A carpet is a textile floor covering consisting of an upper layer of "pile" attached to a backing. The pile is generally either made from wool or a manmade fibre such as polypropylene, nylon or polyester and usually consists of twisted tufts which are often heat-treated to maintain their structure.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Carpet types
- 3 Embroidery
- 4 Production of knotted pile carpet
- 5 Fibres and yarns used in carpet
- 6 Carpet binding
- 7 History
- 7.1 Afghan carpets
- 7.2 Armenian carpets
- 7.3 Chinese carpets
- 7.4 Indian carpets
- 7.5 Pakistani carpets
- 7.6 Persian carpets
- 7.7 Scandinavian carpets
- 7.8 Turkish carpets
- 7.9 Turkmen ("Bukhara") carpet
- 7.10 Azerbaijani rug
- 7.11 Spanish carpets
- 7.12 Bulgarian carpets
- 7.13 French carpets
- 7.14 English carpets
- 8 Modern carpeting and installation
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The term "carpet" comes from Old Italian carpita, "carpire" meaning to pluck. The term "carpet" is often used interchangeably with the term "rug". Some define a carpet as stretching from wall to wall. Another definition treats rugs as of lower quality or of smaller size, with carpets quite often having finished ends.
Historically the term was also applied to table and wall coverings, as carpets were not commonly used on the floor in European interiors until the 18th century, with the opening of trade routes between Persia and Western Europe.
The carpet is produced on a loom quite similar to woven fabric. The pile can be plush or berber. Plush carpet is a cut pile and Berber carpet is a loop pile. There are new styles of carpet combining the two styles called cut and loop carpeting. Normally many coloured yarns are used and this process is capable of producing intricate patterns from pre-determined designs (although some limitations apply to certain weaving methods with regard to accuracy of pattern within the carpet). These carpets are usually the most expensive due to the relatively slow speed of the manufacturing process. These are very famous in India, Pakistan and Arabia
These carpets are more technologically advanced. Needle felts are produced by intermingling and felting individual synthetic fibers using barbed and forked needles forming an extremely durable carpet. These carpets are normally found in commercial settings such as hotels and restaurants where there is frequent traffic.
On a knotted pile carpet (formally, a supplementary weft cut-loop pile carpet), the structural weft threads alternate with a supplementary weft that rises at right angles to the surface of the weave. This supplementary weft is attached to the warp by one of three knot types (see below), such as shag carpet which was popular in the 1970s, to form the pile or nap of the carpet. Knotting by hand is most prevalent in oriental rugs and carpets. Kashmir carpets are also hand-knotted.
These are carpets that have their pile injected into a backing material, which is itself then bonded to a secondary backing made of a woven hessian weave or a man made alternative to provide stability. The pile is often sheared in order to achieve different textures. This is the most common method of manufacturing of domestic carpets for floor covering purposes in the world.
A flatweave carpet is created by interlocking warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) threads. Types of oriental flatwoven carpet include kilim, soumak, plain weave, and tapestry weave. Types of European flatwoven carpets include Venetian, Dutch, damask, list, haircloth, and ingrain (aka double cloth, two-ply, triple cloth, or three-ply).
A hooked rug is a simple type of rug handmade by pulling strips of cloth such as wool or cotton through the meshes of a sturdy fabric such as burlap. This type of rug is now generally made as a handicraft.
Unlike woven carpets, embroidery carpets are not formed on a loom. Their pattern is established by the application of stitches to a cloth (often linen) base. The tent stitch and the cross stitch are two of the most common. Embroidered carpets were traditionally made by royal and aristocratic women in the home, but there has been some commercial manufacture since steel needles were introduced (earlier needles were made of bone) and linen weaving improved in the 16th century. Mary, Queen of Scots, is known to have been an avid embroiderer. 16th century designs usually involve scrolling vines and regional flowers (for example, the Bradford carpet). They often incorporate animal heraldry and the coat of arms of the maker. Production continued through the 19th century. Victorian embroidered carpet compositions include highly illusionistic, 3-dimensional flowers. Patterns for tiled carpets made of a number of squares, called Berlin wool work, were introduced in Germany in 1804, and became extremely popular in England in the 1830s. Embroidered carpets can also include other features such as a pattern of shapes, or they can even tell a story.
