When you think of modern rugs, it’s hard not to immediately imagine The Rug Company’s gorgeous handmade rugs that feature contemporary designs. The extensive process takes place in Nepal once the designs are decided upon. The company partners with designers around the globe getting their unique design perspective and creating signature collections that will make you swoon. This month’s Deconstruction takes a look at what goes into making Alexander McQueen’s Hummingbird rug.
This coded sketch of the hummingbird from Alexander McQueen was used by the weavers behind the loom to guide their knotting.
Pick a Color
As a function of our bespoke services, clients may choose as many colors from our selection of 2,000 dye formulas as they wish to ‘paint’ the rug. The same 2,000 reference colors are kept in Nepal, ensuring that it is absolutely clear which color is wanted – each one is numbered and easy to read.
The Freshly Washed Wool is Laid Out to Dry
Wool arrives in Nepal by the truckload. When raw and unwashed it has a strong, pungent smell. The majority is taken to the beautiful lakeside town of Pokhara (the second biggest in Nepal after Kathmandu), which has an abundance of fantastically clear and clean glacial melt water – wonderful for washing wool in. A monastery of Tibetan Buddhist monks organizes the preparation of the wool. When this arrives in Nepal in its raw state – mostly dirty white, but with some brown and black, it is tangled, discolored and full of thorns and grasses from the Tibetan pastures. The monks sort the wool into its natural shades and wash it roughly in the river in big wicker baskets. Huge quantities of the sodden wool are then spread out on the banks to dry, looking like fallen clouds. Even after washing, it is still relatively raw and unprepared. The monks put the dried bales in storage ready for the next stage.
Carding is the magical process whereby the jumbled-up wool is teased out into long fibers. In most parts of the world, this process is done by carding machines, which are relatively quick and efficient, but this has a major downside: namely the machines chop up the wool, weakening it as well as removing much of the all-important lanolin. It is always preferable to hand card, leaving the fibres intact and strong.
Little by little, the flossy, carded wool is fed into the handmade spinning wheel or charka and, as it goes through, it gets spun – or twisted – together into a much longer and unbroken piece of yarn, which is wound on to a spool. The amount of wool you add makes the yarn thicker or thinner; The Rug Company weaves with different thicknesses depending on the knot count of the rug.
Pigments Weighed to Create Dyes
The Rug Company uses very high quality and expensive Swiss aniline colors. These are the most photo-stable available, meaning that they are highly resistant to fading in sunlight. They come as powders that are dissolved in water. Apart from computer design, this is the newest part of the rug-making process.
Weavers Finish the Line of Knots With a Thowa
Rugs from The Rug Company are woven on vertical loom, as traditional Tibetan rugs always have been. In fact the technique is knotting, though it’s often referred to as weaving, and it is done directly on to metal rods. The loom consists of a wooden crossbeam at the top, supported by two uprights, with another crossbeam at the bottom completing the frame. The Tibetan knot is quite different to the more common Turkish and Persian techniques in which each knot is tied singly and then cut. In the Tibetan manner, each looped knot is half of both the previous and the next one; a line can continue for as long as desired and the yarn is only cut when the color changes or the whole line is complete. When a line of knots has been completed all the way across it is banged down to join the rest, still on the rod, with an iron mallet called a ‘thowa’.
Weavers Use a Panja to Move the Weft Thread
The process is dictated by the graph – the master plan for the design – which the weaver follows from the bottom upwards. The rate of progress depends on the complexity of the pattern and the knot count. On an average day, each weaver can complete 2” to 4” for 100 knot or just 1” to 2” for 300 knot. A weft thread is woven in to keep the line in place and is further pushed down with a metal comb or ‘panja’.
Washing the Rug
Once a rug has been completed, it needs to be thoroughly cleaned and this is done with a plentiful supply of soapy water and many rinses. The washing process is testament to the fact that the colors are absolutely fast, and a mild detergent is used to protect the wool’s lanolin. Rugs need to be dried flat after washing and stretched out to ensure this happens evenly. The ideal way to dry rugs is in the sun – the fresh air gives a nicer finish to the wool; if they’re artificially dried you don’t get the same look.
The Finished Product!