Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Navajo Chief Blankets - An Abridged History Lesson

First Phase Cheif Blanket on the
Antiques Roadshow in Tuscon, AZ in 2002
I love the Antiques Roadshow.  In 2002, I saw what I still consider to be the BEST episode ever.  A humble looking man brought in an old blanket that he was curious about.  His grandmother had told him that it had been a gift to her foster parents from the legendary Kit Carson, so he believed it might have some value due to the lineage.  When the appraiser saw it for the first time, he nearly hyperventilated!  It was a pristine First Phase Ute Chief Blanket and he gave it a conservative value of $350,000 – Kit Carson or no.  Needless to say, the owner of the blanket was shocked.  To kick off my very own Trash or Treasure Traveling Rug Show, I decided that I should pay homage to the episode that planted the seed: Antiques Roadshow - First Phase Chief Blanket Surprise

An abridged history lesson:

Cheif Blanket as it
Should Be Worn
Blanket weaving was a learned skill.  The Navajo people picked it up from the Spanish settlers and from their neighbors, the Pueblos.  Eventually, their skill far surpassed that of their teachers and the “Classic Period” was born. Even though the Navajo didn't have chiefs of their own, they made blankets for the Ute, Cheyenne and Sioux chiefs to wear. They were expensive and were much lighter than animal hides. The quality was very impressive – almost waterproof because they were woven so tightly, and the bold stripes wrapped around the chief made him look quite imposing. 

This “First Phase” weaving period lasted from approximately 1750 until the internment of 8000 Navajo people at Fort Sumner in 1864.  The 300 mile “Long Walk of the Navajo” killed hundreds while on the journey and even more died in the prison camps. When they were finally released to their homelands four years later, the Navajo people discovered that their homes had been razed, their fields had been burned and their sheep had been killed.
Weaving a Third Phase Blanket
in a Modern Era
By about 1850, the Navajo weavers, aided by the westward trains and a more open trade philosophy, began a “Second Phase” of blanket weaving and then an overlapping “Third Phase.”  These later phases are differentiated from the First Phase by color, design motifs, the use of synthetic dyes, and wool quality. When large trading posts began to dot the region around 1890, the weavers segued from blankets to rugs.  Tourists would pay more money for an intricately patterned, quality rug.  Now there are many different types of Navajo rugs and they are typically valued at more money per square foot than even the finest Persian rugs.

The different Phases at a glance:

1st Phase:
*basic striped pattern

*blue, black, brown, ivory

2nd Phase:
*slightly more complicated striped pattern

*addition of red bars in the center and corners

3rd Phase:
*complex wavy lines hidden in the striped pattern

*addition of serrated diamonds and triangles in the center and corners

If you would like more information on my Trash or Treasure Traveling Rug Show or if you have any questions for me to answer, I can be contacted by email: Lynn@rugadvocate.com

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I’m no photographer, but…

I love a challenge as much as anyone else, but when customers or fellow rug cleaners send me photos of rugs for my opinion, I often (almost always!) have to ask for more or better images.  There isn’t a whole lot I can tell you about something I can’t see clearly.  I’m already handicapped by not being able to feel and handle the piece.  I thought it was time for me to lay down some ground rules, so…

This is what we professional Ruggies are looking for in any photo submitted for ID or consultation:

1:  A clear, well-lit image of the entire rug, showing all four corners.  The rug should have little to no furniture covering it.

2:  A clear, well-lit image of an 8”- 12” section of the back corner of the rug, showing BOTH the end & edge finish.  Include a coin of some kind (preferably a US Quarter) in the image both for scale and for clarity. If you can read the words on the coin clearly, the photo is a good one!

3:  A clear, well-lit image from both the front AND back side of any damaged areas or places of concern.  Please include in the image a ruler or open tape measure next to the damaged areas.  The ruler markings should be legible in the photo.

Several of the examples I’m going to share with you have come from the Facebook page “What Is My Rug?” where I am one of a handful of administrators.  The concept here is simple - you post photos of your “mystery” rug, and we will try to help you identify what it is.  Easy, right…?

