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A Woman's World: What Your Rug Reveals About The Woman Who Made It

A Woman's World: What Your Rug Reveals About The Woman Who Made It

Most people don’t realise that the beautiful antique and vintage rugs we sell were all made by women.

If you’re curious about the woman who made your rug, you’re in luck! Keep reading to find out how to ‘read’ a rug to understand who made it.

The Toy Loom

Weaving is a craft that requires long hours of work and great skill but only basic materials. It was usually practised by women because it was convenient to do at home along with the household chores. If you think WFH (working from home) is a new phenomenon, think again!

Young girls, when they were two of three years old, would sit by their mothers and copy the weaving process on toy looms. By the time they were seven or eight, they would have naturally learned the process of weaving.

The women who made rugs can be divided into three main categories: the Nomadic Girl, the City Slicker and the Village F-entrepeneur. Their lives were very different, and so were their rugs. 

A Turkmen girl and her toy loom

         A Turkmen girl and her toy loom         

The Nomadic Girl

Nomadic women would make rugs using wool from their own sheep. After spinning the wool, they would dye it with materials that were available in their surroundings: indigo plant (for blues), madder root (for reds), cochineal beetles (magenta or crimson), bark and berries. Nomadic women knew a thing or two about being resourceful!

Nomadic women didn’t sell their creations. Instead, their rugs would be used to keep them warm in winter and to decorate their tents in the summer.

Nomadic weavers would create their own designs, weaving from memory and following traditional designs of their tribe. Their patterns, like folk songs, were not written down anywhere but were kept alive by direct transmission from person to person.

Rugs produced by nomadic women have large, angular patterns because they are the easiest patterns to weave from memory. Nomadic rugs usually have a low knot count per square inch, giving them a more textured look than ‘finer’ village or city rugs.

A nomadic woman weaving on a horizontal loom

Nomadic rugs are often irregular in shape because the loom would be dismantled and reconstructed at least 20 times before a rug was finished. Constructing the loom with the same tension every time was impossible.

Looms were transported on the backs of animals when the tribes moved, so the looms used by nomadic women were horizontal and narrow. As a result, tribal rugs are often small and are always narrow.

The City Slicker

In large towns and cities, women would work side by side in workshops to weave rugs. These were the ‘career women’ of rug making. In rug ‘workshops’ there would be no trace of machinery: only lines of weavers at their looms and sometimes a salim (singer) who would call the knots and help to give rhythm to the weaving.

Everything was carefully organised and controlled and the women would work from detailed patterns produced by well-known artists.

City rugs are the most ‘sophisticated’ and flawless of all rugs. A rug with neat curves is one tell-tale sign of a rug produced in a city workshop. Rugs are woven row by row and producing curves- particularly neat ones- requires great skill and experience. Workshop rugs are the largest of all rugs produced.

If your rug is large, precisely woven and densely knotted, it’s likely that it was woven by a group of women in a workshop.

Women weaving a rug in a workshop, following a pattern or ‘cartoon’

The Village F-entrepreneur

Like their city equivalents, women weaving rugs in villages would almost always follow a pattern. Artists in towns and villages would create patterns and sell them in the local bazaars.

Village women were usually weaving for commercial gain rather than for themselves. They were therefore motivated to copy the intricate, fashionable designs of city rugs. Unlike their city counterparts, village weavers had the freedom to go ‘off-piste’ and were always pushing the boundaries to put their own spin on the patterns and outdo the competition! Some of the most aesthetically pleasing rugs were produced by innovative village women.

Village looms would need to be as big as possible whilst still fitting into a home and allowing a family to live there comfortably. Weaving was not a quick process, so this was important!

Because of space restrictions for the loom, village rugs were rarely larger than 8x5 feet. Weaving a rug that size would take a year to complete. Once the rug had been completed, it would be thoroughly washed in a nearby river or stream.

After a rug was removed from the loom, it was washed in a river


A village weaver

Sealed With a Kiss

Many nomadic and village rugs were made by young brides to celebrate their wedding. These are easy to spot for a number of reasons. The weaver would often weave her name and/or that of her betrothed into the rug, as well as the date and certain motifs (ram horns and hips symbols for fertility, eye symbols for protection from evil). These rugs would be used in the couple’s future home. Due to the young age of these weavers, colours tend to be bright, strong and unsophisticated. Meanwhile, the patterns have a naivety of execution and freshness.

A rug woven by a young woman named Ayşe. Her ‘signature’ appears in the middle of the rug.





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Say Hello to A New Trend: Biophilic Design!

Say Hello to A New Trend: Biophilic Design!

Biophilic design is a new approach used within the design industry to address our need to connect with nature and to create a natural-feeling habitat in the buildings we exist in.  In a world where the link between people and nature is damaged because of city life, demanding work environments and lack of accessibility to nature, Biophilic restores harmony and feels like a breath of fresh air.

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Vintage Rug Buying Tips

Vintage Rug Buying Tips

Picture this: you’re sipping on your iced latte and scrolling Instagram when you stumble across a rug that would be SO perfect for your living room/ bedroom/ kitchen. You look more closely and realise that it’s vintage. You know absolutely nothing about vintage rugs. You know you want the rug but have no idea where to start in making sure that you are getting a good deal.

There’s no doubt that the vintage rug world can seem confusing and shrouded in mystery when you first dip your toe in the water. So here are our top buying tips that will transform you from a nervous novice into an excited and confident new rug owner!


