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Antique and Vintage Rug Maintenance and Characteristics


Most antique Persian rugs and other antique Oriental rugs over time develop a set of characteristics that are worth paying attention to. Among these rug characteristics are color variations or abrash in rug terms. The term "abrash" refers to a natural variation in the color of a rug or carpet, particularly in the field or central portion of the rug. It appears as subtle changes or shifts in color intensity, tone, or shade. Abrash in Rug is not considered a flaw but rather a desirable characteristic in many handwoven rugs, especially in traditional rugs and tribal rug pieces. Abrash can be seen in Caucasian rugs, Persian rugs, Oriental rugs, and new Modern area rugs. The term Abrash has long been used in the trade to describe the small variations in hue and saturation found within a single color in a carpet.

Rug collectors and enthusiasts appreciate abrash because it adds character and depth to a rug, giving it a unique and authentic appearance. In some cases, abrash can also indicate the quality of rug craftsmanship and the use of natural dyes, both of which are highly valued in traditional rug-making.

Antique Bidjar, bidjar Rug, Abrash.
Above is an Antique Bidjar Rug With Abrash.

Above is an Antique Bidjar Rug With Abrash.

Abrash occurs during the rug-making process for several reasons:

1. Dyeing Process

Handmade area rugs especially antique rugs and vintage rugs often use natural dyes derived from plants, insects, or minerals. The color variations can result from slight differences in the dye batches, which may have been made at different times or with different materials. As a result, the yarns used in the rug weaving process may have subtle color discrepancies. Normally one would see abrash in a linear pattern.

  • Dyes

The rug dyeing process is a delicate and complicated task. The procedure may vary slightly, depending on the substance used in making the dye. Basically, the wool is chemically treated (newer rugs) to make it more receptive to the dye and then submerged in a vat full of boiling dye. The length of time the wool stays in the vat depends upon the type of dye and the hue desired; the wool may stay in the vat from a few hours to as long as several days. When the desired color has been attained, the wool rug yarns are removed and hung in the sun to dry.

Rug Dyes, antique coloring, vintage rug colors
The rug dyeing process is a delicate and complicated task.

2. Hand Spinning Wool Rug Yarns

The wool or other fibers used in handmade rugs are typically hand-spun especially in antique rugs. Handspun yarns may have variations in thickness and density, which can lead to differences in dye absorption and color appearance.

Handcrafted rugs, vintage, Spinning Wool Rug Yarns
Hand Spinning Wool Rug Yarns

3. Shearing Wool Rug

After the rug is woven, it undergoes a shearing process to create an even pile height. The variation in how the pile is cut can affect how light reflects off the fibers, resulting in subtle color shifts.

vintage rug, antique rug maintenance
Shearing Wool Rug Example

4. Rug Wear and Rug Age

In older antique rugs, abrash can develop over time due to fading caused by exposure to sunlight and other environmental factors.

Antique Tabriz Persian Rug
Antique Tabriz Persian Rug | Available at Socal Rugmasters

Antique Tabriz Persian Rug

Antique Bijar rug, vintage, abrash
This antique Bijar rug is a great example of abrash

This antique Bijar rug is a great example of abrash, if you closely look at the field of the rug the navy blue color, you would notice the color variation. there is a straight line that separates the color variations.

Abrash in vintage rugs, rug maintenance by socal rug masters
Abrash in vintage rugs

Abrash is not present in all rugs, as it depends on the materials used and the weaving techniques employed. Machine-made rugs, for example, often lack abrash because they use synthetic dyes and uniform fibers that are precisely produced.

Fake abrash in new rugs and printed rugs refers to intentional attempts to replicate the appearance of natural color variation found in handmade rugs, even though these machine-made or printed rugs do not possess the genuine qualities of abrash.

Manufacturers may use various techniques to create fake abrash in new and printed rugs:

1. Rug Printing Techniques

In printed rugs, digital or manual printing processes can be employed to mimic the look of abrash. By strategically applying dyes or pigments in a way that creates color variations, manufacturers can imitate the organic and irregular patterns seen in handwoven rugs.

2. Rug Chemical Treatments

Some manufacturers may use chemical treatments or washes to create artificial abrash on the surface of the rug. These treatments alter the appearance of the colors, making them appear less uniform and more like the natural variations seen in traditional antique rugs.

3. Inconsistent Dyeing

In machine-made rugs, the use of synthetic dyes can be deliberately applied unevenly, producing a similar effect to genuine abrash.

4. Texture and Pile Height Variation

By varying the texture or pile height of certain areas of the rug, manufacturers can create the illusion of color shifts and abrash-like patterns.

It's important to note that while fake abrash might visually resemble the genuine variations found in handmade rugs, it lacks the historical and cultural significance associated with traditional rug-making techniques. Authentic abrash in handmade rugs is a natural outcome of the traditional dyeing and weaving processes, often reflecting the artisan's skill and the use of natural materials.

For consumers seeking an authentic and high-quality rug, it's essential to be aware of the differences between handmade rugs with genuine abrash and machine-made or printed rugs with simulated abrash. Understanding the rug's production process, materials used, and the reputation of the manufacturer or seller can help make informed purchasing decisions. For any rug services, vintage rug maintenance, or consultation please contact us. We will be happy to assist you with your rug services.

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