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The Imperfections of Rugs

No one can be perfect but God. Consequently, no object that was produced by a human being should be perfect, because perfection may be interpreted as an offence to Allah. This standpoint is important for Muslim worshipers. No wonder numerous Muslim rug makers deliberately ‘implement’ some mistakes into their carpets.

Anyway, imperfections – made on purpose or not – seem to actually add value to a given rug. It may be a paradox, but that’s what distinguishes a particular carpet from all the other ones. Various defects usually concern hand-made rugs, thus mostly those woven in villages. In workshops, where rugs are produced on vertical looms, deficiencies are less likely to happen since weavers who work there need to pay more attention to the final outcome, following the rule of perfection. But is perfection always desirable and so needed in our lives and material objects?

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Not for Navajo people – the Native American tribe of the Southwestern United States. They steer clear of the concept of ideal, consciously putting some defects in their rugs. It is also connected with their set of beliefs, nevertheless distinct from Muslims’ religious convictions. In Navajo culture the lines of imperfection that a rug shows is referred to as ‘the spirit path’. After death of a person, his/her spirit is supposed to translocate through this line so that he/she can still weave the carpets and blankets, i.e. the spirit can continue this mission. The members of the tribe do the same while creating other things, for instance pottery. The lines never form a perfect circle – they aren’t connected completely. By doing this, Navajo people have a certainty that their spirits won’t be ‘imprisoned’ inside the object, but will escape when the time comes.

When we look at the authentic Oriental rugs, being stroke by the intricacy of their designs we won’t probably think that those carpets can have even an infinitesimal imperfection. Yet, various deficiencies happen, and as was said before, sometimes they are made on purpose. What are the typical defects of the carpets? 

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We’ve all certainly seen a rug whose sides were somewhat uneven. It concerns tribal carpets, since it’s highly difficult to produce an entirely straight rug without the use of machines. Nevertheless, crookedness of our floor-coverings should rather be regarded as a positive feature, because it gives them individual form.

The most common imperfection of a rug is abrash, i.e. the variation in color of a wool. It happens when the wool is often changed, and the next lot of it has different shade, lighter or darker than the previous one. Abrash should not be confused with fading, which is a result of wearing of a rug or its exposure to the sun. So, if you notice a thick, clearly lighter red line on a dark red field of your rug, that’s the effect of abrash, which actually diversifies the whole composition, rather than damages it.

White spots in a carpet are another characteristic defect, and it most often occurs in the rugs that are quite old or had experienced a lot of traffic. In fact, it’s not really correct to call it a defect, since after some time material products simply wear off, which is a natural order of things.

What else can happen to your carpet? Basically, after cleaning and vacuuming a rug, you can detect sprouting in it. When the yarn was twisted by hand, the outcome can be the inconsistent number of knots, and thus a little longer strands than the rest ones. No need to worry though, because it can be easily fixed by simply trimming these strands.

People aspire to reach perfection, but slight imperfections are in fact charming, making the things interestingly diverse. Carpets that exhibit an uncontrolled change in colors or crookedness are even more willingly bought than those considered perfect. 

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