Post 283 –  by Gautam Shah



The words ‘Carpets, Rugs, Durries, Floor Spreads and Heavy Tapestries’ are often used synonymously. The quality, the sizes and the uses differentiate one from the other.

Early (pre 1900s) Carpets, Rugs, Durries, Floor Spreads and Heavy Tapestries were traditionally made for specific purposes and clientèle. Some of these were used as table covers, and floor spreads were hung. With industrial revolution, looms were automated and users increased manifold. The sizes, yet varied from country to country, and for the niche markets being served. The carpets and other items were earlier sold at places of production to tourists, but now vast quantities were sold in major commercial centres of the world.


Carpets are larger, nearly cover the room space or are extended ‘wall to wall’. Modern day carpets are made heavier, stiffer and softer, by the backing materials system. Some backing systems are fixed to the back face of the carpet, whereas others such as soft padding are laid on the floor. Backing system often include a static discharge network with earthed wires. Some of the pile and tufted carpets can have very heavy body construction, and may not require backing. Carpets either remain on the floor due to gravity, non skidding backing surface, or the large extensive surface. Most carpets are, however, affixed with carpet tacks or hooks at the periphery or by adhesives.


Rugs are smaller and nearly similar to carpets in terms of constitution. Rugs are simply spread on the floor, without backing or padding. Rugs being thinner and smaller can be rolled up. Rugs are also called throw-rugs because by throwing up in air one can unroll and spread it on the floor. Rugs are floor-spreads placed at specific locations within a room. Rugs are chiefly used for under the feet comfort. Rugs are also used to create places of interest or focus. Rugs are often laid over the carpet for the same reason. Rugs are spread over railings or parapets or hung on the walls. Rugs are thinner and simply reversing it dust can be removed. Rugs are formed as circular, elliptical and diamond shaped. The material is cut from larger woven material, and the edges are seamed with stitches, often with additional borders.



Durries are thinner than rugs. Durries can be folded up to 4/6 folds. Durries have tied weft ends or stitched edges. Durries have a simple weave and patterns are generally identical on both the faces. Traditional durries were made from waste, carded or combed wool, cotton or jute of small length or staple fibres. The coarseness of the yarn provides a dull finished surface. Durry could be very small 500x 500 mm (in India called Aasan), for one person to seat during religious ceremonies. Durries with finer cotton fibres are called Shetrunjees -Satranji (India). These are small enough for a person to sleep (800x1800mm) and larger enough (2700x4500mm) to seat 20 people.

Satranjee Floor Spread of Short staple Cotton

Cotton Rugs – Shetrunjees – floor spreads

Floor Spreads are made from cotton yarns, thin grasses and reeds, and synthetic flat yarns (such as polyester or Polypropylene). Floor-spreads are used for floor level dining, seating and sleeping. Reed floor-spreads, are called Chatais. Chatais are used as under spreads for mattresses, as prayer mats, dead body covers for burial and as hung screens over passages and openings. Modern day floor-spreads are non-woven mats of polypropylene fibres. Foamed base Rexine and other extruded composites.

Chatai -woven mat

Carpets of Asian countries came to Europe after 11th C. These were very rare and precious items to be placed under the feet. Carpets were display items as table covers and wall hangings. Persian carpets are categorized as for Farsh or floors, (5500x2500mm) are the larger units placed at the centre. This is flanked by two runners or strip carpets called Kanarehs, (5000x900mm) used for walking. The end piece of three carpet arrangement is called Kellegi, (3700x1800mm). Other then these are nomadic-rug (Qa-licheh=small rug) or carpets (called Klim or Saumak), and prayer spreads called Namazik.


Modern loom carpets are 12 Feet (3.7 m) and 15 feet (4.6 m) in the USA, and 4.0 and 5.0 Mts in Europe. Carpet tiles are cut from woven material or non-woven pressed fiber sheets. The edges are seamed by stitching, adhesives or heat-fused. Commercial sizes are 400x400mm. For very large spaces like halls (greater than 3.5mts) pieces of carpets are seams joined by stitching or adhesives.





Symbolism of Overall Design: Individual motifs included in the design of carpets have certain inherent symbolism, but the carpet as a whole usually had a central theme. For example, in Persian carpets had a theme as the Garden of Eden, a symbol of eternal paradise. The flowers, birds, and water, all symbolized a freedom from the harsh desert, and a promise of eternal happiness.


The Garden of Eden concept has continued on in the Oriental designs. Garlands, vines, flowers, trees, animals, and beasts all together create a landscape, picturing hunting scenes or game, lakes with water birds, and often ‘images of supernatural or celestial beings, such as jinn, houris, or a gathering of the blissful righteous at a banquet or dance’. The verses are included to support the image, lyrically extolling the carpet as a garden.


Rugs and carpets are more formal and are designed as stand alone or independent units. Whereas tapestries are often conceived as sub parts of larger design or configuration. Laces were primarily designed as borders.


Designs usually consist of an inner field -the pattern in the centre of the carpet, and a border. The border as the frame on a picture, to emphasize the limits and isolate the field. The design of inner field and border were mutually harmonizing, but distinct entities.


Borders consist of a minimum of three elements: a main band, which varies greatly in width according to the size of the item and the elaborateness of the field design. The inner stripes and outer guard stripes accompany the main band on its sides. The guard stripes may be the same on both sides of the main band, or be different.


Inner Field: The inner field consists of an all-over pattern, a panel composition, or a medallion item. The all-over pattern may be of identical repeats, juxtaposed or evenly spaced. It may also be of varied motifs in a unified system. The design almost invariably includes bilaterally balanced repetitions. The varied motif type of design is found often in representations of the parks or woods.


The most frequent medallion composition consists of a central patterned field, complemented with corner pieces. But multiple-medallions are also developed as a chain of medallions on the vertical axis, two or more forms of medallions alternating in bands, and spotted medallions that may or may not be interconnected or interlocked.