Sunday, April 29, 2012

Oriental Rug Cleaning Tips and Precautions

Clients often ask us, "Can I clean my own Oriental or Persian carpet at home?"  And the answer we always give is, "Absolutely, but be careful."  The truth is that in most households in the Middle East and in other carpet weaving regions, few people use professional oriental rug cleaning services.  In many of the households in my native country of Turkey, carpet and kilim cleaning is an annual or biannual chore akin to the American "spring cleaning" tradition.  The reason I generally do not recommend clients to clean their own Oriental carpets at home is because if clients do not have experience and knowledge in how to care for the natural fibers of their rugs, or knowledge of how to control possible dye-run (and ability to recognize fugitive dyes that will "bleed" into other colors), or knowledge about how to properly dry rugs or kilims, it can be a very risky and ultimately costly endeavor.  The truth is this kind of knowledge is most easily acquired through trial and error, which means that the first few times one tries to thoroughly clean a certain kind of piece, one may make a mistake that may permanently damage the Oriental rug, kilim, dhurrie, or soumak.

If a reader is willing to take the risk, however, there are steps that may be taken to minimize the chance of damaging the piece (and again, I am not recommending that readers clean their own rugs if they do not have experience and knowledge in the necessary cleaning process):

  • First make sure the rug has been thoroughly vacuumed both on the front side and the reverse.  If possible, shaking a rug is an even better way to dislodge dust (depending on how large or heavy your rug is, you will need the help of an additional person or persons for this step).
  • Next get ready for cleaning the rug - ideally you will work in a space large enough to fit your rug and allow you to brush off water - an outside (clean) patio is ideal.  
  • In a large bucket, mix cold water, soap, and a drop of vinegar.  The vinegar minimizes the risk of color run (again, this is not a guarantee - there is no guarantee against color run!!).  However, it is a traditional technique (a secret, if you will) that aids to minimize (NOT eliminate!) the chance of colors bleeding.  Take special care when cleaning Oriental rugs or kilims with red or black dyes that have a higher tendency to run or "bleed" into adjacent colors.
  • Only use cold water (never subject a wool rug to hot water!). 
  • With this mixture, take a brush made of natural fibers to start cleaning the rug.  When cleaning the pile of the rug, take care to gently brush against the pile (that is, in the opposite direction in which the carpet was originally knotted) so as to dislodge any embedded dust particles.
  • The last brushing should be in the direction of the pile. 
  • Rinse with water to remove all traces of the soap used (if any soap is left over, it will leave a discolored or splotchy look in the rug).  Again, be careful about how you rinse the rug - if you leave water sitting on the rug for even a few extra minutes, you may cause color run damage that will be very difficult, if not impossible, to repair.
  • Make sure that any excess water is removed from the rug as soon as possible:  one can do this by brushing away the water quickly and thoroughly.  
The drying process is just as critical as the cleaning process:
  • When the cleaning process is completed, it is imperative that the rug be moved to a dry and clean space to dry.  Depending on how large or heavy the rug is, this is usually at least a two person job.
  • The rug - which should have very little water - should be placed flat.  Never, ever hang a rug to dry.  A mistake at this stage in the process may cause the rug's shape to be compromised.
  • The best way to dry a rug is by leaving it in the sunlight for a few consecutive days; summer time is an ideal time for this.
  • People should take care to dry the rug completely before bringing it indoors; if a rug is left slightly wet, it is at a higher risk for its fibers to rot.  
While I recommend readers inexperienced in the cleaning process to clean their own rugs at home because of the inherent risks involved, cleaning Oriental rugs (and drying them!) at home is certainly possible with the proper precautions (including those set out above), experience, knowledge, time, and space.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Antique Persian Rug Restoration - Final Result

Our antique Persian rug restoration is complete.  The picture above shows the rug before the restoration; the pictures below show the restored rug.  It was a wonderful project to work on and we are grateful that both we and our client were pleased with the result.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Antique Persian Rug Restoration - In Process

Above are pictures of our recent antique Persian rug restoration in process.  As we blogged yesterday, this beautiful antique Persian carpet had a tear along its side as well as compromised sections of its selvage.   We reconstructed the missing and damaged warp and weft, as highlighted in the first couple of pictures, and then reknotted the pile.  The next stage in the restoration process is to cut the excess yarns which will reveal the reknotted motifs.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Antique Persian Rug Restoration

This exceptional antique Persian carpet was damaged in several areas, including the tear pictured above at one its edges as well as missing sections along its selvage.  The Persian carpet, known as a Serapi carpet, dates from ca. 1850 and its stunning muted palette and evenly worn pile is the product of a few lifetimes of wonderful use and care.  When restoring antiques of this quality it is imperative to use yarns that will allow the restoration to blend in as much as possible to the worn fields of the antique original.  The work involved in an antique Persian rug restoration like this is time-consuming, but if the challenge is appropriately met, a good restoration will allow a person to appreciate the beauty of this extraordinary carpet, and not lament the damaged areas.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Art Of Kilim

