web has expanded, the number of requests for information that we receive
daily has grown exponentially; thus it has become difficult to respond
personally to every e-mail. Here are a few questions we are asked
The number one question: Can you tell
me where my grandmother's textile (embroidery, tapestry, kimono, etc.)
is from, when it was made, and what it's worth? Can you tell me how to
It normally is impossible to evaluate an old textile from a description,
and nearly as difficult with most JPEG snapshots. Furthermore, I am not
a licensed appraiser prepared to assign values to other people's
properties. If you must know the market value of very special antique
textiles you own, I suggest that you send clear photographs and detailed
condition reports to one of the auction houses listed on my website
Links page. If the items are of a type appropriate for their
sales, most of these specialists will give you complimentary auction
estimates. If you need appraisals for insurance purposes, most
will provide those for a standard fee. If they are unwilling to offer
free estimates, you can probably assume that the item's value is not
substantial. They are unlikely to give serious attention to textiles
such as late 19th century mass-produced jacquard tapestries, or to most
20th century ethnic weavings, embroideries and costume items. Some
auction houses and museums have periodic free "walk-in" appraisal days,
and those provide good opportunities for learning about a mystery piece.
If you wish to sell a textile collection through one of the auction
houses, they will furnish you with information regarding their
commissions, sellers' premiums, storage fees, shipping and insurance
costs and the fees assessed if your items do not sell. Most
of the large auction houses are unwilling to accept just a few items unless they are of quite high value, thus for a majority of pieces,
the on-line e-Bay auction is a reasonable option.
Whenever you obtain an appraisal, you must specify whether you need
to establish the item's market value (auction or wholesale price) or
replacement value (retail price or insurance value), as these vary
considerably. It is unethical for any dealer to appraise an item
he would like to purchase, so if a conflict of interest seems likely,
you need to find another appraiser.
I selectively buy antique textiles that are in good condition. If you are
interested in selling pieces, I will be glad to review photos--but
preferably after you have decided on the approximate prices you wish to
ask. Please remember that no dealer can pay a retail price and then
expect to resell an item. If you send photos, please reduce the file
sizes, so that they are not rejected by our e-mail program.
Detailed close-up photos can be very helpful.
I notice that all of your textiles are priced
on the website, and you say that your prices are firm. You can
still give ME a discount, can't you?
Sorry, but "firm" really does
mean non-negotiable--no haggling and no discounts. I carefully calculate
my investment and expenses, then add a fair profit. My prices are lower
than just about anyone else's for comparable quality, because I am a
private dealer without the overhead of a gallery. One need only
wander through an ACOR or ICOC dealers' fair or large Tribal Arts
exhibition to confirm this. I select pieces with excellent
craftsmanship, superior aesthetics and good condition, and my prices
reflect these factors, as well as age and rarity. I don't offer
bazaar-quality tourist merchandise, and I don't inflate prices so that I
can then reduce them.
My prices are the same for everyone. That means I don't juggle prices to
take advantage of an affluent customer's fat wallet. Prices are
the same for decorators, art consultants, museums, dealers and
collectors. They are the same whether a person buys one textile or
twenty. In fact, a majority of my customers are dealers or designers who
purchase multiple items. When my business began 40 years ago, my
clientele consisted mainly of interior designers, and I have maintained
the same price structure over the years, posting my trade prices on line.
I'm reminded of a merchant friend in North Africa many years ago who gave
me reasonable price quotes, along with a warning that if I ever
questioned a price, he'd never sell me another weaving. Other suppliers
have expressed much the same attitude. When prices are fair, it is
insulting to question the seller's integrity, or imply that he should
not receive a reasonable return on his investment. After all, any dealer
must make a profit to continue in business. So my prices are firm, and
out front for everyone to see. Everyone is free to accept or reject
them. Anyone who considers bargaining an essential part of rug or
textile shopping needs to play that game elsewhere.
The hardest thing about buying old textiles from photos is assessing their
condition. How concerned should I be about flaws on the textiles I
"Condition" is always a
concern when dealing with old textiles, and should always be reflected
in the pricing. Rarely are the genuine ethnographic pieces that
interest collectors in perfect condition, as they were of course used.
During their lifetimes they may have been altered or mended. Thus it's a matter of personal judgment just how much
or how little "wear" is acceptable, how much restoration or
how many repairs are OK. (For a discussion of this issue as it
applies to old kilims and bags, see
I am usually more fussy than most dealers, and I reject piles of
textiles because they are dirty, stained, too worn, or badly repaired.
