Fibre Quality and the Carpet Value

Carpet weaving is one of the most ancient human crafts, and the basic techniques of weaving remain the same today. There is kilim (flat weave), sumuck (needle design on the kilim foundation) and rug (pile weaving).
The main material used to create a weave is wool, although later cotton and silk were added to the process. Wool is usually sheep wool; however, goat and camel wool are sometimes used. The quality of the wool has an important role in the quality of the final product. As such, it is important to know what type of wool has been used in the carpet you are buying.

Different Types of Wool

1. Wool from Live Animals

In both nomad (tribal) and village situations people wash their sheep in the nearest river.
Shearing begins in June and continues until late July. The fleeces are left to soak for several days before being washed in the river or spring. They are then beaten with sticks, and spread out in the sun to dry. Once dry, the wool is combed and spun to the required thickness.
The season in which the sheep is shorn is important. Wool shaved from sheep in winter is rougher because the sheep needs to keep warm. This type of wool creates a coarser carpet and therefore is not suitable for finer carpets. Wool shaved from sheep in the spring is softer, which is more suitable for carpet production. Lamb wool is the best quality wool, and thus the most expensive. Most of the fine pieces are made from this type of wool.

2. Wool from Livestock Used For Food

Wool shaved from the skin of dead sheep (after the sheep has been slaughtered for food) is processed in two steps. First, the top coat is shaved. While it looks the same as wool shaved from live sheep, it is drier and more brittle and has no lustre, which is reflected in a lower price.
The next step is shaving the remaining hair from the skin in a tannery. In this process all the remaining hair is removed by chemicals and sold on. This kind of wool is not long solid fibre; it is broken wool. This type of wool is mixed with chemical fibre and spun under oil spray to create yarn for carpet making.
This type of wool is mainly used for mass-produced lower quality carpets. They may look the same as a good quality wool carpet, but their lifespan is very short. They lose their colour and lustre quickly, in contrast to quality wool carpets, which become more beautiful through the years.
This is a general overview of wool production; there are other factors involved in grading the wool. However, the key takeaway is to always look at the quality of the wool used when comparing carpets. On the surface two rugs may look similar, but may use very different types of wool, which will be reflected in the price.
As an example, let us compare two separate swatches of carpet, both one square metre in size and requiring 5 kilos of wool. The lower quality carpet may use wool valued at £5/kilo, so the cost of wool will be just £25. However, the highest quality wool could cost £40/kilo, increasing the price of the swatch to £200 – eight times as much.