Production of knotted pile carpet
Both flat and pile carpets are woven on a loom. Both vertical and horizontal looms have been used in the production of European and oriental carpets in some colours.
The warp threads are set up on the frame of the loom before weaving begins. A number of weavers may work together on the same carpet. A row of knots is completed and cut. The knots are secured with (usually one to four) rows of weft. The warp in woven carpet is usually cotton and the weft is jute.
There are several styles of knotting, but the two main types of knot are the symmetrical (also called Turkish or Ghiordes) and asymmetrical (also called Persian or Senna).
Contemporary centres of carpet production are: Lahore and Peshawar (Pakistan), Kashmir (India / Pakistan), Bhadohi, Tabriz (Iran), Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Northern Africa, Nepal, Spain, Turkmenistan, and Tibet.
The importance of carpets in the culture of Turkmenistan is such that the national flag features a vertical red stripe near the hoist side, containing five carpet guls (designs used in producing rugs).
Kashmir (India) is known for handknotted carpets. These are usually of silk and some woolen carpets are also woven.
Child labour has often been used in Asia. The GoodWeave labelling scheme used throughout Europe and North America assures that child labour has not been used: importers pay for the labels, and the revenue collected is used to monitor centres of production and educate previously exploited children.
Fibres and yarns used in carpet
Carpet can be made from many single or blended natural and synthetic fibres. Fibres are chosen for durability, appearance, ease of manufacture, and cost. In terms of scale of production, the dominant yarn constructions are polyamides (nylons) and polypropylene with an estimated 90% of the commercial market.
Nylon is the most common material for construction of carpets. Both nylon 6 and nylon 6-6 are used. Nylon can be dyed topically or dyed in a molten state (solution dying). Nylon can be printed easily and has excellent wear characteristics. In carpets Nylon tends to stain easily because it possesses dye sites on the fibre. These dye sites need to be filled in order to give Nylon any type of stain resistance. As nylon is petroleum-based it varies in price with the price of oil.
Polypropylene is used to produce carpet yarns because it is inexpensive. It is difficult to dye and does not wear as well as wool or nylon. Polypropylene is commonly used to construct Berber carpets. In this case, polypropylene is commonly referred to as olefin. Large looped olefin Berber carpets are usually only suited for light domestic use and tend to mat down quickly. Berber carpets with smaller loops tend to be more resilient and retain their new appearance longer than large looped Berber styles. Commercial grade level-loop carpets have very small loops, and commercial grade cut-pile styles are well constructed. When made with polypropylene these styles wear very well, making them very suitable for areas with heavy foot traffic such as offices. Polypropylene carpets are known to have good stain resistance but not against oil based agents. If a stain does set, it can be difficult to clean. Commercial grade carpets can be glued directly to the floor or installed over a 1/4" thick, 8-pound density padding. Outdoor grass carpets are usually made from polypropylene.
Wool and wool-blends
Wool has excellent durability, can be dyed easily and is fairly abundant. When blended with synthetic fibres such as nylon the durability of wool is increased. Blended wool yarns are extensively used in production of modern carpet, with the most common blend being 80% wool to 20% synthetic fibre, giving rise to the term "80/20". Wool is relatively expensive and consequently a small portion of the market.
The polyester known as "PET" (polyethylene terephthalate) is used in carpet manufacturing in both spun and filament constructions. After the price of raw materials for many types of carpet rose in the early 2000s, polyester became more competitive. Polyester has good physical properties and is inherently stain-resistant because it is hydrophobic, and, unlike nylon, does not have dye sites. Colour is infused in a molten state (solution dyeing). Polyester has the disadvantage that it tends to crush or mat down easily. It is typically used in mid- to low-priced carpeting.
Another polyester, "PTT" (Polytrimethylene terephthalate), also called Sorona or 3GT (Dupont)or Corterra (Shell), is a variant of PET. Lurgi Zimmer PTT was first patented in 1941, but it was not produced until the 1990s, when Shell Chemicals developed the low-cost method of producing high-quality 1,3 propanediol (PDO), the starting raw material for PTT Corterra Polymers.