Instead I pay a premium for unusual pieces in excellent condition or I buy pieces that
can be successfully restored. But with rare old pieces we may have to be a bit forgiving. Sometimes only fragments
have survived, and indeed
we can be thrilled to have those. When textiles are framed, some condition
problems are minimized, as the works then take on a more "precious"
aura. In general, I can say that I want the overall appearance of each
piece to be attractive. I don't like to offer textiles for sale
that are dingy, stained, badly faded or ragged. Recently, however,
I started a separate website Unrestored Collectibles
section in which I am offering a few Middle Eastern tribal bags and
kilims that have NOT had their flaws repaired. Those pieces are offered
"as is," primarily for people who have some restoration or
conservation skills. The condition of these pieces is reflected
in the pricing.
Occasionally someone tells me that they want an "old faded piece." They
fail to understand that with antique kilims, for example, old vegetable
dyes are clear and strong in the best collectors' pieces. It's usually
more recent, synthetic-dyed examples that have faded, because those dyes
were used improperly. Frequently, in today's marketplace we find
recent pieces that were too gaudy for the market and that have been
artificially bleached or "sun faded." These items inevitably have an
insipid, washed-out, granular surface.
The matter of small flaws comes up in an odd way with Japanese kimonos, in
which gorgeous pieces that were terribly expensive originally may be
available to us only because they have a tiny tea stain or two. A
hand-painted piece that may have sold for $4000 to $8000 originally,
when it was made, we might now be able to sell for $400-$800! Without
that small area of discoloration, we might not have the piece.
Heavily embroidered wedding kimonos that cost $25,000 to $40,000
originally, and routinely RENT for $1500 a day for weddings in Japan, we
can sometimes sell for $800 to $1500... usually because of an
insignificant spot on a sleeve, lapel or hem that is actually hidden
when the piece is displayed.
In my website write-ups I try to describe any condition problems
that aren't obvious in the photos. Routine tribal repairs and excellent
quality restoration, however, are not always spelled out. If
you require mint condition, it is probably wise to inquire.
Why are some textiles marked
HOLD on your website? How do I know what's currently available?
A HOLD designation
usually indicates that a purchase transaction is underway. Thus pieces on HOLD are normally sold,
but there's always a chance that they might become available. Just
let me know if you are interested in such a piece. Unfortunately, when
things are hectic here I sometimes forget to mark pieces, and so it is
best to check with me on the availability of items you're
considering. Please don't ask me to hold pieces while you make up
your mind about them. Because of the numerous inquiries about website
items that we receive daily, that has become difficult. It is
always wise for designers or art consultants who wish to present pieces
to their clients to check with me first about their availability.
I update the website nearly every day, either adding or removing textiles.
It is possible, though, for you to be looking at old, outdated web pages.
Search engine caches sometimes store old pages for long periods;
also, your computer may be retaining web pages in its memory, so
that you see last week's or last month's pages instead of the most
recent versions. To see current material on any of the pages,
click Refresh while holding down your Shift key.
Would you please
notify me when you have acquired textiles that you think I might like,
or have added new things to the website?
Just about everyone who has ever bought a textile from us asks that I do
Since I am adding pieces to some part of the website almost every
day, however, notifying individuals has
become nearly impossible. I don't want to promise what I can't deliver, so please check out your favorite sections periodically. In some website sections a surprising number of pieces have
been selling within a day or two of being posted.
Some of the most wonderful pieces don't show up the best in photos, and
may stay on the site for quite a while. Then inevitably three
people want them at once!
Your kilims are in such
perfect condition it's hard to believe they aren't new. How do you
know the pieces you have collected are antiques?
inordinate amounts of time and energy tracking down rare antique pieces
in good condition, I’m flabbergasted when someone then suggests they
must be new. Virtually all 19th century kilims either have damaged
areas or have been repaired, and I pay top dollar to have only the most
skilled restoration work done on my pieces. Or I do the work
myself. Perfect reweaves and
repairs of damaged areas are the goal, and should be extremely difficult
to detect. The most frequently rewoven areas occur where brown dyes
have corroded the wools.
