Although a common sight these days evidence of rugs has been found as far back as 9,000 years ago. These early rugs were made from sheep fleeces, as the wool provided warmth. The oldest known rug is considered to be the Pazyryk Carpet. This was discovered in 1949 in a tomb in southern Siberia and has been dated to about 7,000 years ago. It is thought that the cold of the permafrost had preserved the rug and tomb robbers who took other items left the rug. Made of wool it has quite a dense pile of more than 200 hundred knots per square inch and depicts horsemen and deer.
So this brings us to the construction of a rug or carpet. (By the way the industry definition of the difference between a rug and a carpet is purely the size. Less than 40 square feet it is a rug, more than this it is a carpet). A rug is made of an upper pile attached to a lower backing. The pile is traditionally made from wool but man-made fibres such as nylon have also become widespread. The way that the pile is attached to the backing varies and some more common methods are by knotting or weaving. Woven rugs are produced on a machine called a loom, whereas knotted rugs are usually handmade. Early hand made knotted rugs originate from Turkey and the commonly termed Persian carpet comes from Iran but much later from the 16th century. Persian carpets were highly decorative and expensive in the 16th and 17th centuries and consequently the affluent western European buyers would display them on walls as decoration or tables to show off their wealth.
Prior to the industrial revolution, which automated the process of weaving and thus reduced the cost of manufacture, floor coverings were often Hessian (US Burlap) or from the mid 19th century, linoleum. But cheap Hessian could be used to make a rug backing and by using a hook to pull woollen fibres through, a homemade rug could be made at a cost affordable to the 18th century working classes. Many of these rugs were made from scraps of clothing cut into thin strips and pushed/prodded through the Hessian backing.
Today craft shops still sell rug-making kits and we at Buttercup Miniatures sell rug kits for your dolls house. In miniature to obtain the best effect, a ‘hooked rug’ is actually produced by working French knots onto fabric.