Acrylic is a synthetic material first created by the Dupont Corporation in 1941 but has gone through various changes since it was first introduced. In the past Acrylic used to fuzz or pill easily, this happened when the fibres degraded over time and short strands broke away with contact or friction. Over the years Acrylics have been developed to alleviate some of these problems although the issues have not been completely removed. Acrylic is fairly difficult to dye but is colourfast, washable and has the feel and appearance of wool making it an ideal rug fabric.
Carpet binding is a term used for any material being applied to the edge of a carpet to make a rug. Carpet binding is usually cotton or nylon, but also comes in many other materials, such as leather. Non-synthetic binding is frequently used with bamboo, grass, and wool rugs, but is often used with carpet made from other materials.
The knotted pile carpet probably originated in the 3rd or 2nd millennium BC in West Asia, perhaps the Caspian Sea area or the Armenian Highland, although there is evidence of goats and sheep being sheared for wool and hair which was spun and woven as far back at the 7th millennium.
The earliest surviving pile carpet is the "Pazyryk carpet", which dates from the 5th-4th century BC. It was excavated by Sergei Ivanovich Rudenko in 1949 from a Pazyryk burial mound in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. This richly coloured carpet is 200 x 183 cm (6'6" x 6'0") and framed by a border of griffins. Many experts in oriental carpets hypothesize that it is of Urartian workmanship.
There has recently been a surge in demand for Afghan carpets, although many Afghan carpet manufacturers market their products under the name of a different country. The carpets are made in Afghanistan, as well as by Afghan refugees who reside in Pakistan and Iran. Afghan rugs are usually inexpensive. Famous Afghan rugs include the Shindand or Adraskan (named after local Afghan villages), woven in the Herat area, in western Afghanistan.
Armenian carpets were renowned by foreigners who travelled to Artsakh; the Arab geographer and historian Al-Masudi noted that, among other works of art, he had never seen such carpets elsewhere in his life.
Art historian Hravard Hakobyan notes that "Artsakh carpets occupy a special place in the history of Armenian carpet-making." Common themes and patterns found on Armenian carpets were the depiction of dragons and eagles. They were diverse in style, rich in colour and ornamental motifs, and were even separated in categories depending on what sort of animals were depicted on them, such as artsvagorgs (eagle-carpets), vishapagorgs (dragon-carpets) and otsagorgs (serpent-carpets). The rug mentioned in the Kaptavan inscriptions is composed of three arches, "covered with vegatative ornaments", and bears an artistic resemblance to the illuminated manuscripts produced in Artsakh.
The art of carpet weaving was in addition intimately connected to the making of curtains as evidenced in a passage by Kirakos Gandzaketsi, a 13th-century Armenian historian from Artsakh, who praised Arzu-Khatun, the wife of regional prince Vakhtang Khachenatsi, and her daughters for their expertise and skill in weaving.
As opposed to most antique rug manufactory practices, Chinese carpets were woven almost exclusively for internal consumption. China has a long history of exporting traditional goods; however, it was not until the first half of the 19th century that the Chinese began to export their rugs. Once in contact with western influences, there was a large change in production: Chinese manufactories began to produce art-deco rugs with commercial look and price point.
The centuries old Chinese textile industry is rich in history. While most antique carpets are classified according to a specific region or manufactory, scholars attribute the age of any specific Chinese rug to the ruling emperor of the time. The earliest surviving examples of the craft were produced during the time of Ch'ung Chen, the last emperor of the Chen Dynasty.
Carpet weaving may have been introduced into the area as far back as the eleventh century with the coming of the first Muslim conquerors, the Ghaznavids and the Ghauris, from the West. It can with more certainty be traced to the beginning of the Mughal Dynasty in the early sixteenth century, when the last successor of Timur, Babar, extended his rule from Kabul to India to found the Mughal Empire. Under the patronage of the Mughals, Indian craftsmen adopted Persian techniques and designs. Carpets woven in the Punjab made use of motifs and decorative styles found in Mughal architecture.
Akbar, a Mogul emperor, is accredited to introducing the art of carpet weaving to India during his reign. The Mughal emperors patronized Persian carpets for their royal courts and palaces. During this period, he brought Persian craftsmen from their homeland and established them in India. Initially, the carpets woven showed the classic Persian style of fine knotting. Gradually it blended with Indian art. Thus the carpets produced became typical of the Indian origin and gradually the industry began to diversify and spread all over the subcontinent.
