06 PM | 09 Mar

Rug Books (A few of my favorites)

A common question I am asked, by both rug cleaners and rug enthusiasts, is: “What are some good rug books to buy?”

Since I have been giving similar answers in emails quite a bit lately, I decided to share those recommendations in this post.

There are scores of books out there on rugs. Some are general, covering all regions. Others are specific, on particular countries, villages, or tribes.

For those beginning their rug library, these are my top 4 very favorite general rug books.

1. “Oriental Rugs” by Peter Stone

“Oriental Rugs: An Illustrated Lexicon Of Motifs, Materials, and Origins”: This book by Peter Stone is the newest of the four (released in 2014), and has become my top recommendation to just about everyone who asks me for a book for their own education, or as a gift to a fellow textile enthusiast. (Click here to read the listing on Amazon http://bit.ly/stonerugbook)

Peter Stone "Oriental Rugs: An Illustrated Lexicon of Motifs, Materials, and Origins"

Peter Stone “Oriental Rugs: An Illustrated Lexicon of Motifs, Materials, and Origins”

What I enjoy most about this book is the ease of use. It is essentially an encyclopedia of rugs, rug terms, rug construction, rug history, and anything you can think of that is rug-related.

It is very user-friendly if someone is just beginning, but it also feeds the curiosity of the more experienced in the field. I enjoy flipping it open and just reading random sections to learn something new, or in using it to help explain a term, or rug type, to a client.

This is also a visually stunning book. And rather than sharing “rare” rugs that you will likely never see in your lifetime, I find a great collection of rugs that we rug cleaners see now and then through our doors – so the content is relevant to those cleaning today, and those rug shopping today.

Another plus of this book is the extensive bibliography at the end, which lists many great rug books (classics and contemporary) organized by country/weave/topic so that anyone who becomes enamored with a specific rug they see can delve deeper on that topic.

I have purchased multiple copies of the hard cover book (for my own use and for gifts), and I also was thrilled to discover this to be one of the first Kindle edition rug publications I’ve seen. As an avid iPad user, now I have access to this great content no matter where I am.

Great rug books tend to come out with limited publications, and when they soon are no longer in print, the existing copies become extremely pricey to acquire. So get your copy now while the price is down right cheap. This can be on the gift list for any rug lovers in your life.

2. “Oriental Carpet Design” by P.R.J. Ford

“Oriental Carpet Design: A Guide To Traditional Motifs, Patterns and Symbols”: Here is a book that focuses on rug designs. This is a beautifully produced book, and gives you a wide range of history on specific motifs and how they are utilized in different weaving regions over the ages. (Click here for a link to the Amazon listing => http://bit.ly/fordrugbook)

PRJ Ford "Oriental Carpet Design: A Guide To Traditional Motifs, Patterns and Symbols"

PRJ Ford “Oriental Carpet Design: A Guide To Traditional Motifs, Patterns and Symbols”

Many people who are first drawn toward rugs come in based on designs they like, or that the begin to recognize. This book lays out the most common field designs, border designs, motifs, and styles. You get a great visual education on how they vary from tribal weaving to city weaving regions.

The rug examples are excellent, as is the observations and historical descriptions. It helps to identify where certain symbols came from, and what they intended to represent. This is another great book to give as a gift because it is a beauty to flip through and randomly read sections from.

I especially enjoy the details on the various Turkoman gul designs, and have referenced those pages often when trying to determine which clan wove a particular carpet. With this book, as with the Stone book, the writing style is easy to follow and not stiflingly academic. (Though if you ever find yourself stumbling upon a particular rug term, the Stone book acts as a fantastic rug glossary in the format that it is laid out with.)

3. “Oriental Rugs” by Janice Summers

“Oriental Rugs: The Illustrated World Buyers’ Guide”: I was first introduced to this book in a rug identification course that I took part in. It is a very clear read, and gives a good general overview of the different weaving countries and various rug types within each region. (Click here to view the Amazon listing of this book => http://bit.ly/summersrugbook)

Janice Summers "Oriental Rugs: The Illustrated World Buyer's Guide"

Janice Summers “Oriental Rugs: The Illustrated World Buyer’s Guide”

What I love about this book though is the format of how she lays out the rug identification process. Summers is the first rug author that I have seen that has provided an excellent front/back view of rug types, and the identifying characteristics in such a user-friendly manner.

In reading about a particular rug, you can know what identifiers that specialists look for, such as knot type (asymmetrical or symmetrical), weaving materials, weft count, side finish, end finish, etc.

This is a must-own book for anyone seeking to begin on a path of becoming able to identify which country a rug may have been woven in. It also is an excellent tool to use to help determine whether a rug may be from one village, or another, based on its characteristics.

The weaving region histories are not at the level of detail in this book as you will find in the Ford book, but this is a great general book to begin your library with, and one that you will reference often.

