Carpets and Rugs

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Carpets and Rugs


artistic textile products, usually with multicolored designs or pictures, used primarily for decoration and for heat insulation of dwellings, as well as for acoustic insulation. The earliest preserved pile and felt carpets were found in the USSR. There is also evidence that carpets existed in Assyria and Babylonia.

The artistic qualities of carpets are determined by the texture of the weave (pile or pileless), the dye and fiber (wool, silk, flax, cotton; for example, wool has the subtlest contrasts of piles), design, the relationship of the border and the central field, the character and composition of the decorative pattern (floral, geometric, or other motif, arranged in bands, medallions, rows, or other scheme), and the color combinations.

The most famous carpets of the East come from Iran (Persia), Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan (Caucasus). Persian carpets are classified according to their place of manufacture (for example, Isfahan, Kashan, Fereghan, Joshaghan, and Khorassan) or pattern (medallion, hunting, animal, garden, or vase). Most Persian carpets are tightly woven, especially Isfahan and Kashan carpets, and have complex foliage and geometric designs, which often include inscriptions and representations of human figures and animals; multiple-banded borders; and extremely rich and diverse colors.

Turkish rugs, which are also grouped according to the place in which they were made (for example, Oushak, Bergama, Ladik, Ghiordes, and Kulah), are decorated with large highly stylized or geometric foliage motifs, usually of bright contrasting colors. The most well-known Turkish rug is the prayer rug, depicting the mihrab, or prayer arch, with an interior lamp, two columns along its sides, and inscriptions (verses from the Koran) around it.

Turkoman rugs are classified according to the tribe that produced them (for example, Tekke, Yomud, Ersari, and Saryk). The central field has a design of repeating rows of the tribal symbol, or gul (an octagonal medallion), whose form and pattern vary with different tribes. Most guls have a diagonal color pattern. All Turkoman rugs except Beshirs have a single color scheme composed of many shades of red.

There are many different types of Azerbaijani (Caucasian) carpets. These are also grouped according to their place of manufacture. Some types (Kuba, Shirvan, Kazakh, and Zendzha) have complicated geometrical designs, which include schematized representations of animals and people, as well as polygonal or stellate medallions that move around a single axis in the central field. Other Azerbaijani carpets, such as Karabakh, have a varied foliage pattern with an abundance of flower motifs. Azerbaijani carpets are distinguished by their harmonious color schemes, composed of intense local tones.

In Western European rug weaving, 16th-century tapestries (Flemish, French, and German) occupy a special place. In the 17th and 18th centuries the outstanding development was the manufacture of pile carpets by the Savonnerie plant, which was founded in Paris in 1624 on the premises of a former soap factory (savonnerie). Savonnerie rugs had magnificent multicolored floral and arabesque baroque patterns, usually on a black background. They influenced the manufacture of pile rugs in England and Spain. With the development of factory production in the 19th century, the artistic level of Western European carpet weaving declined sharply. However, since the mid-20th century, successful efforts have been made in a number of countries (especially France) to revive this craft, returning it to its former importance. Notable success has been achieved in Poland, Bulgaria, Rumania, and Yugoslavia, where there has been a revival of the manufacture of handwoven pile and pileless rugs with geometric and stylized foliage patterns.

In the European USSR, carpet weaving developed long ago in the Ukraine (primarily the pileless kilim carpets). In the central regions, kilims have a two-dimensional design of broad bands of colors on a black, light blue, or light yellow background. In the western regions they have a geometric design. Kilims with vivid color schemes and scrolling stem and vase motifs, as well as geometric patterns, are produced in Moldavia. The most well-known Russian carpets are from Kursk and Voronezh; they are pileless, with three-dimensionally treated flowers executed in a natural color scheme on a black background. In Tiumen’ Oblast deep-pile carpets with floral patterns are produced.

In the USSR, since 1917, master carpet weavers, organized in artels, have sought expressive means for embodying the new world view. At the same time they incorporate the old traditions and methods. A large role in these efforts is played by the carpet laboratory of the Scientific Research Institute of Art Industry, the carpet-producing amalgamations of the Azerbaijan SSR and the Turkmen SSR, and experimental artistic workshops.

Carpet materials and goods are used increasingly in furnishing the contemporary home and public interior, as coverings for floors, furniture, and walls. Carpets and rugs vary in structure and texture, depending on their purpose (where they are to be used) and the degree of intensity of dynamic and static loads (differing for homes, public places, ship cabins, airplane lounges, helicopters, and automobiles). They can be smooth (pileless) or with cut, uncut, or combination pile (deep and short). Carpets and rugs, which are either handmade or machinemade (since the mid-19th century), are woven or knitted. Milled felts (koshmy) are also used as carpets. The properties of fibers and threads— stretch textured and cord—and of the yarn for the pile and frame, which can be of natural fibers or chemical fibers (dacron, kapron, polypropylene), determine to a large degree the type of carpet and its use, dependability, and wear.

In the USSR, pile and pileless carpets are made by hand on vertical and horizontal looms (on the vertical loom 1 sq m = 2.5 kg; and on the horizontal, 3.2 kg and more). Machine-made carpets are also produced (on the vertical loom 1 sq m = 1.8–2.2 kg; and on the horizontal, 2.5 kg). Machine weaving is more productive than hand weaving. A weaver tying pile knots by hand produces an average of 10–12 sq m of carpet annually. The machine production of double-faced jacquard carpets with cut pile, which are identical to handmade carpets in design, color scheme, and tightness of weave (the number of pile tufts along the horizontal and vertical), is 4–6 sq m/hr.

