Silk Carpet Introduction

The carpet as we know it today is a far cry from the basic item originally designed to provide comfort and warmth. The practical and convenient household commodity that could be rolled up and moved to a new location by nomadic people evolved into an art form and a collector's item of great value.

The long and fascinating history of the carpet has its roots in five countries, namely China, Egypt, India and Persia (now Iran). Ancient carpets made in these lands are of enormous archaeological interest and many have been collected and preserved in leading museums throughout the world as well as being treasured possessions in private hands. Known collectively as Oriental carpets, their interest and value have led to the establishment of specialized dealers and important sales in the world's greatest auction houses.

The Chinese carpet has its origins in the north-west of the country in the area around Xinjiang. Sadly, there is no contemporary record from which we can determine with any real accuracy how and when carpets were first created and began to be used. However, it is significant that in 1978 an archaeologist working from Xinjiang discovered a fragment of woollen fabric thought to be three thousand years old and which is likely to be the forerunner of the tufted carpet. Subsequent finds show that tufted carpets with coloured designs were being produced in China twenty-five centuries ago. Research indicates that following the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD) the technique of carpet making spread along the Silk Route extending from Qinghai, Gansu, Nigxia, Shenmu and Yulin to Inner Mongolia and Shanxi. Carpet weaving later extended into other locations such as Beijing (formerly Peking), Tianjing, Hebei and Shandong, where their own distinctive styles evolved.

The traditional Chinese knotted carpets were normally made from wool but northern nomads would also use goat and camel hair. Early weavers found that silk had special qualities that gave nuances of colour as the light source changed or was varied. A quality that gave rise to the legend of the magic carpet! Pure silk is cool to the touch and this gave the silk carpet a further 'magical' and special quality.

The designs developed by the carpet weaver followed those in other established art forms and so we find Buddhist and Taoist symbols such as the swastika, the yin and yang motif as well as other religious imagery. Popular designs included lotus flowers, clouds as well as a variety of real and mythical animals such as dragons, the phoenix, elephants, horses and bats. The bat (fu) sharing its name with the Chinese word for luck was a particular symbol of good fortune.

These designs were largely symbolic rather than purely decorative and the colours used were those which were considered to be both elegant and of good taste. These included black, blue, red, white, beige and yellow.

The art of carpet weaving reached a peak during the period from the 16th to the 18th century. Skilled weavers created complex geometric designs that were simple yet with perfectly balanced symmetry while also having strong local characteristics. With the passage of time the techniques of the carpet weaver spread from China through western Asia and into countries as far away as Persia and beyond.

The rudimentary looms continued in use until the Liberation in 1949. Since then modern machinery has been introduced but despite mandatory quality controls the carpets produced with it cannot rival the beauty and excellence of the handmade carpet using traditional skills. Consequently, handmade carpets continue to be produced to meet the demand for them.

A wide variety of designs are available and not only are Chinese styles faithfully produced but also those favoured in Persia and elsewhere, ensuring a huge variety of choice. This great tradition lives on ensuring the highest standards of quality and durability continue to be met.

Layout is the overall arrangement of designs woven on a carpet. Almost all carpets could be classified by their layout: all-over, medallion or one-sided. And lines that form designs can be curvilinear such as arabesque; straight such as geometrical designs or pictorial like designs of people, animals or scenery...

Foundation refers to the basic make-up components of a carpet, and there are two of them: warp yarns and weft yarns. Usually the same fiber is used for both warp and weft yarns, and it is often cotton or wool in handmade carpets. Cotton is the most commonly used one and wool is mostly used in places where it is readily available. Silk is used as well in silk carpets and generally with silk piles. Though expensive, silk is a very good foundation material because it is very strong...

When choosing a carpet, color is one of the most important elements you should consider. It is the first expression a carpet gives you and it is the contrast of various colors that creates different designs. In fact, in other fields of creating works of art, the same rule works...

According to their colors and designs, carpets can be classified in different styles. In the following we will discuss briefly the most famous styles. Many styles are used both in their original places and other areas of the world. For example, in China you can find carpets in the Persia style...

Fibers are the basic components from which the strands are made. And there are a variety of carpet fibers available and we will talk about the most commonly used ones: nylon, acrylic, polyester, wool, polypropylene, cotton and silk. Each of them has advantages and disadvantages.

When purchasing a carpet, the first thing that should be considered is its shape and size, which are the two essential elements related to your needs and budget. Most carpets are rectangular. Some others are runner, round, oval, square and odd shapes...

- Last updated on Jul. 05, 2019 -
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