Distinctive palettes provide the first major difference between
excellent old kilims and newer products. Wonderful old natural-dye
colors with a range of subtleties are radically different from garish
synthetic-dye palettes. In the best old pieces the colors are clear,
not faded. It’s normally synthetic-dyed pieces that have faded or
have been bleached. In the best old pieces the weaves are refined,
while a majority of modern examples are more coarsely constructed. Antique kilims display lustrous combed and handspun wools,
while dull machine-carded and machine-spun wools are typical of modern
pieces. Design evolution and aesthetics are also important factors in
assessing age, but these aspects can only be judged after significant
study in the field.
If we put a good antique kilim alongside a modern example, just about
anyone can recognize the quality differences. But for someone not
familiar with both modern production and good antique pieces, it is
difficult to make judgments about an isolated piece, especially from
photos. My background as a weaver and 40 years of looking through
thousands of kilims and bags in the Middle East allow me to confidently
identify the finest craftsmanship, materials, and dyes. Thus I’ve been
able to gather choice pieces and present a collection of museum-quality
It has now become extremely difficult to find good early pieces. For
years dealer friends in Turkey have been proclaiming the antique kilim
business “finished.” Now it really is true. Good pieces just don’t
appear in the open market in Turkey anymore and lots of folks scramble
to grab the occasional good piece that surfaces.
How accurate are your website
textile photos? Do they really look like the
JPEG photos of textiles on the web is a major challenge! I don't
want anyone surprised or disappointed when opening packages with pieces
they have ordered. Fortunately, most people tell me that the textiles
are more beautiful than they anticipated. Delicate embroidered
details often do not show up well in photos. Likewise, the luster of
silks or the gleam of metallic yarns may not be apparent on a monitor.
Rich textile textures can rarely be shown adequately. The scale of
large pieces is difficult to convey in small photos, thus powerful large
kilims can easily loose their impact on the screen. These pieces may be
more bold in your rooms than you expect.
We must keep in mind that colors change when we view a textile in
different kinds of light. I photograph pieces with my equipment balanced for daylight conditions, and you should
keep in mind that a textile may look a little "warmer" under your indoor
tungsten lights--the reds a little stronger, for example.
I spend time editing photos so that they represent the textiles
as closely as possible. They are accurate on
any professionally calibrated LCD monitor. Unfortunately
un-calibrated monitors can vary significantly. Colors are overly
bright and saturated on some new
screens, while on older monitors
they are dull. Photos on any screen can look pale and washed out
if there is lots of light in your room. They can look different at
night than during the day. Thus oftentimes folks adjust their
Brightness and Contrast
monitor settings so that they do not see the images webmasters intended.
I'm aware that people differ in their textile color preferences--how
strong or how "mellow" they would like them. Thus if you have questions about colors in the
textiles you are considering, it is wise to discuss specific pieces with
I should note that colors in many rug and textile photos on the web are
much more vivid than in the actual textiles; sellers realize it is
advantageous for their photos to "pop." I have instead normally opted to
reduce the saturation to accurately represent the pieces.
Over the years I have discovered that the occasional individuals who request "more photos" rarely have a serious interest in the
textiles. I try my best to accurately portray each item when I post it,
with whatever kinds of photos best illustrate that particular piece, and
I write accurate condition descriptions. Since my time and energy
are seriously limited, and the website traffic is heavy, I
hope that viewers can understand my reluctance to spend time with
additional photo sessions--especially since within the US I send out
every textile "on approval." Any piece can be
returned if it doesn't meet expectations. This is NOT an eBay
operation in which anyone is stuck with pieces they don't want.
Could you please tell me the safest way to hang a cherished rug (or
tapestry, or embroidery or other textile)? How can I go about
cleaning my textile and repairing damage that it has sustained?
My website page on
Mounting and Hanging Textiles explains the simplest and most
satisfactory ways of hanging most items. People often ask how to hang
pieces without any sewing, assuming that stitching through them must
damage them. Usually, however, the safest methods do involve
stitching--to distribute the weight evenly.
We are often asked for advice on textile
restoration, cleaning and conservation. It is impossible to give
competent advice without seeing your textile at first hand, however, so
please consult with conservators in your area. Your local museum
may be able to refer you to qualified persons. If you wish to wash
a piece yourself, check out Wet Cleaning
Procedures for Textiles & Rugs.
I don't know what to do about
wrinkled old textiles. Is it safe to iron them?