NOTE: I want to stress that my intention is NOT to pick on anyone out there.  I simply wish to show examples, side-by-side, good and bad, so that you are able to see exactly what we’re looking for in a quality photo.  Once you see how best to photograph a rug, it will save you (and your chosen expert) tons of time and frustration down the road.

This image shows all four corners clearly, is well lit, and there is no furniture covering any of the design elements.

This image clearly shows the end & edge finish, and the coin is legible.


Not much wrong with this photo other than it's taken from a little too far away for my liking.

This photo of the same rug leaves much to be desired.
While the edge finish is fairly visible, I'm left wondering what is going on across the fringe end.
It's too far away to really "read" the knot shape and style.
A close-up with a coin included for clarity would have helped a great deal.


The tape measure is just too far away to count knots per square inch.

This one gives me a definite vertigo feeling.

Too close!!

Artistic shot.

Design motifs are so interchangeable between countries that you can't identify a rug based on that information alone.

I saved this next photo for last because it is my favorite example of what NOT to do. It has something for everyone! The lighting is bad, the photo is fuzzy, the rug is covered in furniture. Is it a 10 x 14 or a 5 x8? The photo was sent to a friend of mine for ID purposes because this rug may end up in court as part of an insurance fraud scam. It was the ONLY photo available and I could only scratch my head in wonder.

I hope my latest ramblings will help you with your future rug photo submissions! I look forward to seeing them either on Facebook or in my email. :)

As always, I can be contacted by email: Lynn@rugadvocate.com

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

American Sarouk - Painted Beauty

Typical American Sarouk

I am often asked what my own favorite type of rug is. I have several, but the most affordable and utilitarian of my faves is the American Sarouk. They are well made, pretty to look at and they have such an interesting story...

Mottled Dyes
Called “American Sarouk” because they were specifically designed for American tastes and woven in Northwest Iran, these rugs are easily recognizable for their rich red and blue colors and detached floral spray patterns.  They are known for their durability and lustrous feel.  

Original Yarn Color on the Back,
Over-Dyed Yarn Color on the Face
The American Sarouk was produced for export and shipped primarily to New York in the 1920’s and 1930’s by the boatload. They were welcomed for their quality and sheen, but sadly, not for their color.  The rugs were simply too orange.  The remedy for this was to build warehouses where workers would spend their days over-dying or painting the orange-red areas with a more popular burgundy-red.  It was an interesting and effective solution to a costly problem.  Nearly 100 years later, those dyes are still holding fast, but are beginning to show signs of mottling and breaking down. While this should not affect a rug’s value, it may appear unsightly to some.

I can be contacted by email: Lynn@rugadvocate.com

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wet Rugs Happen

Storms happen. Overflows happen. Pipe breaks happen. Sewer back-ups happen. 
Wet rugs happen.  

Not the best method, but it's a start!

In the event of a small, clean water flood such as a dishwasher over flow or washing machine overflow, you will want to remove the water from the rug as quickly as you can.  Draping rugs over fences or railings is not recommended. Rather, extract as much water out of the rugs as possible and dry the rugs flat to minimize any potential drip-dry dye bleeding or permanent discoloration.  If you dry outdoors, dry the rugs upside-down to minimize sun fading.  Professional cleaning is always recommended so that any impurities and alkaline detergents can be properly removed.

It is important to note that if wet rugs are allowed to dry too slowly, or in a place that is not humidity controlled, it is only a matter of time (hours, NOT days!) before mold and mildew begin to grow and for the dyes bleed.  Do try to get to them as quickly as possible.

Heavy, dirty and unsanitary.
If your textiles have been exposed to a Category 2, or worse, a Category 3 situation, you will want to contact a company that has technicians specially trained to properly clean, deodorize and sanitize your rugs before returning them to your home.  Never try to tackle this type of clean up on your own – it could pose a serious health hazard to you and your family.  Call a professional to help you.

I can be contacted by email: Lynn@rugadvocate.com

Monday, June 4, 2012

One Man's Trash

If you know where to send it, a fairly trashed rug can become a treasure!

About 10 years ago, this Hamadan came in to the shop so badly moth infested that when the rug owner dropped it on the floor, a cloud of live carpet moths flew out! 

