New Zealand Home & Building, October-November 1985
Carpet — a good yarn
Carpet — a good yarn
Carpet has come a long way since the first animal skins were laid on a cave floor to make life more comfortable for its inhabitants. Knotted carpet has been with us a long time. The first known sample dates back to the 5th century B.C. but it was not until the 1900's that the product was made economically enough to place it within the grasp of most home owners.
Today in the western world most of us can have the luxury of sinking our toes into a warm floor covering of wool; but carpets are not magic — any more than money grows on trees and they will only give their best performance when they have been chosen correctly.
It is essential, therefore, to accumulate a little knowledge and give a lot of attention to labelling, grading, fibre content, construction and guarantee. A good carpet, well cared for, will last up to 20 years and when you consider the traffic and wear that some areas of your house have to put up with, it is perhaps easy to imagine that modern carpet has, after all, a little magic woven into its fibre.
Because of its longevity, a carpet will probably have to see you through several colour schemes. If foliage was money that would present no problem. You could change your carpet with every colour change; but most of us will need to choose a carpet that can be adapted to several different colour schemes, blend or complement different styles of decor and cope with different functions and stresses.
This is quite a tall order and, in terms of colour and construction, will often lead towards the neutral and conservative ranges and tougher weaves. It is a popular trend at the moment to have one carpet colour and type throughout the whole house as a means of co-ordinating and relating all the various spaces to each other and evoking a feeling of spaciousness; but for special effect, it is sometimes appropriate to branch out in one room with purple or lime green or other outrageous colours. In this event, the relationship of that room with the ones around should be taken into account.
The type of fibre used in a carpet is the most significant factor determining its durability and performance but density will also make a difference and so will the type of construction. The common fibres are wool and nylon.
If ever a product was time tested it is wool. In spite of the increasing use of man-made fibres, pure wool is still hard to beat. None of the man-made fibres quite match wool's performance on the floor. Having a close pile, it is extremely durable with a good resistance to abrasion. It also dyes well and recovers or springs back from crushing. Wool is easy to clean, resists soiling and is fire resistant, and its luxury look and feel is impossible to emulate with other fibres.
Nylon has merit in that it is a stronger fibre than wool. Today's nylons are very much upgraded and the old problem of static has been overcome. But nylon is not as crush resistant as wool and is more prone to soiling and staining. Pure nylon carpets have an obvious advantage when used in wet areas because they will not mould or rot and can be readily washed. Nylon is often blended with wool, especially in lighter-weight carpets, and can (but not necessarily) keep the price down.
However, the two yarns do not dye to the same colour and because their wear rate will be different in a wool mix carpet, there can be a change of colour in the traffic areas as the carpet wears.
Acrylic looks more like wool than any other man-made fibre, but it is also more inclined to crush and stain. Polypropylene page 87is also sometimes used in carpet tiles and artificial grass carpet. It has good wearing properties but tends to flatten.
Yarn refers to the way fibres are spun together. They vary in thickness and construction. Some are soft and bulky; others tightly spun and some twisted and hard-set to prevent fraying. The type of yarn will affect a carpet's durability and its suitability for various areas.
The way a carpet is actually constructed produces different textures and performance. There are basically two types; weaving and tufting. Woven carpets are made by the traditional method and about a quarter of locally made woollen carpets are still constructed in this manner. They are known by the names of the looms used to make them, like Axminster or Wilton, and the carpet backing and the pile are actually woven together for an obviously strong construction.
Tufted carpets are made on a machine rather like a giant sewing machine with up to 1000 needles punching the pile into strong backing fabric to form loops or tufts of the length required. An adhesive coating anchors the pile to the backing and a second backing of juste or foam is applied for extra strength. Plain or coloured carpet with multi-colour designs can only be produced by the weaving method. However, new machinery now enables tufted carpet to be printed in a number of designs but it is not capable of imitating the traditional woven patterns.