4 “Woven Structures” by Marla Mallett

“Woven Structures: A Guide To Oriental Rug And Textile Analysis”: While the three previous books are all great color photo-rich rug publications for everyday use, or to choose as a gift, this fourth mention is a book for someone who truly wants to understand the structure of woven rugs. (Click here for the order page for this book => http://bit.ly/mallettrugbook)

Marla Mallett "Woven Structures: A Guide To Oriental Rug And Textile Analysis"

Marla Mallett “Woven Structures: A Guide To Oriental Rug And Textile Analysis”

This is a textbook on understanding the construction of rugs. Her focus is more on tribal weavings, and in particular flatweaves, but she does address pile rugs in the book as well.

What I love about Mallett’s book are her illustrations and drawings that very vividly “show” the reader how to understand a rug from a weaver’s point of view. You come away with insight on the nomadic lifestyle, fiber cultivation and preparation, and the intricacies of crafting a textile.

It was with this book that I began to look at rugs, especially tribal rugs, very differently. I gained an appreciation of the workmanship through the analysis breakdown provided in this book.

Mallett is an excellent instructor in print, and I am certain even more so in person. She also has a wonderful website (www.marlamallett.com) with a wide range of photos, articles, recommended resources, and rug education.

Many websites in the realm of rugs are garbled messes of outdated material, bad links, and just general chaos. Mallett provides one of the better organized, updated, and easy to navigate sites in our industry. I always learn something new from her website. Though the illustrations and photos in her book are primarily black and white, there is a tremendous amount of color on her website.

If you have a friend who is a weaver, collector, or a serious student of rugs – this is the book to buy for them (or for yourself). And if you have ever struggled with trying to understand the difference in different rug knots, or selvedge finishes, this book will clear it all up for you. Her drawings masterfully illustrate how rugs are crafted.

Rug Book Wrap-up

There are MANY great rug books out there. I expect my blog readers will chime in on some of their favorites in the comments (I encourage you to do so).

What I wanted to do here was to share the ones I grab most often to reference and recommend to others, and the ones that make great gifts to others, or to yourself if you are in the process of beginning your rug library.

(FYI: All of the links provided in this post are general links to general listings. I have shortened the URL’s for convenience sake, but these are NOT affiliate links, so please don’t worry that buying through these means that I am making anything on the sale. I am not. I just wanted to save you some time searching for a listing by providing you the direct links.)

One final request for those of you who already own these books, or plan to buy and enjoy them. PLEASE share the recommendations with others if you like them, and post your reviews on Amazon also if you can. Any of you who have written a book, you know the amount of time/energy projects like this take, and how much work was put into each of these books. Let’s show our appreciation by sharing great rug education with others.

Happy Rug Learning!


P.S. I am officially the “international” Rug Chick! I had the pleasure of working with Modern Rugs UK in crafting a rug care guide section of their website. If you are looking for some quick rug care tips, go take a look at their site => http://bit.ly/modernrugUK – they also have a huge collection of rugs for sale to UK rug shoppers.

07 PM | 27 Dec

Hidden danger – bleeding rug wefts.

Every professional rug cleaner knows how to test a rug to see if the dyes are colorfast or not. At least they should know how to. Especially since a good percentage of new rugs today have dye colorfastness “issues.”

I walk through the steps in my post on dye testing, and the video on how to do it is down below.

Click here How To: Dye Test

I mention in the video to dye test the front AND the back – why?

Because you are not just testing the fuzzy face fibers to see if they may bleed during cleaning, you also want to see what the INSIDE foundation fibers may do when wet.

You remember the loom of a hand woven rug, and how every knot is twisted around two warps threads, with weft threads used to hold the rows of face fiber knots in place? Here’s a loom photo to remind you:

It can take months, even years, to weave a large rug.

The construction basics come down to this (NOT to scale here):

Diagram of cotton warps and wefts with wool symmetrical knots.

With many rugs the warps (which end up being the fringe tassels on rugs) and the wefts are cotton, often white cotton – which you can see peeking out of rugs from the backside.

See white horizontal wefts peeking through the back.

When the warps and wefts are white, or a very light color, there are no worries. But sometimes the wefts are NOT white. They might be blue, gray, black, red, purple – and they may bleed on you.

Here’s a hand woven rug with light gray wefts (will not bleed) next to a machine-made rug, which has knots wrapped around the wefts so you do not see them at all. (By the way, this is how you identify the difference between hand woven and machine woven rugs – knots wrapped around the warps are hand woven, around the wefts are machine – we will touch on that another time in more depth.)

Hand woven next to machine woven.

Here’s a photo of a Pakistan rug that was recently sent to me, and the side had torn away a bit to expose its pink weft threads. In fact, some long time pet urine exposure had caused the rug to bleed pink into the edges of the rug.

Loose weft threads have pulled away from this rug.