Having no real attachment to the rug, the owner asked if I would dispose of it for her.  I was happy to oblige!  I “disposed” of it right onto the wash floor, where it was treated with a pesticide to help kill the various cycles of carpet moths (eggs, larvae, flying moths), cleaned on the front and back, hung in a heated drying room to dry, and then sent to the repairer for evaluation. 
Visible Moth Damage, Patched Corner

It was decided that the rug needed new edges, the fringe ends needed to be secured and the corner of the rug needed to be filled in.  Since the rug had no monetary value left to it after such extensive moth damage, we decided to simply patch the missing corner rather than re-weave it. 

Not New, But Very Useable!
The rug has been used in my own front hallway ever since!

The cost to do all of these repairs to this particular rug would have been too high for a regularly paying customer, but you should always have your textiles evaluated before disposing of them...just in case you are sitting (or standing!) on a treasure.

I can be contacted by email: Lynn@rugadvocate.com
Happy treasure hunting!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Demystifying Rug Terminology for Consumers

How does someone go about learning what to expect when they are looking for a new Oriental rug?? Why should they believe what they are being told by the person trying to sell them something??  It’s sort of like walking in to a car dealership looking for a new car and not knowing anything about cars.  It’s a big purchase! How can you be sure you’re making the right decision? How do you know you’re not being taken? How do you know which car is the right car for you?
That’s where I come in!  I am here to help demystify some rug terminology popular with rug dealers and give you some advance pointers that will help the process along. 
Whether you are a rug cleaner trying to give your clients some advice, or you are a consumer looking for some useful information, I hope you will find the following helpful:

Age Terminology of Rugs
Antique - 100 years and older
This does not mean that you automatically will spend thousands upon thousands of dollars for this age group. Only some rugs appreciate in value. What is *does* mean is that you will need to ask if the rug has dry rot or prior repairs. Inspect for excessive wear, broken foundation threads and replacement fringes.  Be wary of old rugs that look new.
Semi-Antique - 50 to 99 years old
This age group is still fairly easy to find, so don’t be afraid to comparison shop! Like buying a car, the more information you have up front, the better the deal will be. Know the average price range for a particular kind of rug ahead of time, and don’t be afraid to tell a rug dealer that you’ve seen it somewhere else for less. In this economy, you’ll find bargains you didn’t know existed!
Vintage - 20-49 years old
This age group is interesting. Post-embargo Persian rugs will probably be sub-standard, while rugs from other countries may be better than average for their own regions.  You just have to get a feel for what you like and go with it. Inspect for run colors or rugs that look like they have been unraveled and overcast (shortened) at the ends.
New - 0 to 19 years old
Quicker, faster and cheaper is how rugs from this age group are manufactured.  Always remember that you get what you pay for…unless you overpay.  Ask how the rug is constructed or put together.  Is it woven or tufted?  Does it have a lining on the back?  Knotted or woven rugs are going to last. Tufted rugs are held together with glue and will only last as long as the glue will. Not to mention the nasty odor sometimes associated with the off-gassing of tufted rugs. 

Classification Terminology of Rugs
Tribal – Small rugs by nature and usually oddly shaped and coarsely woven. These rugs are typically woven by nomadic people and are true one-of-a-kind pieces. The color palette tends to be limited and the designs are geometric. (common: Beluch, Turkoman)
VillageThese rugs are woven in utilitarian sizes. They are occasionally misshapen and are usually colorful and pleasant to look at. The quality of the weave will vary depending on the skill level of the at-home weaver. The patterns are more curvilinear than their tribal cousins, but are still quite geometric. (common: Hamadan, Herez)
CityThese rugs are woven by skillful weavers, in factories, on permanent looms with a foreman in charge to oversee the speed and quality of the weaving being produced. They are typically intended for export and they come in various “American” sizes. They are fine in quality and fancy in design. (common: Tabriz, Kerman)
PalaceHuge in size, very complex in design, and very fine in quality. These rugs used to be woven by Royal commission and are a rarity. If a rug at a dealer is labeled “Palace”, most likely it is simply a reference to the fact that it is an oversized, fine carpet.