The quality of execution and the complexity of design of handmade carpets and rugs cannot be surpassed. As a result, they are more valuable than machine-made carpets. When rugs are made by hand, the pile is formed by securing loops of variously colored carded or worsted yarn to the warp threads. The ends of the pile knots come through on the face and are evenly cut, forming a strong surface on the extremely firm frame of a fabric which consists of the warp and weft threads. The knots are arranged in horizontal rows. After each row is completed, a weft thread is put in, and the entire row is pushed tightly against the preceding one by a metal comb.

The various pileless handmade rugs (kilim, pallas, tapestry, soumak) are manufactured differently. Double-faced kilim fabric is formed by twining the wool filling, which densely conceals the backing. In pallas carpets there is no coupling of the colored weft threads, and as a result, gaps are formed around the borders of the design. Soumak, a one-sided web carpet, consists of stitches, or “plaits”; on the face of the carpet the colored weft is bound around each pair of backing threads. In tapestries colored threads are drawn through to the underside of the fabric.

Mechanical weaving of pileless carpets differs little from the manufacture of ordinary multilayered decorative fabrics and is done on multiple-shuttle looms with a jacquard mechanism. A loom with a jacquard attachment makes two carpets simultaneously—an upper and a lower web—with five or six colors. The distance between each web is determined by the depth of the pile.

Carpets have a general foundation thread, a chain binder, and a warp backing thread. The foundation threads of the upper and lower webs are woven together by the woof threads and are then cut by a knife.

Multicolored carpets with cut pile can be primarily of ribbon, or jacquard, construction. Ribbon carpets are made on automatic or mechanical looms. The productivity of a ribbon loom does not exceed 1 sq m/hr. In the jacquard method, using a jacquard attachment, the rug design is formed of pile yarn of eight, 12, or 16 colors.

The production of knitted rugs and tufted rugs, particularly those with uncut looped pile, looks promising. Such rugs are a mélange or made of one, two, or three colors. Methods are being worked out for applying a pattern design onto knitted, tufted pile, and needle-punch carpets with up to ten or 12 colors. The patterns are applied by machines with grid templates and rotating perforated cylinders. Knitted bouclé carpets with uncut looped pile are made on warp-knitting rachel looms which produce up to 100 sq m/hr.

For tufted carpets a backing fabric of linen or serge weave is woven separately on broad heavy-duty looms. The tufting is done on a multiple-needle machine with a working width of up to 5 m. The average output of tufting machines if 150 sq m/hr.

Carpets taken from the loom are usually soiled and have various defects. In the finishing process defects are removed, the rugs are cleaned, and missing threads are put in. The process includes steaming, cleaning, darning, and cutting (in the case of cut pile carpets). The back is covered with a sizing to add the necessary stiffness, firmly bind the pile tufts or loops, and prevent the carpet from sliding on the floor. The backs of knitted and tufted pile rugs are treated with a latex solution (a smooth or waffle-textured layer of foam rubber is attached to the back of the carpets). The mechanized production of carpets is geared toward a highly productive process by which the structure, durability, and diversity of handmade carpets are duplicated.


[Kryzhanovskii, B.] Ukrainskie i rumynskie kilimy. Leningrad, 1925.
Kovry RSFSR. Moscow, 1952. (Catalog.)
Iakovleva, E. G. Russkie kovry. Moscow, 1959.
Levin, L. M., and V. I. Sverdlin. Kovry i kovrovye izdeliia. Moscow, 1960.
Kerimov, L. Azerbaidzhanskii kover. Baku [1961].
Rudenko, S. I. Drevneishie v mire khudozhestvennye kovry i tkani. . . . Moscow, 1968.
Airapetov, D. P., V. G. Koshkin, and L. M. Levin. Sinteticheskie kovrovye materialy dlia pokrytiia polov. Moscow, 1967.
Hübel, R. Ullstein Teppichbuch. . . . Berlin, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
The softest carpets and rugs covered the floors; rich and tasteful draperies hung at doors and windows.
The residential market will remain the leading end user for carpets and rugs even though the non-residential market is also growing thank to the rising investment in offices, commercial and institutional construction sectors.
The Industrial market report offers a comprehensive guide to the size and shape of the Carpets and Rugs market at a national level.
Summary: New carpets and rugs creation designs will be presented by MAC Carpet - the leading manufacturer of tufted and printed mats, carpets and rugs in the 20th Domotex Hannover the Biggest flooring fair in the world that will take place during 17-20 January 2009 in Hannover, Germany.
And considering that sales of domestic carpets and rugs have remained relatively stable, why such an increase in sales in general?
The US market for carpets and rugs is projected to rise only 1.6 percent per year through 2009 to over 22 billion square feet, but will still account for 65 percent of the floor covering market.
The demand for carpets and rugs is forecast to rise 2.2% per year through 2007 to more than 20 billion square feet, according to Carpets & Rugs, a study conducted by industrial market research firm, The Freedonia Group, Cleveland, OH.
TODAY, collectors of carpets and rugs see them as works of art, objects to be admired for their decorative value, aesthetic qualities and technical workmanship.