During the Mughal period, the carpets made on the Indian subcontinent became so famous that demand for them spread abroad. These carpets had distinctive designs and boasted a high density of knots. Carpets made for the Mughal emperors, including Jahangir and Shah Jahan, were of the finest quality. Under Shah Jahan's reign, Mughal carpet weaving took on a new aesthetic and entered its classical phase.
The Indian carpets are well known for their designs with attention to detail and presentation of realistic attributes. The carpet industry in India flourished more in its northern part with major centres found in Kashmir, Jaipur, Agra and Bhadohi.
Indian carpets are known for their high density of knotting. Hand-knotted carpets are a speciality and widely in demand in the West. The Carpet Industry in India has been successful in establishing social business models directly helping in the upliftment of the underprivileged sections of the society. Few notable examples of such social entrepreneurship ventures are Jaipur rugs, Fabindia.
Another category of Indian rugs which, though quite popular in most of the western countries, have not received much press is hand-woven rugs of Khairabad (Citapore rugs). Khairabad small town in Citapore (now spelled as "Sitapur") district of India had been ruled by Raja Mehmoodabad. Khairabad (Mehmoodabad Estate) was part of Oudh province which had been ruled by shi'i Muslims having Persian linkages. Citapore rugs made in Khairabad and neighbouring areas are all hand-woven and distinct from tufted and knotted rugs. Flat weave is the basic weaving technique of Citapore rugs and generally cotton is the main weaving material here but jute, rayon and chenille are also popular. Ikea and Agocha have been major buyers of rugs from this area.
The art of weaving developed in South Asia at a time when few other civilizations employed it. Excavations at Moenjodaro and Harappa – ancient cities of the Indus Valley civilization – have established that the inhabitants used spindles and spun a wide variety of weaving materials. Some historians consider that the Indus Valley civilization first developed the use of woven textiles.
At present, hand-knotted carpets are among Pakistan's leading export products and their manufacture is the second largest cottage and small industry. Pakistani craftsmen have the capacity to produce any type of carpet using all the popular motifs of gulls, medallions, paisleys, traceries, and geometric designs in various combinations.
Recently, at the time of independence, manufacturing of carpets was set up in Sangla Hill, a small Town of District Sheikhupura. Chaudary Mukhtar Ahmad Member son of Maher Janda introduced and taught this art to locals and immigrants. He is considered founder of this industry in Pakistan. Sangla Hill is now a focal point in Carpet Industry in Pakistan. Almost all the exporters and manufacturers who are running their business at Lahore, Faisalabad and Karachi have their area offices in Sangla Hill.
The earliest surviving corpus of Persian carpets come from the Safavid dynasty (1501–1736) in the 16th century. However, painted depictions prove a longer history of production. There is much variety among classical Persian carpets of the 16th and 17th century. Common motifs include scrolling vine networks, arabesques, palmettes, cloud bands, medallions, and overlapping geometric compartments rather than animals and humans. This is because Islam, the dominant religion in that part of the world, forbids their depiction. Still, some show figures engaged either in the hunt or feasting scenes. The majority of these carpets are wool, but several silk examples produced in Kashan survive.
Iranian carpets are the finest in the world and their designs are copied by weavers from other countries as well. Iran is also the world's largest producer and exporter of handmade carpets, producing three quarters of the world's total output and having a share of 30% of world's export markets. Iran is also the maker of the largest handmade carpet in history, measuring 60,546 square feet.
Scandinavian rugs are among the most popular of all weaves in modern design. Preferred by influential modernist thinkers, designers, and advocates for a new aesthetic in the mid-twentieth century, Scandinavian rugs have become very widespread in many different avenues of contemporary interior design. With a long history of adaptation and evolution, the tradition of Scandinavian rug-making is among the most storied of all European rug-making traditions.