Country of Origin Terminology

Persian – Made in Iran
Turkish – Made in Turkey
Indian – Made in India
Chinese – Made in China
Pakistani – Made in Pakistan
Afghani – Made in Afghanistan
Caucasian – Made in the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea
Indo-Persian – Made in India, but in a Persian motif
Sino-Persian – Made in China, but in a Persian motif
Paki-Persian – Made in Pakistan, but in a Persian motif
Oriental – from the East
Occidental – from the West
There are many other rug weaving countries: Peru, Egypt, Greece, Spain, France, Romania, Morocco, Mexico, the United States, etc.  Their rugs may not be as commonly found in an everyday retail rug store.

Construction Terminology of Rugs

Tufted - Latex Back, Cloth Back, Glued Hems
Knotted - Warp & Weft Foundation, Pile
Woven - Flatweaves, Reversibles, No Pile
Bordered -Seams, Hot-Melt Seaming Tape, Specialty Binding

Category Terminology of Rugs
Broadlooms - Wall-To-Wall, Bound Remnants
Machine-Made - Axminster, Wilton, Velvet, Karastan, Spanish Contemporary
Hand-Made - Oriental, Flatweave, Needlepoint, Hooked, Braided, Reversible
Customs - Tufted, Seamed, Bordered, Specialty Materials, Designer Class

Aside from knowing the SIZE and COLOR of the rug you need, there will always be certain determining factors that you will have to keep in mind before buying.  Do you have a dog?  Do you have three dogs?  Small children?  Teenagers? A home by the beach?  Depending on your lifestyle, you may want to forgo the $40,000 silk Tabriz in favor of a more durable, serviceable, cleanable, $3,000 Indian (Indo) Tabriz. 

You get my point.
One last suggestion: Unless you know *specifically* what you are looking for and have some experience doing so, avoid on-line shopping for Oriental rugs.  It is always better to be able to feel and inspect them in person.
As always, If you would like to contact me...
You can reach me by email:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fringe Issues

Recently, I have received a number of calls from clients asking if we are able to stop their rugs from unraveling after they have cut the soiled, worn fringes off of the rugs. Unfortunately, this kind of fringe home remedy can be very costly! If the rug is not properly sewn or overcast to lock in the ends, the pile will simply slip out – either from vacuuming or just from walking across the cut ends. Depending on the tightness of the weave and the current condition of the unraveled ends, clients should expect to spend anywhere from $25 - $50 per linear foot to have this kind of quality hand repair done. Some rugs are well worth spending that kind of money on, some are not.

Why do the rugs unravel??

Hand knotted rugs have an inner foundation comprised of horizontal & vertical yarns. The horizontal yarns are called WEFTS (they run weft to right!) and the vertical yarns are called WARPS. These vertical warp yarns start as the fringe on one end and they run all the way through the rug and come out as the fringe on the opposite end. All of the pile on the face of the rug is knotted, row by row, on to these warp yarns. The horizontal wefts lock in those individual rows of pile knots while the knotted fringes help to hold the whole rug together.

What is the best way to deal with soiled, worn fringes??

This fringe had worn away and the rug began to unravel into the end border.
By overcasting the fringe end, no further unraveling should occur.
White cotton fringes show everything, while the wool face will hold pounds of dirt per square foot before showing soil. The same soil you see on the fringe is also in your rug. It’s just harder to see. Always try cleaning as a first remedy before taking out the scissors! After the rug has been cleaned, we will give your rug fringes a cleaning day all to themselves and, if you’d like us to, the scraggly ends can be trimmed up to appear more “even” without causing any damage to the rug.

You really, really just want those fringes gone??

If you are determined to remove the fringes, please let a professional handle the task for you. The ends can be sewn by hand to lock in the pile prior to cutting the fringes off. It should be stated that any repair that permanently alters the original rug (such as removing the fringes) WILL decrease the re-sale value. If you would like to keep the value for a future sale, but would still like to hide the fringes, a wide binding can be hand sewn to the face of the rug, turned under and then hand sewn to the back, enveloping the original fringes and tucking them underneath. Should the rug ever go up for sale, that binding can be removed, and the fringes will still be intact.

As always, I am happy to answer ALL of your rug questions! Please keep them coming!

Email: Lynn@rugadvocate.com