
In the Safavid period in Iran made rugs for export. Of course much of the export was to the Ottoman Turks as a form of taxation called Vassalage. With the Afghan Invasion of 1722 the manufacture of Persian carpets collapsed into a small local trade.
An early Strapwork Ziegler & Company Rug from Sultanabad circa 1870
The early Ziegler rugs had great natural dyes.
They used the local Dye Masters and one clue to the age of a Ziegler & Company rug is the saturation of color. With Ziegler Rugs the richer and more deeply saturated the colors the older the rug is.
A later Ziegler & Company Rug from Sultanabad circa 1870
The later Ziegler rugs had switched over to cheaper easier dyes that they could control.
Prior to establishing their own dye works they had to deal with the local dye masters and pay their price. The great dye masters were traditionally Jewish who were using recipes passed down for over 2000 years.
When Ziegler switched to European chemical dyes they broke the monopoly of the Jews but they came up with rugs that faded badly.
The fading is not considered a problem since the rugs bring very good prices at auction. They harken back to the glory days of the British Empire and the surge in power and position of the Merchant Class. The key is that England was going through a major transformation in the 1880s to the 1900s when these rugs were new.
The interior of Highclere Castle in Newbury, Berkshire which is shown as the house in Downton Abbey in the exterior shots
The interior of Highclere Castle in Newbury, Berkshire which is shown as the house in Downton Abbey in the exterior shots
Take for instance an Irishman Arthur Guinness who inherited 100 pounds sterling and founded a brewery. Later his great grandson Edward Cecil Guinness inherited a brewery and became the First Earl of Iveagh. When the Earl purchased the Elveden Estate in 1894 he furnished it with many treasures and Ziegler & Company rugs.
Elveden Hall the beer Barron’s Palace Home of Edward Cecil Guinness the First Earl of Iveagh
With the explosion of English merchant class gaining wealth and buying their “Nobility” and then the manor houses to match the Ziegler & Company look became the look of money, even if the look had badly faded dyes. To this day Ziegler & Company rugs are copied even down to the “bad” color.
Today the Ziegler look is very popular in the rug market.
A Chobi Ziegler Pakistani Rug Please note how the new rug is made to resemble the faded out look of the bad dye Ziegler rugs
One very popular new rug in the last 30 years is the Chobi rug made in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Chobi means it was made on a steel loom which was a major innovation allowing larger more technically correct rugs. These new looms allow Afghan weavers to compete in the nine by twelve and ten by 14 size so popular in the US.
Even 30 years ago the vast majority of Afghan rugs were smaller than seven by ten. Today it is getting more difficult to find the prayer rug sizes that were so common.
The most popular style for Chobi rugs is the Ziegler or Ziegler Mahal style.
A Chobi Ziegler Rug
As we can see in this rug the blue is strong and everything else looks faded. This was on purpose. When Ziegler switched to chemical dyes they used a good indigo because synthetic indigo dye was invented by German chemist Adolf von Baeyer. So it was common for the blue to stay stable and everything to fade out.
As you can see they copy the old look to this day.
The Library at Downton Abbey
Whether your rug is an original Ziegler & Company rug or if yours is a new Afghan Chobi you cannot afford to let the wrong cleaner clean your rugs and carpets if you value them.
Chlorine can destroy the dyes and the wool in your rugs.
So that rules out tub washers who use bleach to wash many rugs at a time in water that is far closer to sewage then they will ever admit. By the same token Carpet Cleaners use harsh chemicals balanced for manmade fibers not for cotton, silk and wool.
In Canada I am pleased and proud to recommend Luv-A-Rug and Senior Fellow of the Academy of Oriental Rugs Dusty Roberts.
Have you ever bought a beautiful wool area rug carpet that was previously owned?
Maybe at an auction, a flea market or garage sale?
Handmade wool area rug carpets can last for generations and many times people who sell them privately have no place for them and just need to get rid of them.
At any price.
So it’s no wonder we here at Luv-A-Rug see so many beautiful secondhand carpets come in for cleaning. Often our customer who picked them for nearly nothing are surprised when I tell them the actual value of what they bought.
But no matter what the value of the used carpet is, no one wants to bring it home knowing it’s filled with someone else’s dirt.
So that’s why they bring it to us at Luv-A-Rug for cleaning. Just like this customer did when they brought in a vintage Moroccan wool area rug carpet for cleaning:
A Persian woman spinning wool 2800 hundred years ago
Economics are spelling doom for the relatively inexpensive art with which we decorate our homes. Some of you are thinking “Inexpensive?” so let me explain.
The trade in Oriental Carpets is based on a huge income disparity and as we shift from regional economies to a world economy. Even now we see rug production shrinking it countries where it was a major economic factor only 30 years ago.
First of all let us look at the economics of weaving.
The days when a family sheared the sheep, carded the wool, gathered the dyes, dyed the wool and wove a rug are long past to the extent they ever existed.
When I was in Iran in 2004 and 2005 the information I received from the Ministry of Commerce was that there were two million weavers but that Persian Rugs as an industry employed eight million people. In a country of seventy five million people that was about 25% of the labor force.
So let us look at the parts of the industry:
The wool – the sheep need shepherds and shearing.
There is still native wool that is hand spun and vegetable dyed. But much of the wool is bought on the world market. Then it is spun in spinning mills.
In Iran the major mills are owned and run by Sherkat Farsh which is the government owned Carpet Company. It is also known as Iran Carpet Company.