Yes. Almost every type of piece can be carefully pressed on its back
side with a steam iron. Or on the front if you use a press cloth
between the iron and the textile itself. A piece of old sheeting is
ideal for this purpose. I normally use a steamer for kimonos, but
these can also be pressed. Even the African raffia pile cloths can be
steam pressed lightly on the back side
Can you tell us how to protect our antique textiles
Normally I've just replied to this question by stressing that we
need to keep our rugs and textiles out of direct sunlight. If we are
careful about this, the light levels in most of our homes do not pose
significant problems. Then someone asked me whether or not the new LED
bulbs are damaging to textiles. So I contacted Dr. James Henderson, a
lighting technology specialist, to get the most reliable and pertinent
current information. He is a physicist with a long career working for
GE. He is also a textile/rug collector, and so shares our concerns.
According to Jim and other specialists, it is important that we control
the CUMULATIVE exposure to VISIBLE light energy. Our concerns should be
both the exposure TIME and the visible light INTENSITY. Sunlight is far
more damaging than most electric light sources; indirect daylight is
less damaging. I was surprised when Jim told me that contrary to
popular belief, damage from UV rays is almost insignificant, and that we
normally need not worry about UV filters. According to Jim, the use of
LED bulbs does not alter standard light level recommendations. To sum
up: It is the total amount of time that we expose our textiles to
various kinds of light that is important, along with the intensity of
Rather than paraphrase Jim's advice here, I have posted one of his
articles published a few years ago in ORIENTAL RUG REVIEW: "Light
Sources and Fading: A Perspective for Textile Conservation and Display."
Much of this is concerned with determining reasonable museum lighting
standards, but collectors can certainly consider how the recommendations
might apply to displays at home. I have also posted a much more
technical article--a paper on the same subject presented at the Annual
Conference of the Illuminating Society of North America.
Where can we find information on the differences
between natural and synthetic dyes in our textiles?
For the best
comprehensive survey of the natural dyes used in Asian textiles, see
Harold Bőhmer's book, Koekboya: Natural Dyes and Textiles.
Ganderkesee, Germany, 2002.
Dye questions have come up frequently on the Turkotek rug discussion
board. I have posted some of the contributions offered there by
dye specialist Pierre Galafassi. Click
here to read those. I've also listed
links to some of the most pertinent rug board discussions on dyes.
For more, see Turkotek's archive section.
You seem focused on "antique" or at least "old" textiles. Why
aren't you offering more pieces from places where attempts are underway
currently to promote or revive traditional work?
My interest is in genuine ethnographic folk art.
Such pieces are quite different from reproductions of old work,
"revivals," or simply well-crafted copy work. I want inspired,
creative expressions, and unfortunately, in most parts of the world
where fascinating hand-crafted textiles were always an integral part of
the culture, those crafts have now been commercialized until the work is
sterile and boring. Skilled workmanship, adequate design and good
materials are not enough to raise textile production to the level of
art. I am always thrilled to find new work that is inspired,
dynamic and nuanced, but such pieces are rare indeed. To find
superb, creative traditional textile art we must normally look for older examples--pieces produced before the work was corrupted by
commercialism. This is true, unfortunately, of products from all around the world--whether it be Middle Eastern kilims and bags,
Peruvian/Bolivian mantas, Indonesian ikats, Chinese Minority embroidery,
or Native American blankets, to name just a few diverse examples.
I've discussed this issue in more detail in
Criteria for Selecting Tribal Textiles.
My decorator has suggested upholstering a couple of arm chairs with an
Is this practical? Is it a sacrilege?
There are several aspects to consider. First, most
distinguished kilim patterns are so big and bold, that cutting and using
segments of diverse design sections to cover the various parts of a
piece of furniture inevitably creates a scrambled and ineffective
result. If you are drawn to old kilims, I definitely encourage you
instead to consider using one of these dramatic pieces on your floor or
wall, with simpler, complementary fabrics on your chairs. Or hang a
beautiful old tribal bag face or two if your space won't accommodate
These days we hunt diligently to find good antique kilims in excellent
condition, they are increasingly expensive, and it breaks my heart to
see a beautiful piece cut up. Folks ask if I don't have old damaged
pieces that would be suitable. In fact, if the damage is localized,
antique kilims are now universally being restored. More often, however,
damage or wear is spread throughout, so that it's impossible to work
around frayed areas. Anyone absolutely determined to cut up kilims for
upholstery needs to look for new or fairly recent pieces. The problem is,
of course, that the synthetic dye colors of such pieces are normally
garish and the weaves are coarse.