Earlier this week, I had the great fortune to introduce a client to the art of kilims.  Kilims are undoubtedly a passion of mine - of course all hand knotted rugs and carpets are, but I must admit that I reserve a special affection and admiration for kilims.  Perhaps it is because for years, kilims were overlooked and unappreciated - in fact, there was a time when they were quite literally the wrapping material that people would use to protect the more valuable hand knotted rugs (!!).   But I love kilims also for their own intrinsic beauty.  The kilim above (or to be technically correct, the cecim) has been in my workroom for years - I love it for its texture which it once both fine and coarse and for its fantastic imperfections (note the uneven border in the bottom section).  I also love it for its strangely harmonious color palette (would you think that reds, pinks, oranges, golds, blacks, blues, purples, and whites would look just right together?).  I love it also for how it simultaneously evokes the antique and the modern.  It is, in my opinion, just exquisite.  And it is only a minor example of what the kilim art form has to offer.  --

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chinese Rugs

I noticed that many of my blog posts have focused on Middle Eastern carpets so I thought that today I would share with you an image of a beautiful Chinese carpet that we recently cared for.  Its motifs, including the dragon, are typical for Chinese carpets - and that deep blue background was even more beautiful in person.  While the motifs are different and their countries of origin may be far apart, Chinese carpets require the same simple general care that Middle Eastern carpets require in order to last a lifetime (and even more!) - occasional vacuuming and professional Chinese carpet cleaning every two years or so; and occasional rotation of the carpet to allow for more even wear and sun exposure.   I promise to introduce more of a geographical diversity in my future posts!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Vintage Turkish Rug Repair Final Result

Above is the final result of our vintage Turkish rug repair.  As a reminder, the picture below shows the rug pre-repair.   We reconstructed the missing section, including reknotting the pile and replicating the original floral motifs; we did not use a "patch" from another rug to hide the damage.  This completed repair will allow the user of this rug to enjoy this vintage beauty for many years to come.  Handknotted rugs are quite sturdy and can outlast many of their owners (!), but we always caution our clients to take care when placing heavy furniture on top of their Turkish or any other handknotted Oriental rugs.  Simple precautions can help save these beautiful rugs for our future generations to enjoy.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Vintage Turkish Rug Repair

This picture shows the vintage Turkish rug repair in process of being completed (please see our last blog for the "before" pictures showing the hole and damage possibly caused by heavy furniture being dragged on the rug).  At the point when this picture was taken, we had already extracted all the damaged yarns, rebuilt the missing and compromised warp and weft, and reknotted the pile.  The next step is to cut down the fuzzy section (the excess yarns used to reknot the pile) which will then reveal the final result of this vintage Turkish rug repair.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Vintage Turkish Rug Repair

This vintage Turkish rug had a significant tear - actually hole - in one of its corners.  We do not know what caused the damage, but we suspect that it was caused by heavy furniture being dragged on the rug.   The damage extended to the areas surrounding the hole and compromised a significant part of the warp in one corner of the rug.  When we received the rug, the hole was slightly smaller than what is visible in the pictures above.   Before commencing the repair, we had to extract all the compromised areas, including the compromised warp and pile surrounding the hole.  After that, we began reconstructing the missing section using cotton for the warp and wool for the pile, conforming to the original materials.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Turkish Kilim Repair

Pictured above is the completed vintage Turkish kilim repair.  The picture below highlights the area of the kilim before we repaired it.  As is visible from this set of pictures, we reconstructed the warp and rewove the missing kilim sections, including the motifs that were present in the original kilim design.  What is not readily apparent without seeing this beautiful vintage kilim in person is that it is quite thin and delicate; we used yarns that were of similar quality to those used to weave the original kilim so that the repair would "blend" in as much as possible.  Although not visible in the pictures, we also bound the edges of the kilim so as to minimize the risk of the edge unraveling.  If you have a similar kilim, we recommend you place it in an area that is not subject to high foot traffic or moving furniture (e.g., dining room chairs that are often moved).  With the proper care and caution, this vintage Turkish kilim can be used for at least a few more decades.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Kilim Rug Repair

This semi-antique kilim from Turkey had several damaged areas in need of repair, one of the most significant pictured above.  We loved working on this project.  The kilim was woven with fine yarns that had beautifully muted over several decades.  As always, matching the yarns to the original was the first challenge, as well as making sure that the areas surrounding the damaged areas were reinforced and not vulnerable to further damage.  The picture may not reveal it, but this beautiful kilim was almost paper-thin - just a beautiful work of art.  Repairing it so that it could be enjoyed for several more decades was definitely a privilege.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tapestry Repair

Yesterday we shared a damaged hand chain stitched tapestry.  Above are pictures of the completed repair to the damaged tapestry's stitching.  The original piece was stitched using neutral tones and we used the closest yarns to the original we could source.  Notice how the hand stitching blends into the off white field  - our goal was to not draw attention to the area that was once damaged.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tapestry Repair

This is an example of a damaged handmade chain stitched Kashmir tapestry.  As the pictures indicate, the beautiful intricate stitching was torn in the area surrounding the floral motifs.  The tapestry was stitched in lovely neutral tones - an immediate challenge was to find yarns that could blend into the neutral palette so as not to attract too much attention to the restored area.