Saturday, April 25, 2015

Turkish Rugs[1-2]
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

For your convenience, I have listed posts below that also focus on rugs.
Navajo Rugs
Persian Rugs
Caucasian Rugs

Rug designs are important with respect to art. They hold a place of pride as floor or wall coverings, but moreover they can also inspire other artwork such as miniature artwork using needlepoint - with no loom in sight! Such miniature rugs have been worked with needle and wool on a needlepoint canvas. Typically the miniature rugs have been worked in Paternayan wool yarn on a #18 canvas, using two different types of needlepoint stitches such as the Continental stitch and the Basketweave stitch [1].

Continental stitch is typically used to make outlines and single rows of design in needlepoint miniature rugs.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Basketweave stitch is used for the larger proportions of the design and background of needlepoint miniature rugs.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Typically the canvas size of needlepoint miniature rugs are larger than the stitched piece; that is, for a 9 x 12 inch miniature rug, the canvas size is 13 x 16 inches with the extra canvas turned under and fastened to the back of the rug when the stitching has been completed.

A needlework miniature rug based on an oriental rug design.
Courtesy of reference[1].

There is an excellent book written on oriental carpets[2] and another written on needlework miniature rugs[1]. Some of the latter have been donated to the Toy & Miniature Museum in Kansas City, Missouri (USA). There are no better books for you to purchase in both areas, respectively.

The post today will not deal with how to create needlework miniature rugs but rather deal with the design of Turkish rugs themselves. Nevertheless, the images of most designs are those reproduced by Frank M. Cooper using his needlepoint techniques[1].

Nomadic Weaving of Carpets
Nomad weavers had all the ingredients needed for rug making. For example, they had access to the design of a vertical loom for which the construction materials – straight branches – were easily obtainable. On a wooden frame, they tightly wound a continuous strand of yarn, from top to bottom, round both the top and bottom beams[1].

Nomadic weavers create colorful, richly patterned carpets on simple, portable looms, often constructed from long straight tree limbs.
Courtesy of reference[1].

The vertically wound thread is called the warp. In the process of weaving, horizontal threads called weft threads are passed in front of and behind alternate threads. To create the rug pile, the weaver ties yarn around two adjacent vertical warp threads. After a complete row of knots have been tied, the weaver passes a weft thread through the warp threads and, with a comb, pushes the knots and the weft threads down to the bottom of a loom. These continuous weft threads, passing back and forth across the warp, help keep the knots in place and give the rug its body [1].

A modern day weaver working in a rug factory in the Middle East.
Courtesy of reference[1].

The yarn was made from the wool of the weaver’s own sheep. Members of the family or tribe sheared the sheep and then the wool was carded, spun into yarn, and dyed in small vats. Due to the size of the vats, only limited quantities of yarn could be dyed at any point in time, which sometimes would lead to variations in color in the ancient carpets. The dyes were made according to “secret” formulas held for generations by each tribe but basically common threads existed in all dyed rugs; for example, the madder plant was used for reds, indigo for blues, roots of plants, bark of trees, and other natural materials for other colors. The quality of the color was affected by the quality of water (hard or soft) and also by mordants used in the dyeing process[1].

Madder Red: The roots of the madder plant yields the dye used for most red colors. Depending on both the age of the roots and the length of time they are boiled, the range of colors can vary from the deepest of reds to pinks and to purples. The color “red” generally signifies passion and is the color associated with happiness and success.

As early as the thirteenth century, Turkey developed a sea trade with Italy, and rugs depicted in the paintings of that period, notably by those of Italian artist, Lorenzo Lotto, and the German artist, Hans Holbein. Holbein often featured a double-medallion rug design. Rugs with this feature became known as “Holbein Rugs”.

One of Holbein’s paintings featuring a Turkish rug in the foreground.

As a result of trade with Italy and other European countries, the demand for rugs became so great that a cottage industry quickly developed. However, the industry could not keep up with demand and so carpet-weaving workshops were set up in which many rugs could be produced at the same time. Typically an overseer, referring to sketches furnished by the workshop owner, would call out the design and colors to the weaver. Many of the weavers were pre-teen children, who with their supple fingers could tie as many as 10,000 knots a day.