Operating out of places like the Tabriz bazaar producers have been a major part of the rug trade for a long time.
Very few weavers can afford the cost of the warps and the wefts much less all the wool. So a businessman called a producer will advance the materials in exchange for a predetermined and agreed to rug.
Often only part of the pile wool is supplied. We often see differences in a color area. For instance an area will be blue but in the blue there are stripes of lighter and darker blue. In the rug trade we call this Abrash.
When the rug was new the section was a consistent color but over time each batch ages a little differently. This is common in the Produced Rugs.
The Producer or his agent trusts the weaver but only so much. They advance a weaver enough wool to a band a few inches long and then they show up again to make sure that the wool is in the rug. As long as it is they advance more.
This was necessary because if left unsupervised with all that wool, a weaver may skimp on the agreed to rug and weave a small rug on her own.
When the British first organized commercial rug production in Persia in the 1880s they were forced to adopt this system.
Note that in the field we can see Abrash where the blue becomes brown in the field. This rug is a Tuyserkan Main Carpet from a collection in Victoria British Columbia.
This system is a precarious balance of risk.
The producer guarantees a living wage to the weaver. So the Producer takes a substantial portion of the profit but takes 100% of the risk. If the rugs do not sell or if the prices in the market are soft, the Producer not the Weaver takes the risk.
A friend of mine had limited success when he first started in the business. Then he came up with the brilliant idea where he stopped dictating what he wanted and allowed his wife to deal with the weavers. With a woman’s intuition and the involvement of the village woman in the decisions, he has better kelim which he sells on 3 continents.
Many people assume that the weavers dyed their own wool and I am sure a few did.
However few people know or admit to the role of the Jews in the dye trade.
The Book of Esther is the Story of a young Jewish woman who has a relationship with the Persian King Ahasuerus which was another name for the 5th-century Persian king Xerxes I who reigned from 486 BC 465 BCE.
I mention this because we have clear documentation that there were Jews in the 123 Kingdoms/Provinces of Persia. What that means is there were Jews scattered from North Africa to what is now Western China.
This of course included the Caucasus, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan, Kazakhstan and others.
Did you ever wonder just what the Jews did to earn a living in such a broad area? Silversmithing, leather work, basket making and dyeing were some of the major occupation.
The old Salor Turkmen rugs are considered some of the greatest Tribal rugs ever woven.
They are but it is likely the brilliant colors were dyed by the Jewish dye masters in places like the Merv oasis. It sounds odd to imagine but there were Synagogues throughout the region.
A friend of mine, the great Canadian scholar Dr. Annette Ittig, traveled by horseback in Afghanistan documenting the Synagogues during the Taliban years.
Kabul had two active synagogues until recently. Now all the Jews in Afghanistan have left for Israel, Russia and the United States except for one, Zebulon Simentov, who lives in the last synagogue but he rents out the first floor to local Muslim businesses.
The Yu Aw Synagogue in Herat Afghanistan was one of the sites that my friend Dr. Annette Ittig documented for the International Survey of Jewish Monuments
A top weaver can weave about 8,000 knots a day if she focuses. In Tabriz they use a razor hook called a Tabrizi Knife which will let them push up to 10,000 knots a day but most weavers can’t use the knife because of the kind of knots that they tie.
Let us take a look at what this means in the real world with this 6 meter silk on silk Qum rug from a wonderful collection in Nanaimo, British Columbia:
This rug uses the Qum weave for silk rugs which is twenty knots by twenty knots per square inch. That comes out to 400 knots per square inch and 57,600 knots per square foot. Since this rug is 70 foot by 10 foot that comes to a grand total of just over 4 Million knots.
To put it in human terms the weaver can do a strip one inch across the width of the rug in about a week. Weaving the rug is going to take her about 500 full days.
“Majnum Comes Before Layla Disguised As A Sheep” from the Haft Awrang of Jami made for Soltan Ibrahim Mirza, 1556 to 1565. Simpson Haft Awrang Page 204 Folio 264A. The care of Sheep has been a key part of the Persian culture and economy from time immemorial. Even here Shalvar (pantaloons) are dyes wool and woven.
Weaving is slow, tedious, and time consuming work for the weaver who is almost always a woman. Many of the weavers weave at home and combine weaving with cooking, cleaning, children, and dealing with any livestock.
When we talk about an 8,000 knot day it is a day when everything goes just right.
In the long term:
We are seeing the death throes of the Hand woven Rug.
20 years ago the market was swamped with Chinese and Indian rugs. Production in both India and China is now far less than it used to be. Labor in those markets is a great deal more expensive.
To make hand woven rugs the most important ingredient is inexpensive labor. Just as India and China are fading away so will Iranian/Persian rugs
We saw the same thing with Turkish rugs.
15 years ago I knew a woman who had a prosperous rug producing business in Turkey. Now her business is bigger and more prosperous than ever but instead of producing rugs her workers are making furniture for the German domestic market.
For Iran the rug trade has been a jobs program.
In 1932 the major English rug companies went into receivership and millions were thrown out of work. Reza Shah stepped in and nationalized the rug production because millions of the poor of the villages losing their jobs would rapidly evolve into a national crisis and probably into a revolution.
But now if the reentry of Iran into the world market increase number of non-rug related jobs that are better paying higher tech jobs. When that happens the Government has no choice but to stop propping up the rug industry and workers will switch to higher paying jobs.
Good for the weavers but bad for the western consumers.