Rugs were in evidence long before the appearance of the wall-to-wall carpeting that has become so popular during the course of the last century or so. Hand making these soft floorcoverings from the fleece of sheep and goats is an ancient craft that is known to have been practiced as far back as the early Neolithic era, which began in around 7000BC. Although no examples from this year have ever been recovered, in 1949 a carpet, thought to be around 2500 years old, was unearthed in Siberia and may be seen today in St Pietersburg’s Hermitage Museum.
Home of many of the earliest civilisations, making rugs was an art that developed first in the countries of central Asia; although it was the Middle Eastern domain of Persia that would later dominate this trade. Prior to this, these ethnic floorcoverings, such as Dhurries and Kilims, were created by a process of flat weaving in which vertical strands known as the warp were tightly intertwined with horizontal strands referred to as the weft. Beyond the use of modern, automated looms and new synthetic fibres, the basic technique employed then differs little from that which is still in use today.
The Persian domination of this trade is largely due to the hand-knotting technique used to create thicker rugs. This they achieved by starting with the traditional flat-woven base and knotting additional strands of wool to in in order to create a raised pile. This technique, with various modifications, is also widely used by carpet manufacturers today.
Interestingly, at this time, these items were not commonly used as a flooring solution but were more often hung on walls as a colourful decoration or spread on benches to provide extra comfort or even as source of warm bedding.
It was probably not until the late medieval era that the use of rugs underfoot became more widespread but remained confined for several more centuries to those wealthy enough to afford them or with the ability to make their own. In wartime Europe, what in later times might have been seen as a hobby became a necessity and many household employed, not scarce woollen fibres, but strips of fabric cut from old and worn clothes, to create inexpensive carpets composed of rags.
In later years backing mesh, woollen strands and a special knotting tool along with patterns and simple instructions were sold in kit form to DIY enthusiasts and sparked a craze for making homemade rugs. The idea soon became extremely popular with young couples who were planning to get married and were looking for ways to save money wherever possible.
Today, the term is generally applied to any carpet that is not fitted to the exact dimensions of a room and may be used in a variety of ways. Small ones may simply provide a surface on which to wipe one’s feet at entry points while others can be invaluable in rooms that have natural timber or laminated floors. Here they may make a bold statement and fill much of the room leaving an attractive natural border of the desired size or, alternatively, rugs may be used to designate and to cushion specific areas. Typically this could be the area of a formal dining room occupied by the table and chairs and where, therefore, the floor could need protection from scuffing and scratching and would also tend to be rather noisy without the soundproofing effect of a carpet.
Modern designers have pulled out all the stops to create products of great beauty and there is now a profusion of colours and designs from which today’s consumers can choose. For the widest range of pile-based flooring in traditional or modern designs of wool, synthetics and assorted woollen blends, South Africa’s first choice is Top Carpets and Floors. Shop at our retailers for top-quality, stylish and affordable rugs.