General Questions

Turn your carpet around 180 degrees every six months or so. By regularly turning your carpets, you will ensure equal distribution of traffic and light. This will avoid the possibility of uneven wear and fading.
The 3 Ds – darkness, damp and dirt – attract fish moths and other wool–eating insects. Keep your carpets away from dark and moist places, ensure air circulation, and make sure they stay clean. NB: only wool is at risk from insects, not silk and cotton. Also, use a suitable repellent for such insects or their larvae, but ensure it is suitable for carpets, and use as directed.

In South Africa, we recommend Biokill, available from tel 011 830 1672. or online.

The name of a carpet or rug does not tell you anything about the quality or value. All it tells us is the origin, such as the tribe who made it (e.g., Qashgai, Belouchi, Kurdi etc.), the village or city (e.g., Tabriz, Bidjar, Shiraz, Hamadan) where it was made, or the city or market town where it was marketed (e.g., Shiraz, Teheran, Meshed).

Therefore, it will be wrong to decide value, merit or what to buy based only on the name of the carpet. Your judgment of what to buy must be based on your heart’s desire, what speaks to you and brings you joy to look at. Further, also consider if you will achieve the decorative effect you wish and if it will have the durability you require where you intend to use it. The higher the quality you go for, the longer the lifespan you will get from it — with correct care.

Any one name can represent different grades of quality for rugs or carpets crafted from the same place. They can, and will, vary from mediocre, to fair, to superior, to outstanding, and will be valued/priced accordingly. The rare, good antique collector-piece or museum-piece examples can be valued in the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands — even millions of US $s.n

A good analogy is wines from a given area. Are all Burgundy French wines, or Stellenbosch South African wines of the same quality or value? Of course not. The same would apply, of course, to original paintings, other works of art, diamonds etc.

Of course, Persia (now Iran) is the best known and most famous carpet producing country, but there is a myth about Persian carpets being the best. Again, as with works of art, wines, etc., the truth is, each and every one of the Oriental rug/carpet producing countries can, and do, craft from low, to medium, to high or even masterpiece qualities of this much loved and prized decorative work of art.

One needs a reputable, well-established dealer who will be able to show and advise you on the quality and real merits and values, and who will gladly answer all your questions in plain language.

Technical Questions

Note: “carpet” refers normally to those larger than approx. 2.5 x 1.6 m (and they can go to almost any size as large as 12 x 8m or more!). The more popular carpet sizes include approx. 3 x 2m, 3.5 x 2.5m, 4 x 3m.

“Rug” normally refers to those sizes below 2.5 x 1.6m. Popular rug sizes include approx. 2.1 x 1.4m, 1.8 x 1.2m, 1.5 x 1.0m down to as small as 0.60 x 0.40m etc.

Genuine Persian and Oriental carpets are all hand-knotted or hand-woven decorative floor coverings made in one of the countries of the Orient. Persian, strictly speaking, refers to all those made in Persia – since the mid 1930s renamed Iran. Their basic methods, techniques and materials (wool, cotton & silk) of knotting the pile carpets, or weaving the flat-woven “Kilims”, are much the same — with minor variations — and have been for centuries. So, Oriental refers to those hand-made in other countries of the near- and far-east like Turkey, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China to mention a few. Even those made in N Africa, such as Morocco and Egypt, are included, though they’re not, strictly speaking, from the Orient, but the techniques and materials are much the same.

So, the difference between Persian carpets and other carpets which are hand-made from the East is just the country of origin.

To decide whether a repair makes sense and the amount you are going to pay, there are these things you must decide or estimate:

a) The market value of the damaged rug/carpet

b) The cost of repair
c) Whether a satisfactory repair CAN be done (sometimes, the condition is so bad or so far gone that a repair is not possible!)
d) And the market value after the repair. If the value after repair is not somewhat higher, don’t waste your money!
e) It holds sentimental value to you, regardless of the above, in which case you may decide to repair even if not economically viable
f) Finally, and most importantly: how qualified and expert is the repairer or firm you deal with? Rather gladly pay more for high quality work than “a bargain” poor job!