Turkish carpets (also known as Anatolian), whether hand knotted or flat woven, are among the most well known and established hand crafted art works in the world. Historically: religious, cultural, environmental, sociopolitical and socioeconomic conditions created widespread utilitarian need and have provided artistic inspiration among the many tribal peoples and ethnic groups in Central Asia and Turkey. Turks; nomadic or pastoral, agrarian or town dwellers, living in tents or in sumptuous houses in large cities, have protected themselves from the extremes of the cold weather by covering the floors, and sometimes walls and doorways, with carpets and rugs. The carpets are always hand made of wool or sometimes cotton, with occasional additions of silk. These carpets are natural barriers against the cold. Turkish pile rugs and kilims are also frequently used as tent decorations, grain bags, camel and donkey bags, ground cushions, oven covers, sofa covers, bed and cushion covers, blankets, curtains, eating blankets, table top spreads, prayer rugs, and for ceremonial occasions.
The oldest records of flat woven kilims come from Çatalhöyük Neolithic pottery, circa 7000 B.C. One of the oldest settlements ever to have been discovered, Çatalhöyük is located south east of Konya in the middle of the Anatolian region. The excavations to date (only 3% of the town) not only found carbonized fabric but also fragments of kilims painted on the walls of some of the dwellings. The majority of them represent geometric and stylized forms that are similar or identical to other historical and contemporary designs.
The knotted rug is believed to have reached Asia Minor and the Middle East with the expansion of various nomadic tribes peoples during the latter period of the great Turkic migration of the 8th and 9th centuries.
Famously depicted in European paintings of The Renaissance, beautiful Anatolian rugs were often used from then until modern times, to indicate the high economic and social status of the owner.
Women learn their weaving skills at an early age, taking months or even years to complete the beautiful pile rugs and flat woven kilims that were created for their use in every aspect of daily life. As is true in most weaving cultures, traditionally and nearly exclusively, it is women and girls who are both artisan and weaver.  
Turkmen ("Bukhara") carpet
Türkmen carpet is a type of handmade floor-covering textile traditionally originating in Central Asia. It is useful to distinguish between the original Turkmen tribal rugs and the rugs produced in large numbers for export mainly in Pakistan and Iran today. The original Turkmen rugs were produced by the Turkmen tribes who are the main ethnic group in Turkmenistan and are also found in Afghanistan and Iran. They are used for various purposes, including tent rugs, door hangings and bags of various sizes.
Oriental carpets in Europe
Oriental carpets began to appear in Europe after the Crusades in the 11th century. Until the mid-18th century they were mostly used on walls and tables. Except in royal or ecclesiastical settings they were considered too precious to cover the floor. Starting in the 13th century oriental carpets begin to appear in paintings (notably from Italy, Flanders, England, France, and the Netherlands). Carpets of Indo-Persian design were introduced to Europe via the Dutch, British, and French East India Companies of the 17th and 18th century.
Although isolated instances of carpet production pre-date the Muslim invasion of Spain, the Hispano-Moresque examples are the earliest significant body of European-made carpets. Documentary evidence shows production beginning in Spain as early as the 10th century AD. The earliest extant Spanish carpet, the so-called Synagogue carpet in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, is a unique survival dated to the 14th century. The earliest group of Hispano-Moresque carpets, Admiral carpets (also known as armorial carpets), has an all-over geometric, repeat pattern punctuated by blazons of noble, Christian Spanish families. The variety of this design was analyzed most thoroughly by May Beattie. Many of the 15th-century, Spanish carpets rely heavily on designs originally developed on the Anatolian Peninsula. Carpet production continued after the Reconquest of Spain and eventual expulsion of the Muslim population in the 15th century. 16th-century Renaissance Spanish carpet design is a derivative of silk textile design. Two of the most popular motifs are wreaths and pomegranates. During the Moorish (Muslim) period production took place in Alcaraz in the province of Murcia, as well as being recorded in other towns. Carpet production after the Christian reconquest continued in Alcaraz while Cuenca, first recorded as a weaving centre in the 12th century, became increasingly important, and was dominant in the 17th and early 18th century. Carpets of completely different French based designs began to be woven in a royal workshop, the Royal Tapestry Factory (Real Fábrica de Tapices de Santa Bárbara) in Madrid in the 18th century. Cuenca was closed down by royal degree of Carlos IV in the late 18th century to stop it competing with the new workshop. Madrid continued as a weaving centre through to the 20th century, producing brightly coloured carpets most of whose designs are strongly influenced by French carpet design, and which are frequently signed (on occasions with the monogram MD; also sometimes with the name Stuyck) and dated in the outer stripe. After the Spanish civil war General Franco revived the carpet weaving industry in workshops named after him, weaving designs that are influenced by earlier Spanish carpets, usually in a very limited range of colours.
