Carpet and rug weaving
The making of carpets/rugs by interlacing (weaving) warps and wefts on a loom by hand so that the strong linen warp is completely covered by the wool weft (see separate entry for general weaving).
|Historic area of significance|
|Area currently practised||UK|
|Origin in the UK|
|Current no. of professionals (main income)||11-50|
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees|
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required||21-100|
The craft of carpet and rug weaving is essentially a sub-craft of handweaving in which a thick, strong, fabric is created. Carpet/rug weaving is done on a larger and stronger loom than normal handweaving, using a very strong warp and a very tight weave with greater tension. As a result, it generally requires a bigger workspace than normal handweaving.
The UK has a long history of carpet design, weaving and manufacture with industrial production dating back to the seventeenth century. Most carpets are knotted or woven with pile. Flat woven rugs were first made in the UK in the 1870s by William Morris. Rug weaving is an occupation requiring just one person to design and make, therefore taking a lot of time to make. There are now few people who design and weave rugs in the UK – it is more common to be a rug designer with the manufacturing done abroad. Other forms of carpet/rug making, such as tufted rugs and rag rugs, are also popular.
Hand-woven rugs are constructed using traditional rug weaving techniques with contemporary designs. Flat-woven rugs are made with a linen or cotton warp and wool or cotton weft. Peter Collingwood invented the ‘shaft-switching’ technique which is commonly used today.
Types of weave include: weft-faced plain weave, rep weave, block weave, twill, 3-end blockweave with Collingwood shaft switching, tapestry, krogbragd, boundweave.
- Taatit rug makings (Shetland)
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
Training issues: Rug weaving requires a very large, multi-shaft floor loom which takes up a lot of space. This means that very few people have the space to weave rugs. Furthermore, very few people have the space to teach rug weaving as this would require several rug-weaving looms in one space. While the interest is there, most people who want to learn the craft have to teach themselves.
Training issues: Lack of a college course offering rug weaving – although colleges such as the Bradford School of Art do run handweaving courses.
Market issues: Lack of demand when competing with cheaper imports.
Market issues: Production is very slow, not just in terms of the weaving, but also in the preparation and finishing. Materials are also very expensive. As a result, the cost of UK production is high, meaning demand for and production of rugs in the UK is low.
Market issues: It is an extremely niche market, most rugs being made overseas at a fraction of my material costs.
Market issues: Hard to sell at a price that is enough to make a living.
Market issues: It is very hard to make a living solely from rug weaving – often need to teach or write or do something else alongside to supplement income.
Supply of raw materials: It is hard to get good quality materials and because it is so time intensive, there is no point working with inferior materials.
Theo Moorman Trust for Weavers – grants for weavers living and working in the UK
- The Crafts Council (England)
The Peter Collingwood Trust Fund stopped accepting applications in 2016
Craftspeople currently known
- Christabel Balfour, London
- Stella Benjamin
- Hilary Charlesworth, Sussex
Jason Collingwood, Colchester, Essex. Runs residential courses from his workshop.
- Mark Cullen, Cornwall
- Jane Flanagan, Bolton
Jacqueline James, York
- Lesley Millar
- Alan Oliver, London
Angie Parker, Bristol
- Fiona Rutherhead
- Rachel Scott
- Sarah Truscott, Somerset
Martin Weatherhead, Snail Trail Handweavers, Pembrokeshire
- Jenny Wilkinson, Devon
Total number of craftspeople: Rug weavers can be divided into hobby weavers, and those exhibiting and selling (of which there are far fewer).
Rug wool in the UK comes from the mill end yarns from the carpet industry.
There is training available, there are practitioners, and there is an outlet/market – it just goes on in quite a small scale. There is also plenty of information about weaving.
Collingwood, Peter, Rug Weaving
Collingwood, Peter, (1968) The Techniques of Rug Weaving (Faber & Faber)
Collingwood, Peter, (1990) Rug Weaving Techniques, Beyond the Basics (B T Batsford)
Croot, Ann, (1979) Woven Carpets and Rugs (Hamlyn Group)
Knight, Brian, (1980) Rug Weaving, Technique and Design (B T Batsford)
Peverill, Sue, (1989) Make Your Own Rugs (Hamlyn Group)
- Grierson, Ronald (1952) Woven Rugs (Dryad Press)