Conservation is preserving your carpets with as little change to them as possible. The goal is to prevent further damage or deterioration. Continuing deterioration may be due to Insects, microbial attack, over-exposure to heat, light, moisture, or the atmosphere.

For instance, the rug/carpet can become faded through continued exposure to strong, direct sunlight.

Conservation Tipsn

a) Chemicals used for cleaning, to kill insects or fungus, or for other treatment of the fabric must be completely removable by those — dealer, repairer etc.— attempting it.
b) The minimum amount of chemical to produce the desired results should be used.
c) As much as possible, conservation techniques must preserve the original pliability, texture, sheen and colour. Therefore, be advised and served by reputable experts!
d) Turn them around 180 degrees periodically to distribute wear and exposure to light evenly.
e) Remove surface dirt and grit etc. regularly by vacuuming the pile with a suction fitting of a vacuum cleaner (NO harsh rotating brushes please!), or by using a soft hand brush in the direction of the pile — i.e., with, not against, the lie of the pile. Do NOT include the fringes which are more delicate than the above. Brush them by hand periodically gently or they will wear away too soon.
f) Have them professionally cleaned once every two or three to five years, depending on use and degree of need for cleaning.
g) As soon as you notice damage (cuts, tears, etc.) get such handled speedily before it gets worse and repair becomes more costly or difficult.
h) Deal with a well-established and/or reputable firm experienced in cleaning and/or repairing.

The vast majority are made of wool for the pile or nap, which is a very serviceable material. It is soft to the touch and feel, and is beautiful. A minority have a pile made of silk which is, and has always been, a more costly and glamorous material. Some rarer examples have camel hair or cotton as pile, or parts of the pile, and some have wool pile with parts inlaid in silk.

The foundations are either of wool, cotton or silk. Cotton is the most frequently used for cottage industry/village and city items; wool is usually used for the works of tribal nomads; and silk only for the finer and more valuable workshop items.

Stains in wool can usually be easily removed provided one uses the correct detergents speedily enough. Wool can shrink if left wet too long and not speedily and thoroughly dried properly! Another material more seldom used is art-silk, which is mercerised cotton.

Stains are often more difficult to remove from silk, cotton and art-silk, and should be given to reputable expert dealers/cleaners be dealt with.

With machine-made carpets, there are no knots tied to the foundation warp (vertical) threads, and so the tufts or pile is simply looped around the foundation and can be dislodged – they can be easily pulled out. With hand-knotted carpets, the tufts are firmly knotted; try and pull them out you will only make them tighter!

Also, the fringes on hand-knotted carpets are the continuation of the foundation after the knotting or weaving is completed at both ends.

On machine-made carpets, the fringes are usually added on after the carpet is complete. Another guide and test is: the sides and backs of machine-made carpets are machine-perfect and straight, whereas the sides and weave as seen on the back of a hand-knotted carpets, being HAND-crafted, will be more or less irregular and not machine- straight.

The real test is: bend the pile of the rug or carpet horizontally and look down to the base of the pile – the tufts of a hand-made article will be knotted onto the foundation.

On the machine-made one, it will be simply looped around the foundation.

Like any other floor covering, Persian and Oriental carpets need periodic maintenance like vacuuming and cleaning. The main idea is to remove surface dirt, dust, grit etc., from the pile before it gets lodged in it where it can cut or erode it and spoil the look and beauty of the materials.

To remove surface dirt, dust, grit etc., from your hand-knotted carpets, use a soft broom or brush, sweeping with the pile. (i.e., in the direction of the pile, NOT against it), or use a vacuum cleaner without rotating brushes which only uses suction fittings. A vacuum cleaner with rotating brushes can slowly erode the fibres.

Depending on the traffic and type of use, your carpet may need professional cleaning once every two to five years. This must only be done by a reputable and expert dealer or specialist. Usual laundry or steam-carpet cleaners are seldom experts and can cause serious and costly damage. Be happy to pay a little more to protect and prolong the life and beauty of your investment in these beautiful works of decorative art and craft!