You may feel initially that using bits and
pieces of dramatic old works of textile art in an unexpected context can add
an exotic and unique element to your interior. I understand this
completely. Over time though, you may come to realize that upholstering
with such pieces displays an insensitivity to this wonderful art form and a
lack of respect for the fascinating West Asian tribal cultures represented.
The objects then project negative vibes instead of positive values.
Refined, sophisticated interior design is achieved by introducing unique
antique art and craft objects in a respectful manner. They need to be
presented as would a serious collector or museum.
For me, the same considerations should apply to cutting up ikat weavings,
embroideries, or any other handmade ethnographic textiles and re-purposing
them. To be blunt, we display an arrogance and blatant attitude of
superiority if we present the work of third-world artisans disrespectfully.
Can you imagine facing Indonesian women, for example, and declaring that you
planned to cut up and combine several of their ikat shawls to cover your
lounge chair? What an insult to those artisans! And what a total
lack of aesthetic sensitivity.
I am impressed by your collection of kimonos
(kilims, etc.). How can you certify authenticity?
I'm tempted to answer this one by replying, "We
can't...I made them all last week!" But seriously, realistically, it is
normally impossible to "certify" an exact date, "certify" the
precise origin, or "certify" the quality of any
anonymously produced, hand-crafted object--particularly those with some
age. It requires handling and studying
hundreds--or thousands--of such objects to be able to make valid judgments about
them, their relative aesthetic qualities, their craftsmanship, their
dyes and materials, their probable dates, and their original intended
use. We can only make educated guesses about their origins.
With kimono, for example, it requires study of the individual decorating
techniques of yuzen (resist dyeing with hand painting), shibori
dye), katazume (resist-dye stenciling), kasuri (resist-dyed warps or
wefts), and sumi-e painting to separate hand-decorated
fabrics from machine-printed copies. In some cases experience is
required to separate jacquard loom brocading or machine embroidery from hand
work. Handling the
fabrics is necessary to make judgments about the silks, and study is
required if we are to separate the styles of different eras.
Familiarity with historic design development is crucial in separating
authentic ethnographic garments from those produced purely for the tourist
and export market.
To make value judgments about old tribal kilims, we must study design
evolution within each group, understand and identify the dyes used, be
able to assess several aspects of the weave structures, and judge
craftsmanship, wool quality and the particular kinds of wool processing
Any "certification" is only as good as the experience and the word of the person doing the
"certifying." Thus "Certificates of Authenticity" produced for Customs
processing are usually a joke, as anyone can fill in the blanks on such
a document. If the quality of a vendor's presentation, merchandise
and reputation do not inspire confidence, one might as well purchase the
least expensive products cranked out for the souvenir or export markets
and promoted on eBay or similar venues.
How can I get help in identifying an old
Oriental rug, kilim or bag I've just acquired? (A lucky flea-market
find, perhaps, or an inherited piece...)
You can elicit a variety of opinions by
posting photos of your rug on one of the web's rug discussion boards.
The most active board currently is
(on the Show and Tell Forum).
You need to provide as much information as
possible about the rug's structure (kind of knot, warp and weft
material, etc.). A close-up of the rug's back is useful, as well as a
corner that shows a part of one selvage and end. To identify the kind of
knots used, and
include a knot count, I suggest you read the knotted-pile section on my
Basic Tribal Weaves page. Antique geometric village or
tribal rugs are the main interest of collectors who are
participants, although a few participants also have an interest in old city workshop carpets.
strict non-commercial ground rules prohibit a discussion of market
Can you suggest where to start a rug study?
Can you recommend a good book or two? A good kilim book? How
about information on other textiles?
board conducted a two-week-long discussion of rug books a while back that
you might find interesting. Look under that site's "Salon Archives" for
Salon Discussion Number 19. For my recommendations on kilim books, check
out the Flatweaves Bibliography
on this website. I've included candid commentaries. I've also suggested
three good books for serious beginning pile-rug collectors. On the
website I am gradually providing bibliographic listings for other kinds
of textile: posted so far are resources for researching Japanese
kimono, Chinese costumes, Chinese Minority textiles, African textiles,
Laces, and Southeast Asian textiles. Specialist rug and textile book
dealers are listed on my
Links page. I
recommend that you check out their offerings, because the best
publications are rarely available in your local bookstore.