The Chiprovtsi carpet (Чипровци килим) is a type of handmade carpet with two absolutely identical sides, part of Bulgarian national heritage, traditions, arts and crafts. Its name is derived from the town of Chiprovtsi where their production started in the 17th century. The carpet weaving industry played a key role in the revival of Chiprovtsi in the 1720s after the devastation of the failed 1688 Chiprovtsi Uprising against Ottoman rule. The western traveller Ami Boué, who visited Chiprovtsi in 1836–1838, reported that "mainly young girls, under shelters or in corridors, engage in carpet weaving. They earn only five francs a month and the payment was even lower before". By 1868, the annual production of carpets in Chiprovtsi had surpassed 14,000 square metres. In 1896, almost 1,400 women from Chiprovtsi and the region were engaged in carpet weaving. In 1920, the locals founded the Manual Labour carpet-weaving cooperative society, the first of its kind in the country. At present. the carpet (kilim) industry remains dominant in the town. Carpets have been crafted according to traditional designs, but in recent years it is up to the customers to decide the pattern of the carpet they have ordered. The production of a single 3 by 4 m (9.8 by 13.1 ft) carpet takes about 50 days; primarily women engage in carpet weaving. Work is entirely manual and all used materials are natural; the primary material is wool, coloured using plant or mineral dyes. The local carpets have been prized at exhibitions in London, Paris, Liège and Brussels. In recent decades, however, the Chiprovtsi carpet industry has been in decline as it had lost its firm foreign markets. As a result, the town and the municipality have been experiencing a demographic crisis.
In 1608 Henry IV initiated the French production of "Turkish style" carpets under the direction of Pierre DuPont. This production was soon moved to the Savonnerie factory in Chaillot just west of Paris. The earliest, well-known group produced by the Savonnerie, then under the direction of Simon Lourdet, are the carpets that were produced in the early years of Louis XIV's reign. They are densely ornamented with flowers, sometimes in vases or baskets, against dark blue or brown grounds in deep borders. The designs are based on Netherlandish and Flemish textiles and paintings. The most famous Savonnerie carpets are the series made for the Grande Galerie and the Galerie d'Apollon in the Palais du Louvre between c. 1665-1685. These 105 masterpieces, made under the artistic direction of Charles Le Brun, were never installed, as Louis XIV moved the court to Versailles in 1688. Their design combines rich acanthus leaves, architectural framing, and mythological scenes (inspired by Cesare Ripa's Iconologie) with emblems of Louis XIV's royal power.
Pierre-Josse Perrot is the best-known of the mid-eighteenth-century carpet designers. His many surviving works and drawings display graceful rococo s-scrolls, central rosettes, shells, acanthus leaves, and floral swags. The Savonnerie manufactory was moved to the Gobelins in Paris in 1826.
The Beauvais manufactory, better known for their tapestry, also made knotted pile carpets from 1780 to 1792. Carpet production in small, privately owned workshops in the town of Aubusson began in 1743. Carpets produced in France employ the symmetrical knot.
Knotted pile carpet weaving technology probably came to England in the early 16th century with Flemish Calvinists fleeing religious persecution. Because many of these weavers settled in South-eastern England in Norwich the 14 extant 16th and 17th century carpets are sometimes referred to as "Norwich carpets." These works are either adaptations of Anatolian or Indo-Persian designs or employ Elizabethan-Jacobean scrolling vines and blossoms. All but one are dated or bear a coat of arms. Like the French, English weavers used the symmetrical knot. There are documented and surviving examples of carpets from three 18th-century manufactories: Exeter (1756–1761, owned by Claude Passavant, 3 extant carpets), Moorfields (1752–1806, owned by Thomas Moore, 5 extant carpets), and Axminster (1755–1835, owned by Thomas Whitty, numerous extant carpets). Exeter and Moorfields were both staffed with renegade weavers from the French Savonnerie and, therefore, employ the weaving structure of that factory and Perrot-inspired designs. Neoclassical designer Robert Adam supplied designs for both Moorfields and Axminster carpets based on Roman floor mosaics and coffered ceilings. Some of the most well-known rugs of his design were made for Syon House, Osterley House, Harewood House, Saltram House, and Newby Hall.
