How is Carpet Made?
The basic materials used in the manufacture of carpets are yarns or threads of various types spun from a number of natural and synthetic fibers.
The natural fibers include wool, the one most commonly used in carpetmaking, cotton and bast fibers- such as jute, hemp and flax-which are obtained from the inner bark of the stems of certain plants. However, traditional carpet wools are meeting strong competition nowadays from man-made fibers which, even in 1964, represented over 80 per cent of the total carpet production. These synthetic fibers include acrylics, viscose and nylon.
Early History in Carpetmaking
The early beginnings of carpetweaving are hazy but are believed to have been in Southern Persia. Some excavations show that wool and hair were spun in around 6000 BC and that a horizontal loom was depicted on a bowl dating from about 4000 BC. When Rome fell to the barbarian Goths and Vandals what understanding of carpetmaking the Romans had was lost but the craft was reintroduced into Western Europe in AD 1453 when Byzantium was captured by the Turks and many craftsmen went to settle in Italy and France. From that time the art of carpetmaking was entrenched in Europe.
Towards the end of the sixteenth century carpetweaving centers had grown up in the south of France and in the Flemish lowlands, where the industry flourished. Two kinds of carpets from France became famous, the first being the Savonnerie, woven from top to bottom, and the other the Aubusson, which was woven sideways.
Newer Techniques in Carpetmaking
Carpet knotting became established in England during the late 1500s. However, the introduction of 'Turkey carpets', the method of knotting used in Turkey on an upright loom, marked the beginning of the British carpet industry. In the south of England Wilton became a center for carpetmaking when many Huguenot weavers, spinners and dyers from France and Flanders came to seek refuge. After two French weavers had been brought over to teach the art of making Brussels carpets a cut pile carpet was produced that became known as the Wilton.
Later Developments in Carpetmaking
Many other businesses were set up all over England and Scotland and from 1770 to 1790 the British carpet industry flourished.
With new industrial developments, new methods and inventions were adopted in the north of England and hence the northern town of Kidderminster, where Pearsall and Broom had developed new techniques in 1735, emerged as the center of the carpet industry. In 1800 the 'jacquard' was invented by the Frenchman Joseph Marie Jacquard, which led to an increase in production. This device allowed the selection and raising of warp threads to form a design. Other developments in the nineteenth century included the Chenille, Axminster and tapestry carpets. The introduction of the power loom by Erastus Bigelow in 1839, first powered by steam, revolutionized the industry. Seventeen years later Halcyon Skinner invented a power loom specifically for Axminster carpets.
By the end of the century these looms produced up to 50 m2 of carpet daily.
In the United States the large scale manufacture of tufted carpets began after World War II and by the mid 1960s these represented 88 per cent of carpets made in that country. Tufted carpets are made in two separate procedures. First, the backing is woven, then tufts of carpet fibers are inserted and further held in place by a coating of latex on the back oft he carpet. Woven carpets incorporate the pile and backing in one operation. With the popularity of wall to wall fitted carpets (as distinct from individual carpets and rugs), broadlooms have been increasingly in demand and factories have had to install wider looms in order to handle them.