I'm going on vacation soon to Morocco (or
Turkey, Uzbekistan or elsewhere in North Africa or Asia) and would like
to buy a rug or two. Can you tell me what to look for, how to judge
quality, and how to get a good "deal"?
These are very common questions that are
impossible to answer briefly. If you have not already spent time (months
or years, not days or weeks) learning about hand-woven rugs, you will
find the subject quite complex. You are sure to be a "sitting duck"--the
uneducated tourist that bazaar merchants love. You may do just as well
at your neighborhood rug store at home. Prices may be no higher, and it
is a great advantage to try out pieces in your own rooms where you can
consider them leisurely. Dealers buy from wholesale sources overseas,
and with their experience normally get better quality than do tourists.
New reproductions and outright fakes have become commonplace and can fool even
knowledgeable collectors. Antique rug supplies in some countries of
origin have been nearly exhausted, and some Middle Eastern dealers
search Europe and the US for old examples. When on vacation, it is
reasonable to buy souvenirs. Just don't invest major money unless you
are a knowledgeable collector. If you wish, you are welcome to
write for a complimentary copy of my booklet, Middle-Eastern Tribal
Textiles: Some Notes on Collecting. It's an introduction to the rug
Would you please look at rugs I bought
recently in Kazakhstan (or Azerbaijan, India or elsewhere overseas) and
tell me their value?
Wait a minute...If you just bought them, you
already know that! Merely transporting rugs to a different location does
not alter their values substantially. In the current world-wide rug
market, retail values do not vary greatly from place to place. Merchants
in countries that seem exotic and remote to Americans know how to price
their goods properly, and are likely to have Sotheby's auction
catalogs and HALI
magazines on their shelves, so the chances of finding an antique "sleeper"
are rare. If you add shipping costs and possible customs
charges to what you paid, that total is likely to be
close to current North American or European values. Of course prices
fluctuate along with collecting fads and fashions, and vary depending
upon the kinds of retail outlets involved. Over the years, several
individuals have come to my place with car-loads of rugs that they
have bought in the bazaars and souks while vacationing overseas in hopes
of reselling in the US. They are invariably surprised to find American
retail prices close to the amount they invested, and the quality of
their purchases lower.
I'm concerned about some
irregularities in the design of my kilim (or embroidery, etc.) If the design
is not symmetrical, does that lessen the textile's value?
The short answer is,
"No." We often
hear the old saw, Islamic artists
leave a flaw somewhere in their work, so as not to offend Allah, the only
perfect one. I think that is miss-stating the matter. Rather,
traditional Middle Eastern textile/fiber artists are comfortable with the notion that
they cannot achieve perfection; thus "perfection" is not their goal.
Learning and growing as competent and creative artists is the aim. The
process is more important than the product. Western attitudes differ
significantly as Western weavers, for
example, typically make samples to try out new ideas, then produce the
actual piece using that idea. That is an alien notion to Asian
primitive weavers. Instead, with ethnographic textiles each piece is a learning
experience that quite naturally displays experimentation, occasional miss-steps,
variations, errors, and then accommodations.
Domestic weaving among Middle Eastern tribal women is most often a joint
project, with family members or friends working together. No one
expects two individuals weaving side by side to produce identical results.
One artisan is quite likely to be more skilled than the other. Mothers rarely
correct their daughters' work, but instead point to it proudly when it
appears in their own pieces. Visiting friends who sit for a while and
participate in the weaving may, in fact, add their own unique touches or
"signs" to the work. These additions are looked upon with great
pleasure, as a reminder of that person's friendship. While nomad and
village women often are quick to praise superior work, rarely is anyone
Domestic embroideries such as the colorful Uzbek suzanis are also
frequently shared projects, with separate panels made by two or more family
members or friends; thus when they are assembled, it is to be expected
that the parts are not identical. Rarely are two side borders the
same; rarely are the parts perfectly symmetrical. Some areas may be
more filled with detail than others; it's not unusual to find
occasional small areas left in a sketchy state.
Creative freedom and experimentation are the most important features that
separate ethnographic textile folk art from purely commercial products.
Merchants typically require strict adherence to their dictates in work they
commission, believing that "regularity" above all is what the market wants.
