Machine-Made Rugs and Carpets
In the early twentieth century, very excellent carpets began to be produced on looms driven by steam or other mechanical power. Because of the nature of the process they were usually woven in long strips, rather than the rug shape that is natural to the hand loom. The looms had been improved to allow the weaving of rugs of considerable width, in place of the older ones, which were made up of strips sewed together like an old-fashioned carpet.
Ingrain carpet is one of the oldest machine weaves. It is made in strips a yard wide, the best grades being all wool, while in cheaper qualities some cotton is used. The design is produced by raising and lowering two series of threads in such a manner that the fabric is reversible. The color of the ground on one side is that of the figure on the other. It lessened in use as the newer weaves began to yield more interesting and varied products, ideal to place in front of an electric fireplace.
Brussels carpet, usually 27 inches wide, is woven of worsted yarn, in the manner of uncut velvet, the threads being looped over wires to form the pile. Several series of threads, usually six, are used, each of a different color. The filling, which shows on the back, may be of almost any material.
The pile, being uncut, is stiff and wiry, and wears better than a cut pile, as it resists wear and does not absorb dust. The term body brussels is used to distinguish it from tapestry brussels, an imitation of inferior grade in which the design is printed on the threads instead of the use of separate threads of different colors.
Wilton carpet is woven in the same way as brussels, except that the pile is cut, making it softer and more luxurious, but less resistant to wear. Wilton velvet is an imitation of wilton, being made like a tapestry brussels, but with a cut pile.
Axminsters are made by a process similar to that of making an Oriental rug, in which the machine loom fastens tufts of woolen yarn into the fabric. They are usually made in small all-over repeating patterns, and are handsome and durable, though the cheaper and lighter grades are inferior to wilton or brussels.
Chenille rugs are similar to axminsters in design and texture, though made somewhat differently. The tufts of wool forming the pile are first made into strips, steamed so that all the ends point up and the strips are then joined by linen warps. This is an early type of weave, very strong and durable, but rather expensive.
Rugs may be made in any size and can be woven to order in either one or two tones. Smyrna is a similar though cheaper product, having both faces alike, while chenille has one face only. The material is not of Oriental origin, as the name would indicate, but it is generally woven in Oriental designs.
In all these weaves, the heaviest and most expensive fabrics are the most durable. The lighter grades usually contain poorer material and inferior workmanship, so that buying the best is true economy. In the best grades worsted yarn is used, made of the longest and strongest wool fibers. In addition to wool, other materials are sometimes used, including jute and hemp, sometimes mixed with wool as an adulterant.
They are, however, very inferior, as they deteriorate rapidly, particularly in damp places or in front of wood burning fireplace inserts, and are therefore only suitable for temporary use. Linen, fiber and grass rugs are also made, and are particularly good for summer use, as they are light and washable. They are flat weaves, with no pile. Many of them are pleasing in design and color, and their low cost is an advantage.
New varieties are often introduced, and for porches, bedrooms, and summer cottages they are often most appropriate. The variety of design possible in wiltons, brussels, and axminsters is very great. They may be obtained in plain effects, as well as in elaborate patterns.
Originals in famous museums have in some cases been chosen for reproduction, and the best are scarcely inferior to the real Orientals, except that they have generally a certain harshness not found in the hand-made product. The earlier copies were made in strips and sewed together, and some are still so made, but those woven in one piece are far superior.