A child weaver in modern day Pakistan.

All of the supplies were furnished by the workshops, and sometimes were provided to the cottage industries as well. No longer were tribal designs and colors used – instead colors and patterns were determined by fashion as is the case in today’s world.

Fashionable modern-day designed carpet.

Turkish Carpets
Turkish carpets were commented on by Marco Polo who wrote about their beauty and artistry in the 13th century. A number of carpets from this period - known as the Seljuk carpets - were discovered in several Mosques in central Anatolia, underneath many layers of subsequently placed carpets. The Seljuk carpets are today in the museums in Konya and Istanbul.

Carpet fragment from Esrefoglu Mosque, Beysehir. Seljuk period, 13th century.

Mosques are considered the common house in a Muslim community. In addition, since the praying ritual requires one to kneel and touch the ground with one’s forehead, the Mosques are covered from wall to wall with several layers of carpets contributed by the faithful as an act of piety. 

Alaeddin inside Aslanapa.

The art of weaving was introduced to Anatolia by the Seljuks toward the end of the 11th and the beginning of 12th centuries when Seljuk sovereignty was at its height. In addition to numerous carpet fragments, many of which are yet to be documented, there are 18 carpets and fragments, which are known to be of Seljuk origin. The technical aspects and vast variety of designs used proves the resourcefulness and the splendor of Seljuk rug weaving. The oldest surviving Seljuk carpets are dated from the 13th to 14th centuries. Eight of these carpets were discovered in the Alaeddin Mosque in Konya (capital of Anatolian Seljuks) in 1905 by Loytred, a member of German consulate staff, and were woven at some time between the years 1220 and 1250 - at the pinnacle of Seljuks reign.

Modern-day Turkey

When the Seljuks of Turkestan overran the Near East in the eleventh century, they captured the city of Konya. They established one of their Sultanates there, which became known for its opulence and culture. In recent years, these rugs were sought after and so the Vakiflar Hali Muzesi in Istanbul collected and saved many of the rugs from Konya for prosperity[1].

Cooper’s miniature needlepoint rug based on a Konya rug held in the collection of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (Istanbul, Turkey).
Courtesy of reference[1].

The Anatolian rug (see below) uses a dragon and phoenix design. It can be dated from the fifteen century. A very similar design is depicted in a fresco by Domenico di Bartolo, entitled “The Wedding of the Foundlings” (dated 1440 and 1444)[1].

Wilhelm von Bode, a German scholar, found the rug in Italy and acquired it in 1886. It now hangs in Berlin Museum. The subject matter and the yellow background suggest a Chinese influence. It measures 35 x 38 inches [1].

Anatolian Berlin Rug.
Collection: Berlin: Museum fur Islamische Kunst.

Cooper’s needlepoint miniature rug of the Anatolian Berlin Rug (see above).
Courtesy reference[1]. Note: Cooper substituted brown in place of blue stripes and added a right border.

Mudjar is a town in Turkey. The colors of their rugs are more varied than those of Anatolian origin. This design has colors of mauve, pink, blue, green and shades of yellow, which are usually not found in other rugs from even this area. The original rug dates from the first part of the nineteenth century and is in a private collection. The original rug measures 42.25 x 59.75 inches[1].

Cooper’s needlework miniature rug version adapted from an illustration in the book “Oriental Carpets” by Ulrich Schurmann [2].
Courtesy of reference[1].

In the Western part of Turkey, almost on the Aegean Sea, there is a small city called Bergama. The image of the rug below appears in a painting by Hans Memling, a fifteenth-century Flemish painter. The painting is now in the collection of Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza. There is no assurance that this is a Bergama rug, but it is consistent with the designs of rugs from that region[1].

