A textile floor covering that is both practical and decorative, and tends not to extend over the entire floor nor to be fixed. Rugs are carpets, certainly carpeting, but not in the wall- to- wall fitted sense, and the words are interchangeable for woven and knotted textiles, especially perhaps for Persian and Oriental rugs, or carpets.
The idea is that rugs, or area rugs cover a particular area of the floor, and can easily be taken up for cleaning, or moving to new pastures.
Rugs and mats * have been central to homes throughout the world, made within households and communities since the beginning of time. They have also consistently been a highly prized trading commodity.
Rugs can be made through knotting, tufting, weaving, felting, needleworking and tanning
Europe has a long tradition of importing hand knotted Oriental carpets made of wool or silk from Turkey, China, India, and Iran. These were and are sought-after for their intense colours, textures and geometrical patterns, such as kelims, flat woven dhurries from Pakistan and India, or Nepalese carpets with their dark colours and velvety wool.
Nepalese carpet rugs are famous for their high quality wool and hand knotting technique; in the last fifty years or so these carpets have found a ready market in the west, especially those designed by contemporary artists and made under European direction.
The invention of tufted carpets – so much more economical to produce than hand knotted changed the concept of flooring totally. For the first time, wall-to-wall carpeting was not only possible, but affordable. Full home carpeting has largely run it’s course, other than for the bedrooms and where the warmth and softness of carpet is a construction choice. Any broadloom carpet, including Wilton or Axminster can be made into rugs.
Flat woven rugs are made in the same way as any other textile–on a loom and with the same variations of weave: any fibre, design, colour or pattern can be made by hand or machine, including wool, linen, cotton, goat and yak hair, silk, seagrass, coir, sisal, abaca. The durability is as good as the materials used and the quality of the weave, and examples include dhurries, kelims, rag rugs, wool flat weaves….
Wool felt rugs have a long tradition especially with nomadic cultures, where rugs perform essential insulation work, as well as providing the bulk of bedding. Felting requires no weaving or spinning or great technique, just enough heat and moisture to shrink and to matt the fibres together. As with all crafts though, each community came to have their own recognisable designs ands colours.
A type of carpet as traditional as needlepoint stitched carpets, with their trademark ribbon and flower patterns so typical of the XVIIIth century, Savonnerie, Aubusson, Arraiolos, and Bargello designs can easily be made contemporary with XXth century motifs.
Rugs can be hand made with needlework such as embroidery – crewel and air work, and cross-stitch. These all involve a needle or a hook of some sort and can be worked either by hand or machine, though needlepoint works are extremely time consuming and therefore quite rare.
Tanned and cured skins and hides is another ancient homespun rug making craft – especially the soft skins of reindeer, goat, sheep.
The point of rugs
Area rugs may be used over earth, stone, tiled and wooden floors for insulation, protection and aesthetic reasons. Being unfixed, they have the advantage over carpets of being moved around and taken up to clean. They contribute to a space in a number of different ways:
* they protect from draughts rising through suspended floors; from dirt that rises from beneath, and help pick up dirt from footwear; from damage to the main floor surface by furniture and shoes.
* they provide comfort, being soft underfoot; warmth, as textiles retain heat; sound proofing, absorbing sound, especially in a room with no other textiles.
* they bring a sense of visual identity to a space through: texture: long pile, short pile, flat weave; an added dimension when in the same colour as the floor beneath, say a long pile dove grey carpet on a flagstone floor; direction: floor rugs can mark out traffic routes: given two corridors, one with a rug and one without, people will always follow the one with a rugs rather than a bare floor as it looks more inviting; balance to a room, by bringing depth to it; scale: the size of the floor rug will considerably influence visual responses to the size of the space, a large floor rug in a small room always makes it look bigger; harmony, by contributing an additional colour, pattern or texture dimension it can act as a bridge for the other elements in a room.