WHY MAKE RUGS BY HAND IN INDIA AND NEPAL?
Quite simply, there is a nuance in technique and quality that simply cannot be replicated or equalled using mass-production methods. Instead, every piece is created by independent artisans who take pride in their craft and produce rugs with love from start to finish.
Some of the initial and final stages of production are the same in both India and Nepal but their respective weaving specialities set them apart.
THE BEGINNINGS OF A RUG
CARDING AND SPINNING
All of our rugs start as raw wool and natural or bamboo silk. For rugs made in India, we use the highest grade of New Zealand wool and for rugs made in Nepal, we use wool gathered from the sheep grazing high in the Himalayan mountains. Both types are known for their suppleness and strength, while Himalayan wool is especially revered for its high lanolin (wax) content, which gives the fibre added softness and stain-resistance. This wool is so desirable that the Nepalese government has banned the export of the raw material, reserving it only for rugs produced within the country.
The fleece is prepared for dyeing by first separating it by natural colour and then combing its lengths between two wire brushes (known as carding). We use semi-worsted wool, which is a desirable quality created by removing the shorter yarns and smoothing the longer yarns in the same direction. As well as adding to the softness, this also helps to prevent pilling and shedding in the final rug. Next, the yarn is spun to create one continuous length and prepared for dyeing.
As there is an almost infinite scope for colour in bespoke commissions, the yarn is dyed specifically for every rug. We offer over two thousand colours and every option has its own special pigment formulation – all recorded by our specialist Dye Master, who is in charge of transforming the yarn into a variety of rich and vibrant hues. He learnt the job from his father and the skill is usually passed down to whichever son has the best eye for colour, which is a true talent in itself! The Master takes full responsibility for the colour and so the other dyers will continuously refer to him until the colour is approved.
Both wools and silks are dyed in very small batches so that the process can be controlled to perfection. The yarn is immersed in water heated over a coal fire so that the temperature can be more easily maintained. It is rotated constantly in order to ensure an even finish. One hank of wool or silk can take several hours to dye depending entirely on the specific combination of pigment used.
The freshly dyed yarn is then hung out in the fields to cure in the sun, which contributes towards colourfastness. Once it has completely dried, the yarn is twisted into braids and placed on rings. By this time, the loom has already been made by hand to the exact size required, so weaving can begin right away. The entire dyeing process is meticulous and is truly as much a science as it is an art.
The history of knotted rugs in Nepal is a rich fabric in itself and we are proud to support and preserve this craft. The Tibetan knot was introduced into Nepal in the 1950s as a result of the immigration of Tibetan people to Nepal. It is formed by simultaneously tying the yarn around a horizontal metal rod and the cotton warp and weft, with every new knot a continuation of the previous. The knots are then sliced on the rod to create a pile or left looped for added texture.
This style of knot is very well suited to contemporary design and allows for patterns to be easily adapted to different densities. The quality of a knotted rug is measured in knots per square inch and the minimum density required depends entirely on the complexity of the design. Our weavers follow a life-size graph so that the pattern can be followed knot-by-knot. A remarkably intricate craft, it takes approximately 600 hours to complete the weaving of a 2m x 3m (6’7″ x 9’10”) rug made in 100-knots per square inch. The total knot-count of the same piece is just under 1 million.
Epitomising casual elegance, the flatweave rug is the perfect understated layer. Rooted in tradition, this style of rug was thought to originate around the fourth or fifth century and weavers have used the same ancient technique for centuries. Crafted on a horizontal loom using the highest-grade New Zealand wool, this style of rug is particularly suited to linear and geometric designs due to the grid-like construction of the weave. Due to their pile-less nature, flatweaves sit pretty on both carpet and hardwood flooring. As the pattern is identical on both the front and back, these rugs can also be reversed for longer use.
A knotted rug effect is created on a loom, ensuring a high-quality piece that lasts for generations. These rugs possess a dense pile with a real sense of luxury. Rather than creating the rug knot-by-knot, it is crafted row-by-row (much like a fabric), which makes for fairly swift production times. Due to this style of weaving, handloom knot rugs can only be created in solid colours or simple, linear patterns.
Once the rug has been taken off the loom, the surface is scorched with a blowtorch in order to remove all the excess wool and to create a smooth finish. After the residue is swept away, the rug is then washed using a gentle, highly-diluted detergent pushed through the warp and weft using large wooden paddles. This process encourages the wools to soften even further. Depending on the style, some rugs are washed several times to enhance the texture of the final piece.
While the rug is still wet, it is attached to a wooden frame and stretched so it is the exact size required. Weather permitting, it will then be put outside to dry in the sun. This process corrects any movement in the warp and weft as a result of the rug being woven on a vertical loom and naturally elongating over the course of many weeks. The rug remains in the frame until it is ready to be trimmed and finished.
TRIMMING, CARVING AND BINDING
As soon as the rug has fully dried, it is expertly hand finished by our artisans. The surface is clipped for an even and smooth finish, while the edges of the design are carved slightly for clarity and definition. Some designs have the pile of the pattern raised above the background pile for a three-dimensional effect, which requires even more careful contouring with traditional shears. The edges of the rug are then bound with a coordinating yarn to prevent fraying and finish off the piece. Following meticulous quality checks, the rug is carefully wrapped and ready to be shipped to its new home.