You can see where is has bled pink into the usually white edge design of this rug.

Pink line where it should be white.

Normally these pink wefts are not a problem with washing. In fact most rugs are not a problem under regular circumstances. These conditions though of long term wet exposure from pets made them bleed. If this had been a rug with no pets around, and washed regularly, that pink would never be visible on this rug from the front.

But some rugs are in fact a problem even under normal circumstances. They have DARK wefts. Here’s a potential problem:

Red wefts on a new Gabbeh.

So you make sure to test the BACK of the rug for colorfastness. If it tests fine – you can clean stress-free.

You also need to pay special attention to any existing spills (especially pet accidents) to identify existing dye migration that might wick up and be visible in the cleaning. The dye may test strong, but in these damaged areas (by the pets) the dye will release and bleed out – that is what happens when pet urine damages rugs over time.

Many rugs are washed before being exported for sale. It’s the ones with cut corners that present the problems today… problems that can averted through thorough inspection of the front and back of each rug, and dye testing both sides, BEFORE the cleaning begins.

Simply making your wash quicker, and using the proper dye stabilizing solution will keep the lurking danger from rearing its ugly head. But the worst thing to happen will be when you test the top side for colorfastness, it tests fine, and then you wash as normal and some UNEXPECTED color rises up from the base of the rug to scare the heck out of you because you did not test the back.

Seeing rising lines of red, blue, or black dye in stripes all over a rug appear as you clean is a frightening experience. One that is entirely avoidable with the right pre-wash inspection skills.

Happy cleaning – and HAPPY New Year!

– Lisa

P.S. Those of you who are professional cleaners, my training schedule is coming out soon, so if you are interested in working with me this year be sure to opt in to the Rug Disasters Report in the right column of this blog. Then you will get notified as soon as openings are available. Looking forward to working with you!

05 PM | 28 Oct

The dark side of the rug.

Pet your rug. Go ahead – pet it!

All pile rugs, just like your pet pooch or kitty or gorilla (hey – we have ALL kinds on this blog!) – the fur has a direction to it. You can tell when you are petting with the grain…

…or against it.

The grain points toward the bottom end of the rug. This is the end where the weaving process began, so as those knots are twisted around two warp threads, they end up pointing downward.

Weaving a rug on a loom.

This means that when the rug is on the floor, its wool (or silk) pile is pointing toward one fringed end, and pointing away from the other.

Because the pile reflects light differently, you end up with some very distinct LIGHT and DARK “looks” to every pile rug. Take a look:

View from bottom end, looking INTO the pile.

View from top end, looking WITH the pile.

Now…if you happen to take a rug out for its regular washing, and you were to lay the rug down in the opposite direction, with it suddenly looking quite different to its owner…

…could you understand how there might be a problem?

Technically, no problem at all. No damage per se.  But, the “look” of the rug they live with day in and day out would suddenly be different.

It’s important to note which end (top or bottom) is where in the room before you remove it, and to open it in the same direction again when you return it so you can avoid any comments like “what happened to my rug?!?”

Especially if you are dealing with SILK rugs, which reflect light much more dramatically than wool does, you can have a very vibrant difference in the look of the rug.

This is why when you spill anything on a silk rug and try to dry it, and the pile gets tussled or matted, it can look like soil because it can appear very dark afterwards. (By the way silk is a horrible choice for a floor rug, because foot traffic will always make it look blotchy. Though silk is a strong fiber, I recommend hanging and enjoying the pieces rather than stomping on them and having them always look “a little dirty” even when they are not. Plus, with any spills silk is a dangerous beast to try to correct spill damage, many tend to have dyes that will bleed with spills.)

So, remember to PET the rug and determine the direction of the rug pile before you remove it from the home. I like to roll the rugs from the bottom end, which makes for a tighter roll.

And after they are thrilled with your cleaning then you can recommend that they rotate the rug for the upcoming year to help even out any traffic wear and sun light exposure.

Happy rug cleaning!

– Lisa

06 PM | 28 Jan

Rug Weaving – Sharing the Art and History

In this day of disposable products everywhere you look, there is reason to have deep admiration and appreciation for anything that is hand crafted.

Many of these crafts and arts are dying off. So when those who LOVE handmade items get together, there is an intensity, energy, and passion that you don’t find many places.

Those who learn a bit about hand woven rugs, and know how they are woven, one knot at a time, generally LOVE them. I know I do.

Loom used to hand weave a rug - one knot at a time.

Loom used to hand weave a rug - one knot at a time.

A 9×12 rug can take three weavers working 6 days a week, ten hours a day, over a year to weave a hand-knotted rug. That is a piece of someone’s life you have on the floor. A piece of their heart and soul. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the shearing of the wool, dyeing of the wool, spinning of the wool, before they even begin to weave the rug.

