We believe in the importance of natural materials for all of the hand-knotted and hand loomed rugs we sell. Natural materials are sustainable because their source can be replenished and the product itself can be recycled. Machine-made rugs are often (but not always) made with synthetic fibers which can dramatically lower the price point but at what cost to the environment and human health? We believe it’s a false economy to buy cheap mass-produced rugs which are often treated as short-life, “fast fashion” to quickly become one more example of our unsustainable throwaway economy. This blog champions quality, long-lasting handmade artisan rugs made from wool.
Rug Foundations: Cotton
Did you know that many 100% wool rugs usually include cotton? This isn’t deceptive advertising. “Pure” wool fiber rugs are described as “pure” and “100%” because the fiber that you see and walk on is the “pure” element, but beneath it is a cotton foundation.
There are exceptions of course (some makers do use wool fiber foundations) as there are historically hundreds of traditional local, regional and tribal techniques to weave a rug, but in general for the new hand-knotted rugs we sell, the warp and the weft foundation is made from dyed or undyed cotton fibers. This cotton matrix is the base for thousands of intricate knots created with the “face fiber” (e.g. wool, silk). The “face fiber” creates the visible field and pattern. These face knots hide the cotton matrix although experts can spot “dots” within the rug pattern which reveal where cotton strands were knotted after a break or where the length of a warp or weft was increased. There is no way to predict how many or how few cotton knots may appear in any rug, but it is both a sign and a signature of a truly handmade artisan rug.
Our wool rugs are made with sheep wool rather than from the fleece of other animals like goats whose fleece can be spun into a wool-type product. Wool is not a monoculture, which means that all wool is not created equal. There are hundreds of breeds of sheep although sheep that produce wool for rugs fall into fewer breeds. Even within these breeds wool quality is determined by many factors which include country of origin, habitat and diet. Wool takes dye easily, but so too undyed wool comes in a variety of natural colors which can be woven into striking, natural rug patterns.
Good quality wool is hard-wearing, naturally anti-bacterial and anti-microbial and inherently flame resistant. It’s easy to clean too. Nevertheless it’s a good idea to reduce wear to the pile by using one of our dual-sided natural rubber pads underneath to reduce foot friction and to keep the rug safely in place. Regular vacuuming is also recommended to keep dirt from embedding in the pile.
While many experts insist that wool rugs must be professionally cleaned (which is never a bad idea), did you know that Nordic countries are known to recommend cleaning wool rugs with snow? Finnish textile company LapuanKankurit reported in 2019 that when snow blankets the country, Finns gather up their wool rugs and wool blankets and take them outside on a cold, clear winter day to clean them with snow. This is an especially good way to clean wool rugs as over-use of water can encourage mold growth. Snow is dusted over rugs and brushes, brooms, or mittened hands “scrub” the surface after which rugs are laid on a non-snow covered surface to dry. We realise this may not be an option for everyone, but if you live in a snowy environment, why not give it a try!
Oxidized Wool and Silk
While a pure wool rug is the most popular fiber choice for our consumers, the tactile, textured “high and low” pile artisan “oxidized” wool and silk rugs we make are increasingly popular. Oxidized rugs provide the best of two worlds as they can look simultaneously vintage and contemporary due to oxidation, color palette, and fiber mix.
Natural oxidation occurs when a rug is exposed to daylight over a long period of time. Mother Nature naturally lightens and alters the rug’s dyes and the pile to create the vintage look so many of us love. Our artificial oxidation accelerates the look provided by Mother Nature. We carefully wash hand-knotted wool and silk rugs with a proprietary solution that reduces the wool pile while retaining the full height of the silk pattern to create a subtle 3D relief surface with a contemporary vintage look.
Wool: the Final Word
The history of humanity is tied to wool. Wool is a sustainable yet irreplaceable resource that we should love and respect for its ability to keep us warm and happy. Handmade wool rugs tread lightly on the land and produce a lower carbon footprint than most competing fibers. We love wool and we hope you do too.