Cooper’s needlepoint miniature rug version of Bornemisza’s Bergama rug.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Romans, Persian, Greek and other civilizations conquered the Turkish city of Bergama. Although nearly destroyed during the Turkish Wars, today it is a city of almost 20,000 people.

The rugs made in Bergama are usually almost square, with one or two medallions occupying the center field. These medallions are sometimes defined very clearly by surrounding lines of white or ivory. Although the reasons are not understood, the bold designs of these rugs are similar to Caucasian rugs rather than being similar to other Turkish rugs[1].

Cooper’s needlepoint miniature rug version of a rug that dates from 1800 and illustrated in “Oriental Carpets” by Ulrich Schurmann[2]. The original rug measures 56 x 72 inches. Cooper added the archaic S-forms in the border of the above needlepoint miniature rug.

Ushak rug (see below) was listed in “Oriental Carpets”[2] as a seventeenth century rug. Wilhelm von Bode argued it should be placed ahead of all other Ushak prayer rugs, some of which are known to be from the sixteenth century. The rug is in the collection of the Islamic Museum in Berlin.

Cooper’s needlepoint miniature rug version of an Ushak rug. In the original design the outer border was chartered red and gold, but Cooper changed it to red and white in his depiction.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) landing on the Gallipoli peninsula (Turkey) in 1915 (World War I). It is the day on which Australians and New Zealanders reflect on those who served their respective countries and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. The spirit of Anzac, with its human qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice, continues to have meaning and relevance to a sense of national identity for citizens of these two countries - "Lest we forget".

[1] F. M. Cooper, Oriental Carpets in Miniature, Interweave Press, Colorado (1994).
[2] Ulrich Schurmann, Oriental Carpets, Hamlyn Publishing, London (1966).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Woven Textile Designs in Britain (1790 to 1825)[1]
Part IV
Art Cloth

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

For your convenience, I have listed below other post in this genre:
Silk Designs of the 18th Century - Part I
Woven Textile Designs In Britain (1750 to 1763) - Part II
Woven Textile Designs in Britain (1764 to 1789) - Part III
19th Century Silk Shawls from Spitalfields

There are a number of publications featuring the textile design collection held in the Victoria and Albert museum. Recently, Natalie Rothstein’s research into eighteenth century woven textile designs has resulted in a major publication. The images and information contained in this post have been procured from her great book – The Victoria & Albert Museums Textile Collection, N. Rothstein, Canopy Books, Paris (1994). Her research into the collection is comprehensive and insightful. The images and her analysis have been reproduced below.

Woven Textiles, 1790 to 1825[1]
The two decades from 1790 to 1810 were the worst that the European silk industry had experienced. Clearly the French revolution, which resulted in the loss of the French Court and so the loss in demand for finery in clothing, was certainly a factor, albeit not “the” factor. In fact, it was the devastating change in fashion modes that was the real determinant, which resulted in a dramatic slump in demand for silk clothing.

The slump hit London in 1792 when once more public subscriptions lists were opened for starving journeymen. The “throwsers” felt it in the following year when orders failed to come from London. Such a downturn was not evidenced from pattern books, since the master weavers had to prepare patterns for every season irrespective of the economic conditions. To complicate matters, England suffered a general economic recession, after which there was a slow recovery that lasted until the end of the century. Note: Silk throwing is the industrial process where silk that has been reeled into skeins, is cleaned, receives a twist and is wound onto bobbins. The people who do this are called “throwsers”.

From 1790 to 1797 pattern materials were still woven, although they were inferior in scope or originality compared to those from 1700 to 1770. From that period until 1805 there were hardly any patterns on fashionable silks, or on muslins, which had replaced them.

The dark grounds - popular in the 1780s - continued in popularity early in the 1790s, with colors such as Etruscan red and black being the order of the day, often graced with pseudo-Classical patterns. Fashionable ladies and men wore these as dresses and waistcoats, respectively. The lack of interest in woven patterns generally resulted in designs that were no longer needing to be developed season by season. In this period the beginnings of historicism is evident, which plagued British textile designs ever since.