Any carpet you choose should carry a grading label indicating what amount of traffic it is designed to withstand. A label should tell you the carpet's fibre, content, name of manufacturer, name and style of the carpet and its grade rating. Labels like "first grade", "superior quality", or "all wool pile" actually tell you nothing about the carpet's application. Grading labels are not an indication of price. Some heavier grades will be cheaper than the lighter grades.
One should also be aware of the problems that can occur with carpet. Problems like shading, flattening, fluffing, fuzzing or tracking. It is a good idea to find a carpet of similar make and construction to the one you are thinking of buying to see if any of these have occurred after it has been down on the floor for a time.
Some carpets have soil repellant finishes. These are not recommended for wool carpets as they are not durable and will wear off heavy traffic areas.
The wearing life of a carpet will also depend, to some extent, on the type of underlay used. Specify what type and grade of underlay you require when asking for a quote. The two common types of underlay are both made of rubber. One is in slab form, and the other crinkled into a waffle design for a cushioning effect.
New to New Zealand are carpet tiles that are quite a different concept and a decided improvement on the old variety. Formerly carpet tiles were dyed once they were manufactured and their pile height had to be kept short in order that the tips could be dyed in an upright position. This meant that designs were limited and they always looked like tiles, since the pile was too short to blend together.
The tuft of the new tiles is, however, dyed before manufacture then bonded into a special substrate. This means the piles can be longer and ensures each tile meshes and blends into its neighbour without a visible join. In design terms, you can literallypage 89
have as many colours as there are tufts. Any design can be created by the manufacturers, or made to your design because the company has available a computer-aided design facility which allows you to design your own pattern in colour, directly on to the screen. Using a range of over 16 million colour variations, you can alter the design as you go adding and taking away individual colours or changing whole colourways.
Then you can view what you have created in a choice of corridor and room settings which can be colour co-ordinated to your scheme on the T.V. screen.
The flexible PVC backing gives them a very high stability which means they can be laid over uneven surfaces without special treatment. They come in a choice of fibres; an 80/60 wool/nylon blend, or a high performance all-nylon.
Hand-Woven, Designer Rugs
As an alternative to carpet, a well designed floor rug on an attractive flooring such as parquet or slate can create variety and interest.
The decorative value of handmade rugs has hither to not enjoyed the attention it deserves in modern life, but in the last decade there have appeared an increasing number of people who are creating excellent and individual hand-woven rugs as an art form.
The appeal of a handmade rug lies in the fact that every one is a unique creation of the artist or craftsman with unlimited possibilities in design, texture, colour and interest. Like other art objects such as painting or sculptures, a rug can be the focal point of a room's decor, spread out to provoke thought and delight the viewer.
The rug, however, possesses two qualities which distinguish it from a painting. A picture will not change in response to light, while the pile of a carpet does. Seen against the light (for instance) the colours will appear stronger and darker; with the light, they appear soft and more harmonious.
And then there is the tactile quality of a rug. Varied or exaggerated and sculptured textures will often form the design without the introduction of colours.
Some rugs are very definitely an art form, meant for hanging on the wall not for walking on and in these cases practical considerations like wear, will' not have a bearing on their construction. Others are as tough as they are good looking.
Rugs handcrafted for the wall come in woven and tufted designs; some smooth, some soft and chunky with hanks of unspun wool interspersed or even sculptured pieces of ceramic and wood.
It is currently popular to have corporate logos included in a floor or wall carpet design for entrance foyers and offices.
Many qualities of oriental rugs appeal to the home-maker and while not all of those who wish to possess one want to be a collector, a prospective buyer should gain an elementary knowledge in order to make a wise choice.
There are no standard rules or informative labelling with oriental rugs because, being hand-knotted, each is an individual work. They are judged in relation to each other.
The term 'oriental' applies to rugs made all over Asia. Much of the area they come from once belonged to the Persian Empire and many are still commonly referred to as Persian carpets.
Conflict in Iran and Afghanistan has meant that the number of carpets from those origins seen on our market has decreased and left the way open for India, Pakistan, Turkey and USSR to make major gains in the carpet market. The vast range of oriental rugs can be confusing. The main criterion for buying one should still be its aesthetic appeal to the buyer.