The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources


Rugs

The first rugs were produced by the process of weaving. One of the earliest examples of weaving rugs was accomplished using goat hair, based on excavations surrounding the Caspian Sea. It is estimated that this took place as far back as 6000 BC.

Rugs have been made from everything from goat hair to animal skins, and in ancient times a rug could be used as both a floor covering and a blanket to provide warmth against the winter cold.

The Chinese made rugs out of silk with backing of cotton. These basic rugs were woven on very simple frames that were designed to fold up for easy transportation. When the Chinese first made rugs they used the natural color of the silk to create design. This natural coloring was to change with the advent of various forms of dyes, which were used to create colorful patters. The rug was quickly evolving from a simple floor covering to a work of art.

By the middle ages merchants had brought oriental rugs to Europe where some of the more ornate rugs were, and still are, used as wall coverings.

One of the greatest technological breakthroughs for the rug was in 1769 when Mr. Richard Arkwright developed a machine which spun thread into a bobbin. He called the machine “the spinning flame.” The flame was a great step forward but ten years later Samuel Crompton designed a machine called the spinning mule. The mule could spin one thousand threads at a time and basically increased production capacity by 1000 fold.

The next major evolution for the rug came when the company of Axminster and Wilton introduced the power loom. Although the first power loom came to America in 1841, is was not until the invention of the Axminister loom that the weaving process truly became automated. This loom also is credited with being the first loom capable of permitting an unlimited number of colors.

Currently over ninety-four percent of all carpet produced is tufted carpet which can be produced as much as fifteen times faster the traditional woven carpet. As with all other products, the increase in production has allowed for increased variations of product as well as reduced cost. Next time you wipe your feet on your rug, make sure you remember it has a long history.