Compare the two patterns below. Apart from skirt flounces, there was little opportunity for the designer. Also the styles in France and England continued to be the same. For example, Barbara Johnson has a dress like the pattern below, which she noted was French.

Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book, Harvey, Ham & Perigal, Spitalfields, 1786.
Figured Satin.
Size: 23.5 cm (9.25 inches) high.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book, Jourdain and John Ham, Spitalfields, 1802.
All woven with metal thread.
Size: 8.9 cm (3.5 inches).
Courtesy of reference[1].

The Neo-Classical motifs continued to be architectural. For example, the rosettes below would not have been out of place if they were mouldings around a door-frame.
Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book, Harvey, Ham & Perigal, Spitalfields, Winter 1790.
Striped and figured satins.
Size: 13.3 cm (5.25 inches) high.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Public imagination was fired by campaigns in Egypt and so patterns contained pyramids and palms (see pattern below), but nothing as adventurous as the pseudo-Egyptian hieroglyphics, which were converted by Duddings in the early 19th Century into designs suitable for cotton furniture.

Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book, probably from the firm of Jourdain and John, Ham, Spitalfields, ca. 1790-94.
Striped and figured satin.
Size: 30.5 cm (12 inches) high.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Chiné materials in bold colors, such as the yellow and black of the pattern below, were clearly very fashionable.

Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book, probably from the firm of Jourdain and John, Ham, Spitalfields, ca. 1790-94.
Striped and figured satin.
Size: 20.3 cm (8 inches) high.
Courtesy of reference[1].

The conjunction of several colorways, as in the pattern below, makes the effect even more startling.

Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book, Harvey, Ham & Perigal, Spitalfields, Winter 1790. Striped and figured satin.
Size: 17.8 cm (7 inches) high.
Courtesy of reference[1].

By the end of the century all that remain were little patterns (see below) and these hardly changed for the next twenty years.

Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book, probably from the firm of Jourdain and John, Ham, Spitalfields, ca. 1798-99.
Size: 29.2 cm (11.5 inches) high.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Certain motifs appeared consistently. For example, the leopard spot was very popular.

Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book intended for waistcoats, Maze & Steer, Spitalfields, 1786.
Figured satins.
Size: 8.2 cm (3.25 inches) high.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Another perennial is the fan of plates.

Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book, probably from the firm of Jourdain and John, Ham, Spitalfields, ca. 1792-94.
Striped and figured satins.
Size: 25.4 cm (10 inches) high.
Courtesy of reference[1].

From the period between 1795-1800 there was no major change in style. Even when a pattern such as that given below was repeated, it was not transformed or combined with some other motif, but simply turned on its side. The one style new to silk – Strawberry Hill Gothick – started as an almost invisible device in a self-colored pattern of about 1798. This was not the way new trends had started in the past. From Heideloff’s Gallery of Fashion, which started in 1794, it was only too evident that the fashionable world was wearing linen or cotton and using silk chiefly in ribbons for millinery. Dresses used decreasing amounts of silk materials – 10 yards of silk compared with 14 of a sack-back, while light weight satins and sarcenets used intrinsically less silk, since they were more loosely woven. Only ribbons and shawls remained and many of the latter were plain, edged with embroidery or imported from Kashmir.

From 1800 until about 1810 silks were lightweight, pale and most plain. Only the ribbons woven in Coventry have lively patterns. When there were any patterns on dress silks they tended to be small, self-colored, isolated sprigs very similar to those of the 1790s. Although the jacquard mechanism was invented in 1801, the first attempts to use it in England were not made until 1820-25, for these small patterns on silk seldom needed a draw loom, let alone its more expensive successor. The years from 1810 to 1825 were prosperous for Spitalfields. The industry was largely unaffected by distress and discontent which followed the end of the Napoleonic wars, for the journey men were protected by the Spitalfields Acts and the industry was not yet facing fierce competition from other centers in England or abroad.

The first stylistic changes are discernible from about 1811. There is a slightly different feel in the stripe of the pattern below, and as Ackermann’s Repository informs us, that gauze was becoming a very fashionable material.

Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book, from the firm of Jourdain and John, Ham, Spitalfields, ca. 1811.
Size: 6.3 cm (2.5 inches) high.
Courtesy of reference[1].

From 1816 the first tentative revival of interest in texture for nearly forty years becomes evident, which is illustrated in the pattern below.

Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book, probably from the firm of Jourdain and John, Ham, Spitalfields, ca. 1816.
Figured satins.
Size: 10.8 cm (4.25 inches) high.
Courtesy of reference[1].

The patterns of these years were still, however, the stripes of the 1790s, with a plain stripe alternating with a figured one of equal width – containing once more a floral motif. The shadow effects seen in the pattern below were new.

Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book, probably from the firm of Jourdain and John, Ham, Spitalfields, ca. 1822.
Figured satins.
Size: 13.3 cm (5.25 inches) high.
Courtesy of reference[1].

The sample given below dating from 1825 could have been the beginning of a new era, for this is one of the earliest surviving English jacquard-woven material.

Sample from a silk weaver’s pattern book, Spitalfields, ca. 1825.
Jacquard woven; one of the earliest dated sample of English jacquard woven material.
Size: 5.7 cm (2.25 inches) high.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Unfortunately for the silk industry, the revival in the demand for pattern silks came too late for the industry to survive in England.

[1] The Victoria & Albert Museum Textile Collection, N. Rothstein, Canopy Books, Paris (1994).

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Macramé – the art of creative knotting – is one of the most ancient crafts known to man. The ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Maoris and Peruvians knew macramé. It was reasoned that primitive man must have had an early need to tie things together and probably progressed to complex weaving and decorative knotting such as macramé – although there are no surviving examples to confirm this conjecture. Whatever its origin, old style macramé lacework was extremely delicate in materials and effect and well established in the 13th Century in Arabia.

It was thought to have originated in Europe from the Middle East. The Arabic makrama means “protection, head covering”, while the Turkish migramah is a decoratively fringed napkin. It was the Turks who brought the craft to Spain and from there it spread throughout Europe, where it was taught in convents. It has said to have been introduced to England, by Mary, wife of William of Orange, and quickly became popular with women of the Court.

Queen Mary II, wife of William III, Prince of Orange. Painted by Willem Wissing (a Dutch-English court painter and draughtsman).

Macramé had also been a leisure-time occupation of sailors, who were used to tying knots in their work. Undoubtedly their travels around the world helped to spread the knowledge of the craft.

This depiction of sailors involved in doing macramé comes from the book of Kells, which is dated from the early Middle Ages.

In Victorian England, the technique found favor as one of the statutory “accomplishments” of gentlewomen and it was used for heavy and ornate decorations with which fashionable Victorians filled their homes. It gradually waned in Europe, but was revived in a more robust, equally attractive form in the late 19th and 20th Century in and around Turin and Genoa. It is now one of Italy’s more popular traditional crafts.

Macramé is the knotting of threads or cords to produce decorative and functional art and craft items. Though it may appear complex, macramé is quite simple and easy to learn. There are a few basic knots and several variations to be remembered. Once these knots are learnt, you can design an endless variety of objects from jewelery to hanging planters to wall hangings to clothing.

Macramé materials should be flexible enough to be knotted but not so stretchy that they lose their shape. They may, therefore, include a wide range of cords.

The above macramé cords are suitable for a wide variety of projects. From left to right: Waxed linen, soutache, heavy rattail, four ply, Thai jute, heavy Thai jute, masons’ line, linen, macra-cord, navy cord, waxed nylon, cotton glow cord, macra-line, natural jute and sisal.

Basic macramé tools – scissors, flexible taper, T pins, knotting board (12" x 24”, 20" x 36” and 24" x 48”), rings and cords. Note: 2.5 cm = 1 inch.

The basic knots for a beginner are given below.

Mounting or holding the cord. The length is pinned horizontally across the board so that it is stretched taut with a pin through each knot.

