This is the third of a 5 Part Article on the Basics of Hand Knotted is a rewrite of one Leslie Stroh wrote for the 2nd Issue of Rug News Magazine in 1978.: Part 1 Chinese Rugs, Part 2 Affordability, Part 3, Design, Part 4 Labor & Design, Part 5 Price at Retail.
With designs go colors. Designs are created by humans. Designs reflect a person, an event, an idea, and a culture..
Think about wool quality and then think about color. There are two components to color: dyestuff/pigment, and the color of the yarn used to dye.
Not much wool is as white as the paper in your digital printer. Print a color picture on parchment colored paper, and then on white, and you will see the difference.
The yarn is the most important part of the dyeing process. All yarns give up color over time. A good dyer can make any one batch look like any other batch, until the sun shines on it for a few years, and one yarn batch changes color differently than another. In textile dyeing, the goal for the past 100 years or so has been to make chemical dyes that are color fast to light and washing. The chemical industry has not succeeded yet; it is a matter of time.
The popular Chinese blue and cream colored rugs imported into the US in the 1920’s and 1930’s, were conveniently designed to make use of the wool’s yellow tinge. Blue dye hides the yellow wool.
Wool has been graded by color and source on the sheep for 4,000 years. The basic rule hasn’t changed. White cost more than yellow. Finer costs more than coarser. Very white fine wool costs the most.
To us, the design issue in a room is the relative scale of the furnishings of the room, and the counter-play between them. A room has five walls and a ceiling.
If you are putting a rug under a dining room table (if people still have dining rooms) an 8×10 is far too small to hold chairs and people without emphasizing how small the room actually is. You run into the same problem with a postage stamp in front of a couch.
To complete the design, do you use a border or not?
Traditional designs generally have a border of one sort or another. Modern designs generally do not have a border.
The border defines the edges of the space. Put a 10×14 rug in a 1400 foot space, and you will need a bordered rug to contain the space of the rug. For a rug with a table on top of it, the ground is unimportant, and the border is everything.
In traditional Persian repeating patterns that were infinite in all directions, the border was simply a way to end the repeat. In traditional book cover patterns the border to field ratio is relatively constant over time since the 1890’s. This constant ratio, along with an unadventurous color palette, is one of the reasons that all traditional rugs look alike.