How Persian Rugs are DyedPerhaps the most notable aspect of Persian rugs is their vibrant color which serves to make each of the rugs unique, a standalone from all of the others.
Before the beginning of the 20th century, the rug dye which was used in the making of the rugs was taken from insects, animals, and plants and not made synthetically. The dye recipes were passed from parent to child generation for centuries with each recipe typically being kept within particular tribes or families. The production of these beautiful carpets was a matter of great pride for both the maker and their family.
Materials Used in the Making of the DyesThe preferred colors that are used in the dying of Persian rugs were originally obtained from day to day spices used for cooking such as saffron and turmeric. Saffron was used in the production of pure vibrant yellow whereas turmeric was used in the producing a softer, lighter color yellow. Another ingredient which was used to produce coloring was the mulberry bush but not the bush itself. Instead, there was a fungus which grew on mulberry bushes and, when used, produced a yellow-green color.
Cochineal insect has been used in food coloring during baking in order to form a red color. However, for a period of multiple centuries, the insect was used as a main ingredient in the coloring of Persian rugs. The word “crimson” also comes from a type of insect which also produced a red dye. This insect, the kermes insect, is typically found within oak tree bark and is known for its vibrant red coloring. Shades of red along with violet and pink were also formed from a plant, a common plant in Persia known as Madder. The way in which the plant is treated determines which color the plant produces.
Blue dyes were also created from a plant, the indigo plant which originates in China and India. Black is a not a common color found in the Persian rug due to the negative impact that this rug dye has on the carpet. The process by which black dye is obtained, the soaking or iron shavings within vinegar, has been shown to be corrosive to wool.
Additional dyes were created using a combination of the above ingredients along with others. An example is brown. This color was produced using the madder combined with green walnuts. This was not a popular color, however, as brown tended to fade the area in which the dye was used.
The rugs may also be colored using other exotic substances such as silver or gold colored thread. These threads were most often used in Persian rugs which were intended as gifts for kings or rulers of other countries with which peace was desired.
Process of DyingEach Persian rug is completely unique with the coloring process being the main reason for this individuality. Instead of inserting the whole skein of yarn into the dye, each strand is dyed individually and then placed into the air to dry. Not only were the threads exposed to the air, they were also exposed to other external elements which caused variation in each thread, regardless of whether they were dyed the same color.
Synthetic DyesThe year 1870 saw the introduction of synthetic dyes to the regions around the Eastern coasts with these dyes eventually being used by the interior nomadic peoples who were responsible for the dying and weaving of Persian rugs. Synthetic dyes were less expensive to produce and made the process of producing the rugs more rapid.
In the year 1903, a king of Persia banned the aniline dyes due to the fading which occurred when the rug was exposed to water and light. During the 1920s, chrome dyes were introduced with the majority of weaving done today involving the use of these dyes. Despite the introduction of these dyes, natural coloring is still utilized in the manufacturing of rugs in rural villages.