Rug dyes – colouring. Most oriental weaving villages & areas had a rug dyer, often the dyer would be Jewish who kept his colour formulas a secret.
Dying ingredients were similar throughout the Near East but big colour variations were seen, the end colour results were not entirely dependent on dyestuffs alone.
Influencing factors were the quality and type of wool used but interestingly by the water quality in an given area.
It wasn’t until the mid 19th century when chemical dyes were developed in the rug manufacturing process.
Before saw only natural dyes like the indigo plant and madder that produced blue and red rug colours.
Using two strong primary colours enabled dyers to make a whole spectrum of secondary colours. Most antique rugs will have between six and twelve colours.
Other natural dye / colour sources
Some alternative examples of rug colours came from berries, fruit, fungi, plants and bark. Some agents used in colour production (brown) can produce a corrosive effect.
The negative effect from this is that wool dyed in darker / brown colours will more than likely wear away more rapidly than with other colours.
Ferrous oxide has a weakening effect of wool fibres used in rug construction.
Natural colours tend to be more colourfast than chemically dyed fibres. Especially if they are exposed to sunlight or alkali domestic cleaning solutions.
Although it could be argued that this fading and merging has a very positive and harmonious effect on the overall appearance of a rug.
Pre-dying processes include agitating in very hot water and then soaked in mordant.
After this the coloured wool is then immersed in the prepared dye exposed to high temperatures. Washing with flowing water is the ideal end to the process.
Indigo was usually imported from India as a concentrated mix.
Chemical colours are divided into two groups (both inferior to natural dyes)
Aniline or acid dye is fugitive to alkalis and light. Chrome dye is the other, which can be colourfast and appear unsubtle.
Aggressive chemical modern chemicals can damage naturally dyed rugs.
Exercising caution when allowing your naturally dyed rugs to be cleaned is wise.
Untrained operatives can easily create a bleed in your rugs. This often ends up in rug fringes.
Rug cleaning using natural and non toxic solutions is the way forward.
Using qualified and highly trained rug cleaning technicians will see your much loved rug return to its former glory with colours looking as they should.