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Know About The Rug & Carpet Of Your Home
The hills and the dunes
where it all begins
Come summer, and the valleys of Uttarakhand get covered with a carpet of bright flowers. And the sheep graze there merrily; watched over carefully by the Bhotias, a nomadic tribe who engage in agriculture and sheep rearing.
Similarly, the nomadic tribes of the desert sands of northwest Rajasthan look after the Bikaner Chokla sheep; gentle animals that inhabit this part of the world but are prized internationally for the lustre of their wool.
In fact, Chokla Wool remains the best Indian wool for rugs that is purchased at a biannual auction in Bikaner, due to the seasonal shearing of sheep in the spring and in the fall. It comes mixed in texture and qualities and is segregated by hand by the tribal women with their much-worked hands.
What these tribes have in common is 100-year old expertise rooted in tradition, and handed over to them by their ancestors across generations; experience that makes rug-making central to their identity and way of life.
What they possess is the skill of carding. It is a skill that is as unique as it is irreplaceable and these artisans have raised it to a whole new level of excellence.
After the sheep are sheared, the wool is washed and dried and ready to be carded into yarns. The process is tedious and time taking; the carder sifts through the wool, and layers the strands together. She purifies the wool further by placing a ball on a bristle pad brushing it with another ball so as to remove dirt, and knots. Nimble fingers then separate the rough wool into thin, homogeneous strips that can then easily be woven into yarns of equal thickness. Finally, the wool is ready to be hand woven into a gorgeous work of art.
Next, the wool finds its way to the Charkha, a traditional spinning wheel that is representative of our pride as a nation reigning sovereign over our boundaries. There are in reality, two types of looms; an upright loom for the coarser fabric and a pit loom for the finer one. Upright, or pit, here is where 5000 years of heritage get interlaced into myriad patterns of different coloured strands that are as stunning to look at as they are strong.
But as dusk falls over the desert sands, and the spinning wheel comes to a stop for the day, we know with a glow of pride that the legacy will hold; for many more years to come.
Go a little up north from the Himalayas and you find China, the land from where the finest silk comes; from south of the Yangtze River Delta. Not that India falls behind; the best Indian silks can be found in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, and Tamil Nadu; cultivated with love in the silk farms of these states.
The process of weaving silk is more difficult. Silkworms make silk as they spin their cocoons. While the worm is still in the pupae stage, the cocoon is dipped into boiling water which releases the silk fibre. Workers pluck the fibre removing all impurities and feed them into a reeling machine to form a single line of thread. The fibres can also be spun by hand to make thread. After the material is ready it is hand-knotted on a traditional loom by interweaving weft and warp yarns. The carpet is then washed in a special solution and dried. The final product is a plush and beautiful rug symbolising status, style and elegance.
Giving Chokla wool a run for its money is Merino Wool, imported from New Zealand and other countries to create the finest blends that score high on shine, durability, and texture.
The Grand Finale
Before a carpet hits the market, it goes through several processes to ensure its precision and quality.
To begin with, the size is checked for conformity to predetermined dimensions. Next, the knots in each line of weaving are counted and surgically repaired in case there has been a shortfall. The height of the pile is checked to minimise the wastage of yarn. In case, there are inconsistencies in smoothness, the carpet is repaired using a special needle by artisans possessing the finesse to do so. If the carpet gets warped for some reason, the knots in that particular area are beaten into shape by an iron and hammer so they align with the overall pattern.
After the intricacies are sorted out, the carpet is trimmed by a shearing machine with a gyro to even out the pile of the carpet into one height. The design is checked for blurs and rectified by skilled artisans who use a large skewer to untangle the yarn putting it back into its place to bring out the finer elements of the design just as it had been preconceived.
After the trimming and levelling is complete, the carpet is back-burned in that it’s back is exposed to a flame or a torch from a distance. The heat singes the back, clearing out loose strands and tightening the knots in place. The singed particles are then brushed off after which the carpet is dipped in a cleansing wash to clear away the impurities. It is further cleansed with a cleansing solution flushing out the dirt particles by an oar-like paddle that clears away the dirt in uniform strokes. The colours of the carpet are preserved by dipping it in fluorochemicals that protect it from discolouration and soiling.
After the cleansing process is complete, the carpet is then stretched from all sides by placing it on a metal frame for a day or two. The metal frame pulls it apart ensuring it is stretched into its exact size and shape. The original binding at the sides are trimmed off and then rebound together to give it a final finishing.
The carpet then undergoes the final round of shearing to determine its final pile height for commercial sale. The yarn goes through final detailing when the knots are separated out to project the design in its perfection and accuracy. Some carpets may also be carved or embossed to provide cuts in the design or give them a more three-dimensional look.
For hand-tufted rugs, the process of rug making can end in a cushion being attached to the back of the rug to serve as a backing system that provides more stability to the rug. In other cases, a bonding adhesive is applied to preserve the rug for a longer time. While synthetic latex or vinyl will laminate the physical texture of a rug, moisture locking backing systems will prevent moisture from seeping under the rug by ensuring that a hardback is attached to the rug. All such backing systems go a long way to preserve the aesthetics and durability of the rug.
At Villedomo, we make sure we help our artisans reach their craft to the world; making them feel at home with us; even as we keep empowering them at the grassroots level.