The East is concerned wtih traditions. Here carpets are still manufactured by hand in home workshops. Women weaving them adhere not only to classic paterns but also to ancient manufacturing methods. Carpets are considered here from the earliest stages: choosing and breeding animals whose fell will serve as the material for weaving beautiful carpets.
Only few stages of carpet weaving are done by men, the ones that require strength. They make the wooden beams as well as stretch the warp treads over the loom. All the remaining work is done by women. Their incredible precision, as well as vast knowledge of the eldest of them - the mistress (managing the work done by younger women) allows them to create true masterpieces. The beauty of carpets lies in the knowledge passed down from generation to generation which remains a secret only to be known by the mistress and her chosen apprentices.
The selection of raw materials marks the final stage of preparations for weaving. The assessment of their quality is not simple, as there are many elements needed to manufacture a carpet, for example: wool, most commonly from sheep, goats or camels. It is important to choose the right breed and to feed the animals well (it affects the shine), the right time for shearing (spring and late summer) and the age of the animal (the younger, the finer fell). The place where the animal is sheared also has to be taken into account: the underside of the throat is covered in longer fur, as well as the shoulders and back. Wool needs to be bathed five times, sometimes in water with a little bit of soap. The weaving technique hints towards the country of origin as the thread can be twisted to the left, which indicates Africa, or to the right - for Asia.
The finest silk is cultivated thanks to silkworms feeding on mulberry leaves. The cocoons must be quickly dried and then soaked in warm water. The high quality of silk has its price: only 1 kilogram of pure silk is obtained from 7 kilograms of cocoons. However, it is both durable and soft to the touch. Cotton is well suited for the warp, or the "scaffolding" of the carpet - it is very durable and tough. To create a warp hemp fibers are used occasionaly, which after processing have similar properties to cotton.
For centuries natural dyes have been greatly appreciated. Thus, rusty red is still obtained from the rhizomes of madder, which after drying are crushed in a mortar and kept for 18 hours in water. The liquid is next first heated and then cooled for one week, after citric acid had been added to give it an orange shade. Yellow is obtained from macerated leaves of apple trees, mulberries or vines. The yellow-orange hue comes from the saffron pollen. Beige is the color of well-boiled, pure wool, so it not require dyeing. Sometimes, in order to deepen its color, wool can be bathed in water with the addition of bark of oak or nut shells. Brown is obtained from chestnut shells and nuts.
Loom workshops are serious business. A large carpet warp can produce pressure of up to 300 kg on the frame. Therefore wood used in the construction of the beams is subjected to seasoning, which gives it both durability and lightness. Metal looms are safer and more durable than wooden ones, but they are a recent invention - they have been present for no more than 100 years. A loom is usually made of two horizontal beams over which the warp strings are stretched. This is a crucial step in the weaving of a carpet; poorly stretched warp strings will lead to distortion in the pattern and will make the carpet brittle.
There are two kinds of weaving workshops, the horizontal - invented by Asian nomads, and vertical, used by the settlers. Horizontal workshops have a very simple structure, without the side beam they are easy to fold and transport. Vertical workshops are constructed with two side beams and a lower and upper beam connecting them. Knives with blades ending with hooks are used to trim any loose threads. The density of the carpets is controlled with the use of different combs - and in Iranian manufactories in order to make the knots tighter the craftsmen hit them with a special kind of nail, which ensures that the knots sit firmly on the warp.