Looms, warp, woof

Consideration of materials used in the making of rugs and their colouring is naturally followed by close study of methods of manufacture, and examination of the paraphernalia of which the weaver makes use.

In order to determine the age of a rug we should know how to detect differences in the weave incident to the sort of loom that has been employed, the manner of tying the knots, and the way of using even the most primitive implements. Much is revealed in this way, and we may trace the nationality and sometimes the tribe of the weaver by noticing the finish of the sides of the rug, the nature of its selvage, and various other details.

Shuttles, bobbins, needles, spindles, etc., made originally from fish and animal bones and shells, each and all claim our interested attention, and we find that invention has always responded to necessity.

Prior to the rearing of looms, the weaving of narrow fabrics was accomplished, by all peoples in early stages of the art, by fastening yarn threads together and attaching them by one end to a hook or to anything stationary, while the other end was firmly tied to the weaver’s body.

Into this simple webbing patterns were introduced so as correctly to join with other pieces, and when made into a complete material the narrow weave is not at once noticeable. All sorts of simple contrivances antedate the making of looms as we know them, and the trained eye looks for the evidences of ancient craftsmanship which we sometimes find manifested ill the tapestries (or khilims) of the Orient even now.

In the old days of mediaeval development of Oriental ideas: after the Crusades, names were given to the then foreign ideas which were taught in the convents, and which became known by Latin names. As sidelights on the history and manufacture of rugs, all that we can learn of early methods is of immense assistance, for in old embroidery copy-books are sometimes found borders named and described that have been taken directly from Oriental rugs.

Tail-pieces in old books, designs on coins, and the details of many, other things of contemporary interest, while proving the arts to have been interdependent, one interpreting. another, at the same time enable us to place styles of, weaving and pattern in a most authoritative way. In the ” Opus Pulvinarium,” or ” tent-mosaic ” stitch we constantly find Turkish and Caucasian designs, and are sometimes surprised to discover in old samplers, especially in such as contain designs which have been appropriated by the Greek church, many Scutari and Asia Minor motifs.

Looms may be, as they ever have been, either upright or horizontal. Thrown over the extended limb of a tree or upon an erected frame, the warp threads are stretched. Through these the woof thread, wound on a shuttle, is passed and forced tightly down into place, and the whole fabric kept taut according to rules and ways that differ with the individual workman. In studying the finished rug we learn to note many of these peculiarities.

We find that in some rugs, besides the simple finish on the sides, there seems to have been applied an extra over-and-over decoration, sometimes of one colour but often of several. In other makes the outer thread of the warp is much heavier than the others, and about it a solid colour is twisted, giving the effect of a heavy cord binding to the sides of the rug. Again a checker-work effect is produced by alternating the colour of the binding yarn with which the side cords are covered.

Some weavers allow the webbing to extend in simple warp and woof beyond the part of the rug tied with knots, and, as in Shiraz and Beluchistan rugs, into this webbing, or embroidered upon it, patterns of a distinctive nature are wrought. The fringe of a rug will sometimes indicate the method of its manufacture, showing a heavy braided and looped end which held the warp thread with great firmness upon the loom, or it may reveal an inadequate and flimsy way of stretching the warp, which is also detected in the ruffled surface of the carpet itself.

Modern ingenuity and brain control is helping the Oriental to a knowledge of the latest and most approved methods, and rugs are less apt to be crooked than they once were, though, with the pulling into shape of both ideas and warp-threads, some of the woven dreams of other days are destined never to be reproduced.

In the preparation of the wool for weaving, the article which has most art significance is the spindle-whorl. Such, from earliest times, when they were made from natural objects, have been more or less elaborately decorated, and, even though modern invention has introduced machine-made spindles, the designs on the old have been copied in textiles, and whorls and scrolls in design trace back oftentimes to just such simple origin.

Tight spinning and loose spinning may be noted in the nature of the twisted cotton, wool, or silk warp-threads, and as we learn to know how the yarns were twisted we shall be able to locate weavers and determine their nationality.

With woof-threads upon warp have been independently invented by all peoples alike various styles of weaving which have given diagonals, checks, and fancy patterns of adventition, and have, after their development, become regular designs copied in the pile of rugs. Needlework upon a woven web makes beautiful many of the fabrics of the Orient, notably Bagdad stripes, so-called camel’s-hair shawls, and the Sommac rugs from the back of which hang the long ends of coloured wools used in the weaving and decoration.

Nothing, however, exists of like beauty to some of the woven tapestries which, from the heavy woollen khilims of the western and middle Orient to the silk tissues of China and Japan, reign supreme as the very acme of perfection among loom products. Much greater skill is required to make these delicate tissues of intricate pattern than is needed in the tying in of knots in pile carpets, though the latter is rated as a higher art.

Across Asia with almost magic power has swept of late years a resistless tide of progress which has threatened to put an end to all individuality of production. Workers to-day have, in many places where once superb work was done, turned into human machines, and, with no interest in either the folk-lore or habits of their own people, show keen desire to embrace Occidental ideas and methods.

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