It can be pretty exciting when you inherit an antique rug. Rugs carry thousands of years of human history, and each individual piece has its own story woven into its fabric. Anyone acquiring one will want to preserve that bit of their heritage as best they can. There are, however, many things that can attack a rug, and a new owner can find themselves in the same position as the Smithsonian: owning something that needs restoration to do our heritage justice. Here are just a few things you may find on your antique rug:
Antiques were useful items of furniture before they were beautiful works of art. Your ancestors used your rug hard, walking on it all day. This thins out patches of fabric and leaves faded spots. Your rug will definitely need restoration by experts to smooth out the bald patches.
Warp And Weft Trouble
Many types of rugs are made by threading yarn, called the weft, under and over lines of yarn that is laid out lengthwise. The later yarns are called the warp of a rug. All sorts of problems can crop up with the warp and weft of an antique rug. Too much tension in the weft can cause the edges to curl under in an unseemly way, especially if they are thickly napped. Water and wear can weaken the warp, causing it to break down. Sometimes, the tensions in the warp are so uneven you wind up with a wrinkle woven in to the rug, which can then become a tear. It could take an expert to cut the edges of the rug and re-weave it so that it will go back to its intended shape.
Moths think of rugs as 'lunch,' and so do carpet beetles. If the rug you inherited has been stored somewhere that isn't air-tight, cloth moths might have laid eggs on it and eaten the knots on the back of the rug, leaving behind a bit of cobwebby filament and sandy grit on the back. The good news is that the filaments of the rug's fabric often are packed together tightly enough to resist falling off. The bad news is that these bugs like dark spaces, so if part of the rug was in the dark for a while, bugs may be eating the front of the rug.
The first step in dealing with this would be a thorough and professional cleaning. After that, it may need patching from a professional.
Fading From The Sun
If the original owner put the rug somewhere that got lots of UV rays for years, the color of the fabric may have started to fade. The fabric will also lose some of its strength. A color specialist can bring back some of the original shading, fortunately, and you can prevent further damage by rotating the rug at least once a year.
Water is hard on fabric, particularly wool. A rug that is kept on a concrete floor that is never entirely dry attracts microorganisms, and keeping a spot continually wet can rot the warp of a rug in a matter of weeks. Sometimes people will put a potted plant on a rug, and the runoff from watering the plant can do significant damage. An expert will likely need to re-weave the damaged part.
Wearing Off The Edges
Tassels and borders get a lot of wear and tear. Sometimes the tassels get bleached, too, which can weaken the material over time. The result is that the 8 foot long rug that your grandmother bought comes down to you about 7 foot and 7 inches long. You will need someone to add the border and tassels for you.
Along with walking on it for years, the previous owner may have been eating on it. The residue from old spills can settle in to the fabric and base of a rug if left alone, and it can be hard to remove. Teams of specially trained cleaners, however, can remove these ground-in stains. They just need a chance to get at them.
If you have just inherited an old rug and you want to honor the history that it brings by restoring it to its former glory, you have help near by. Landry & Arcari has been restoring rugs in the New England area for years and would love to help you. Please call us at 978-744-5909 to speak with our cleaning and restoration department.