Lark’s head (setting on) knot. The two loose ends are tucked through the loop and the knot is tightened around the holding cord.

Horizontal knotting. It is usual to secure the lark’s head knots with a row of horizontal knotting. (a) Horizontal double half stitches to the right.

Horizontal knotting. (b) Horizontal double half stitches to the left.

Diagonal knotting.

Square (flat) knots. Stage 1.

Square (flat) knots. Stage 2.

Complete square (flat) knots. Stage 3.

Spiral or sennits. These are formed by making only one stage of the square knot, either first or second stage, over and over again.

Overhand knot. This can be done using any number of cords but usually with a minimum of two.

Vertical double half stitches. The filler cords are vertical and the knots are formed by either one of the adjacent knotting cords or by a newly introduced cord.

Knotted chain. This is made by working simple knots around a filler cord, first one to the right, then one to the left so that the filler cord and the knotting cord constantly chain places.

Macramé Projects
The recipe for making the items below can be found in references [1-4]. To make this post brief only a description will be given of each item.


Shopping bag. Finished bag measures ca. 12 inches (30cm) wide (at the widest point), but it can be made to any desired width.

Sampler bag. Finished bag measures approximately 11.5 inches (28cm) square, excluding fringe.

Small bag. Length of bag (excluding fringe and handle) 9.75 inches (24.7 cm) height and 8.5 inches (21.3 cm) width.

Finished purse measures approximately 4.5 inches (11.3 cm) square.

Coverings for handbags.


Tie belt. The belt is intended as a loose-fitting tie belt, and can be made to any length to suit the size of the waist. The center pattern section should be equal to the size of the waist plus 4 inches (10 cm). Beaded tie at each end should equal approximately 9 inches (22.5 cm).

Oriental matted belt and head band.

Bracelet and Belt. Bracelet: Cotton twine, 3 oval polished wooden beads (25 x 14 mm) and nine small round wooden beads. Belt: cotton twine, metal ring (2.5 cm) in diameter and 8 oval polished wooden beads (25 x 14 mm) and 24 small round wooden beads. Note 1 inch = 25 mm.

Leather Thong Belt.

Multicolored belt.


Earthly found object necklace, macraméd with wax linen and leather.

Sweep of Hackle feathers frames 76 carats of smoked topaz quartz double half stitched together with wax linen.

Persian color.

Choker. Length from center back fastening round to center from drop is approximately 12 inches (30 cm); width at the sides of the choker (excluding beads) is approximately 2 inches (5 cm).

Pendant necklace.

Wax linen necklace.


Starburst Necklace.

Sea and Sand Necklace.

Berries and Beads Necklace.

Josephine knot necklace of wax linen displaying old Chinese coins.

Wall Hangings

Wall hanging. Measures approximately 22 inches long (excluding fringe) and 10 inches wide.

"Meteora" - Wall Hanging.

"Sea Life" - Wall Hanging.

"Allacciare" - Wall Hanging.

Detail of Wall Hanging.

Miniature Wall Hanging.

Multicolored Wall Hanging.

Tree Hanging.

Household Artefacts

Window shade. Made in jute yarn, the design allows the light to filter through. The open motif in the centre can be hung with a large shell, a bead or some other interesting object. The shade measures 75 cm (29.5 inches) wide by 91 cm (36 inches deep), including the fringe.

Oriental Bell Pulls.

Candle Sling.

Outdoor Plant Hanger.

Wall Sculpture.

Wall Sculpture.


Man's Vest.

Child's Sweater.

Mexican Olé Rebozo.

Soft Female Vest.

Pocahontas Dress.

[1] The Basic Book of Macramé and Tatting, Octopus Books, London (1973).
[2] A. Jeffs, W. Martensson and P. North, Creative Crafts Encyclopedia, Octopus Books Pty Ltd (London) 1984.
[3] C. E. Kicklighter and R. J. Baird, Crafts, The Goodheart-Willcox Company Inc. (South Holland) 1986.
[4] Macramé, Editors of Sunset Books, Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park (1976).