  1. Check the rug for authenticity

There are some simple tactics that you can deploy to check if a rug really is the handmade vintage or antique masterpiece that it is being marketed as. First, turn the rug over and look at the back of the rug. If a rug is handmade, the pattern on the back of the rug should closely mirror the pattern on the front. If the rug has a plastic, canvas or synthetic backing, it is a machine-made rug. Any online rug seller that is selling an authentic rug should be happy to provide you with an image of the back of the rug so that you can see it for yourself.

Second, study the fringe of the rug. If the fringe has been stuck or sewn on, the rug is a machine-made rug. The fringe of a handmade rug should be an integral, seamless part of the rug that is formed from a part of the rug’s foundation called the “warp”.

Third, check the rug’s pattern for uniformity. Any authentic vintage or antique rug will have been made by hand, so it follows that it will contain some human error. If you can see some imperfections in the motifs and design then it’s a good sign that the rug is authentic.


  1. Check the condition

A rug’s condition is in important factor in assessing whether the price is fair. It is also an important part in assessing whether a rug is as old as the seller is telling you.

First, look at the colour. If a rug’s colours are not uniform and are stronger in some places than others or seem to “fade” in a certain part of the rug, it will likely mean that the rug was made using natural plant and vegetable dyes. Modern, synthetic dyes were either not available or scarce when rugs that are 50+ years old were made. The rug makers would therefore use readily available local produce to dye the wool for their rugs: madder roots for red, onion skins for brown and so on. Making the dye was not an exact science and only a certain amount of wool could be dyed with each batch of dye. As a result, a single rug would be made using wool from a number of different batches of dye. Even if the wool from the different batches looked the same colour at the time the rug was made, over time and as the rug oxidises, colour variations will become apparent. So, in short, colour variation is a sign that your rug is the real deal.

Second, look at the wear on the rug. If it looks very distressed all over, there’s a high chance that its natural appearance has been altered with strong chemicals and other techniques. Vintage and antique rugs were built to last and generally stand the test of time extremely well and with minimal wear. If a rug looks very faded or distressed, it has probably been made to look older than it is through a process called “antique washing”. Wear in certain patches rather than all over is generally a better sign, as it indicates that the wear was caused by foot traffic rather than artificial processes.

Never be afraid to ask the seller if the rug has been antique washed.


  1. Art for the fifth wall

When buying a rug, the best approach you can take is to treat the rug like a piece of art. Vintage and antique rugs are very much handmade masterpieces. Their motifs and colours carry specific meaning and every rug is the unique artistic expression of the female (or females) that made it. With that in mind, consider: how the rug makes you feel when you look at it; whether the colours resonate with you and match with the room; whether it is the right size for the space. Make sure you measure your space carefully and decide the maximum and minimum size of rug you could live with. Much like art work, vintage and antique rugs do not come in standard sizes, so you’ll need to be a bit flexible.

Did you know that we offer a free Pantone colour matching service for all our rugs? We analyse each rug in person with our trusty Pantone cards to help you understand the colours better. Just get in touch for more information!

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Understanding Vintage Rugs

Understanding Vintage Rugs

So what makes a rug vintage?” It’s an important question and one that we often get asked. Vintage rugs are commonly considered to be rugs that are 30-50 years old. Meanwhile, antique rugs are rugs that are at least 100 years old. In the middle of those two categories is a third and lesser-known category: semi-antique. Semi-antique rugs are rugs that are 50-100 years old. Most of the rugs that we source and sell at Rise Home Collection fall into this semi-antique category. If you’re buying a vintage rug, it’s important to understand these different categories because age often affects value: the older the rug, the more expensive it’s likely to be.


Our "Lilibet" rug, a semi-antique Soumak


Unfortunately, the internet is awash with mislabelling when it comes to rugs. We often see this on marketplaces such as Etsy, where many sellers intentionally inflate the stated age of rugs to justify higher prices. Many such sellers apply harsh chemicals and techniques to make rugs appear older and worn so that they can pass them off as vintage or antique. We’ll never forget the rug seller we met who proudly told us that he leaves his “vintage” rugs outside in the sun all summer so that the colours fade. He described it as “sunbathing”. The best thing you can do to avoid buying a mislabelled rug is to buy from a reputable seller that specialises in selling vintage and antique rugs.  


Our "Lycia" rug


As well as age-related lingo, it can be useful to understand some common terminology when buying a vintage or antique rug. If a rug is described as having an “all-over pattern”, it means that the pattern repeats throughout the rug. If a rug is described as having a “medallion”, it will have one or more large medallion shaped motifs that act as a focal point in the rug’s design.  If a rug is described as having “abrash” it means that the colour is not uniform throughout the rug and there is some variation in the strength of the colours. Abrash is a hallmark of authentic vintage and antique rugs because it is only present in rugs that were dyed with natural plant and vegetable dyes (as opposed to synthetic, modern dyes).


Our "Lupin" rug, with its centre medallion and abrash


It is worth bearing in mind that vintage, semi-antique and antique rugs are all 100% handmade and 100% unique. A question we often get asked is whether we can provide more than one of the same rug. The answer to this is “no”. Every handmade rug is a labour of love that was brought to life by one or more female artisans who spent months at the loom creating their masterpiece. They usually made rugs for a specific event or purpose (for example, to be a wedding gift), rather than for commercial gain and mass consumption. Like anything that’s handmade, replication is impossible and you should expect your vintage rug to contain a small number of character- enhancing imperfections.


Although no two rugs are identical, we’re always happy to look around for a rug that is similar to another one if a client requests. As we’re based in Istanbul (aka the centre of the rug universe!), we’re perfectly placed to fulfil custom sourcing requests and can even involve our customers via video call!


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