Axminster carpet was a unique floor covering made originally in a factory founded at Axminster, Devon, England, in 1755 by the cloth weaver Thomas Whitty. Resembling somewhat the Savonnerie carpets produced in France, Axminster carpets were symmetrically knotted by hand in wool on woolen warps and had a weft of flax or hemp. Like the French carpets, they often featured Renaissance architectural or floral patterns; others mimicked oriental patterns. Similar carpets were produced at the same time in Exeter and in the Moorfields section of London and, shortly before, at Fulham in Middlesex.
The Whitty factory closed in 1835 with the advent of machine-made carpeting. The name Axminster, however, survived as a generic term for machine-made carpets whose pile is produced by techniques similar to those used in making velvet or chenille.
Axminster carpet has three main types of broadloom carpet construction in use today (machine woven, tufted & hand knotted). Machine woven carpet is an investment that will last 20 or 30 years and woven Axminster and Wilton carpets are still extremely popular in areas where longevity and design flexibility are a big part of the purchasing decision. Hotels and leisure venues almost always choose these types and many homes use woven Axminsters as design statements.
Machine woven carpets like Axminster and Wilton are made by massive looms that weave together ‘bobbins’ of carpet yarn and backing. The finished result, which can be intricately patterned, creates a floor that provides supreme underfoot luxury with high performance. Tufted carpets are also popular in the home. They are relatively speedy to make - a pre-woven backing has yarns tufted into it. Needles push the yarn through the backing and which is then held in place with underlying “loopers”. Tufted carpets can be twist pile, velvet, or loop pile. Twist pile carpets are produced when one or more fibres are twisted in the tufting process, so that in the finished carpet they appear to be bound together. Velvet pile carpets tend to have a shorter pile and a tighter construction, giving the finished article a smooth, velvety appearance. Loop pile carpets are renowned for being hard wearing and lend carpets great texture. The traditional domain of rugs from far away continents, hand knotted squares and rugs use the expertise of weavers to produce work of the finest quality. Traditional rugs often feature a deliberate ‘mistake’ on behalf of the weaver to guarantee their authenticity.
Six of Axminster carpets are known as the "Lansdowne" group. These have a tripartite design with reeded circles and baskets of flowers in the central panel flanked by diamond lozenges in the side panels. Axminster Rococo designs often have a brown ground and include birds copied from popular, contemporary engravings. Even now a large percentage of the 55,000 population town still seek employment in this industry. The town of Wilton, Wiltshire is also known for its carpet weaving, which dates back to the 18th century.
Modern carpeting and installation
Carpet is commonly made in widths of 12 feet (3.7 m) and 15 feet (4.6 m) in the USA, 4 m and 5 m in Europe. Where necessary different widths can be seamed together with a seaming iron and seam tape (formerly it was sewn together) and it is fixed to a floor over a cushioned underlay (pad) using nails, tack strips (known in the UK as gripper rods), adhesives, or occasionally decorative metal stair rods, thus distinguishing it from rugs or mats, which are loose-laid floor coverings. For environmental reasons, the use of wool, natural bindings, natural padding, and formaldehyde-free glues is becoming more common. These options are almost always at a premium cost, though with no sacrifice to performance.
In the UK some carpets are still manufactured for pubs and clubs in a narrow width of 27 inches (0.69 m) and then sewn to size. Carpeting which covers an entire room area is loosely referred to as 'wall-to-wall', but carpet can be installed over any portion thereof with use of appropriate transition moldings where the carpet meets other types of floor coverings. Carpeting is more than just a single item; it is, in fact, a system comprising the carpet itself, the carpet backing (often made of latex), the cushioning underlay, and a method of installation.
Carpet tiles are also available, typically 50 centimetres (20 in) square. These are usually only used in commercial settings and are affixed using a special pressure-sensitive glue, which holds them into place while allowing easy removal (in an office environment, for example) or to allow rearrangement in order to spread wear.
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