My mother Kate Blatchford  and I had the pleasure of being featured presenters to a recent meeting of the Palomar Weavers Guild – a group of fabric, textile, and dyeing experts. My mother Kate is the founder of our San Diego Rug Cleaning Company, and she and my brother David have launched a blog dedicated to rug repairs.

Here is me and mom at the weavers event:

Kate Blatchford talking with members.

Kate Blatchford talking with members.

Here I am speaking with some weaving guild members.

Here I am speaking with some weaving guild members.

We also hosted a meeting at our San Diego Rug Cleaning Company plant, and I welcomed industry professionals from the local Carpet & Fabricare Institute chapter to learn about rugs in the rug repair section of our facility.

Exclusive rug workshop for local CFI members in San Diego.

Exclusive workshop for local CFI members in our repair wing of our facility.

There are not many resources out there for those in the general cleaning industry to learn about rug care from those who actually DO the craft.

I have not conducted full multi-day rug cleaning clinics for many years… but this year I am planning to do a number of them.  Some for those professional carpet cleaners and restorers who want to learn the craft properly (and how to find the right clients to clean for)… and some other workshops for consumers who are interested in learning more about the art and history of rugs, and also what rugs to absolutely buy, and which ones to run away from.  The good, the bad, and the ugly in the rug world.

Opt-in to my Rug Chick updates list, and you’ll get first notification of workshops coming across the US this year. They will be small, and extremely in-depth, and they will fill up very fast.

In the meantime, any questions you have about rugs, or topics you would like to see covered here on the Rug Chick blog – please post them in the comments. I’d love to know what you’d like to learn more about.

– Lisa

07 AM | 17 Dec

Love/Hate Relationship With Fringe

What is it about fringe?

Some rug owners LOVE it… most rug cleaners HATE it. Why all the drama?

Well, it starts with the fact that when the rug is brand new, it tends to have the bright white, immaculate cotton fringe. It just looks so… NEW.

When rug owners send their rugs off for a professional cleaning, the fringe tassels are usually gray and dirty, and they want them that brand new white again.

But that white is just not natural. And it never was. Just like those Hollywood smiles you see (despite their daily coffee intake) – those pearly whites just don’t happen naturally. They are enhanced, with hydrogen peroxide and other bleaching agents.

That fantastic white fringe is also “enhanced” – and as you know when you repeatedly use chlorine bleach on cotton t-shirts, it will yellow, and it will tear and become brittle. And with fringe this means, the tassels simply begin to break and tear off from foot traffic or your vacuum cleaner – like this:

Repeatedly bleached fringe will begin to tear off.

The use of bleaching agents, or hydrogen peroxide, is a common mistake made by both unskilled cleaners and rug owners to try to “clean up” the look of fringe.

Unfortunately bleach is not a cleaning agent. You need to use actual cleaning solutions and some good old elbow grease to remove soil from fringe. Most don’t have the patience to do it correctly, so they are looking for the quick fix – which is why they grab the bleach.

But think about it… if you had heavily soiled shoelaces (also cotton), and you threw it in your washing machine with hot water and a lot of bleach – how would they turn out?

I’ll give you a hint… TERRIBLE.

To get them clean you need to soak them, scrub them, use some detergent to get them looking decent. And getting them to look like brand new again, when they have been beat up for years? That’s a tough job for anyone.

That is the state that many rugs left without a cleaning for longer than a few years gets to, with VERY dirty fringe. And the owners expect a miracle. This is why many rug cleaners hate fringe. And for the less experienced of them, they may grab that bleach to try to create a shortcut to a great look.

However, many do not realize that the bleaching of the fringe done before the rug was even sold, by the manufacturer, can sometimes create deterioration of those cotton fringes that can quickly worsen with future attempts to “whiten” them.

One country notorious for aggressive whitening of fringe is China – you may recognize their distinctive fringe type here (every country finishes their fringe off in a particular way):

Chinese rugs tend to develop yellowed and weak fringe tassels over time.

I personally am not very fond of fringe, especially long fringe tassels. Sometimes I think it would be nice to just get some scissors and cut those strands clean off… but then I have to stop myself.

You see the fringe tassels are actually the warp foundation fibers of a hand-woven rug. This means cutting them off is a huge NO-NO, because the rug will unravel.

Fringe tassels are the foundation fibers of a woven rug.

The better option is to hide the fringe behind the rug. To either use masking tape to hold it underneath the rug (masking leave little adhesive on the cotton), or to use a strip of material to hold the tassels under the rug and cover them up so they stay in good shape.

Hiding the fringe also means they do not have to be continually bleached to make WHITE again, and then they don’t break off and risk the rug knots pulling away and letting the rug unravel.

Hand-woven rugs made well should last several lifetimes. They should outlive us, and our kids, and our grandkids.

Let’s help make that happen by keeping the bleach away from them. 🙂

– Lisa