When "cottage industry" or tribal products from anywhere instead manage to retain
the freedom of the traditional art form, allow for the whims of the artists,
and display freshness and vitality, I think we should be grateful indeed.
considering the purchase of a rug (or textile) in a local shop. Would
you please look at a pic, tell me what you think of the piece, and tell
me if the dealer’s price is fair?
Pleeeeze! I simply cannot
evaluate other merchants’ items!
That’s a great way to lose friends, and negative comments inevitably
sound self-serving. It’s
hard enough to manage my own business. I do my best to offer good
pieces at fair prices—prices often lower than elsewhere because I don’t
have shop overhead. I am
willing to give advice when someone is considering my textiles, and I am
willing to compare their relative merits.
I can help distinguish between those textiles or rugs considered
“collectors'” pieces and those that are more purely “decorative.” This
can be an important distinction for novice collectors, but also for
interior designers or art consultants who might like a little assistance
in choosing pieces for specific clients. Although I have an
interest in pile carpets from an academic/research perspective, my
passion is for true ethnographic textiles—and among Oriental rugs that
normally means the old flat weaves.
I’m quite happy to share that passion and the experience accumulated
over the last 50 (gulp!) years.
I need a room-sized rug...Do you have kilims that are at least 9 feet by
Sorry, but I handle only old ethnographic
kilims. Tribal and village weavings were made to suit their
makers' needs, either in tents or small village houses, and thus we
rarely find old kilims wider than about 6 feet; most are narrower still.
Wider looms are very difficult to manage, and thus have been used almost
solely in commercial workshops, where larger products have been made
specifically for export. These are rarely the kinds of weavings that
Thus if you wish to use antique ethnographic kilims in your home, you need
to be flexible and imaginative in the way you arrange your furnishings.
Bold kilim patterns are not displayed to best advantage with furniture
placed on them; it's usually more effective to place a kilim in front of
a sofa or seating group, rather than under it. This kind of
textile folk art needs space around it, as do paintings. Often
room arrangements do well with a couple of smaller kilims, rather than
one large piece. I have found that people who are unfamiliar with
tapestry-woven or brocaded kilims typically begin by looking for pieces
larger than they can use effectively.
If you are hunting for a dining room rug, you probably need to consider
something other than a old kilim, as these are rarely wide enough to
place under a table with chairs on both sides. One good solution:
use a plain floor covering, since it's mostly covered anyway, and hang
dramatic textile art on the walls in that room.
Would you please send me information for a
textile term paper?
I cannot do homework for students; that
is rarely what teachers have in mind when suggesting "internet
research." Nor do I have time to compile bibliographies for specialized
research. That's what library research facilities are for, and most now
provide on-line catalogues. Unfortunately, there is currently very
little in-depth information on historic or ethnographic textiles on the
web. On my Links
page I have listed some of the more interesting internet resources I have
found. But in most cases, students need to begin with library research,
and take advantage of interlibrary loan services if local collections
Could you please send
me information on how to do ikat weaving…how to set up my garage sale
loom...how to start learning to weave...how to do specialized embroidery
stitches…how to learn to spin, etc.?
I’m sorry, but the website business keeps me so constantly busy that I
cannot offer lessons in textile processes, or hunt written materials for
A visit to your local library should produce books that lay out
practical guidance. Weavers’ guilds exist in many areas where both
beginners and advanced craftsmen can get support and guidance; often
these organizations have specialized libraries for their members’ use.
The on-line DMOZ
Open Directory Project has an extensive listing of Guilds; see
links to other textile resources on this site’s
page. A search on
will lead you to several web discussion groups devoted to these and other
textile subjects. If you would just like
to experiment with some simple weave techniques, take a look at my web
page on Building a Frame Loom.
Do I need a rug pad under my kilim? If
so, what kind?
The answer is yes. First, a pad will cushion
the rug a bit and prolong its life. Second, a pad will keep you
from slipping and breaking your neck! Under kilims, I like a thin
rubber pad that grips the floor and also clings to the kilim. One good
product is Rubber Anchor, marketed by Jade Industries. I much
prefer solid rubber pads, although they are a bit more expensive than
open mesh types. You simply trim the pad to the shape of the kilim,
cutting it about an inch smaller on all sides. The rubber cuts easily
with scissors. This material must usually be pieced for larger rugs, as
it is only manufactured in narrow widths. Many rug stores now stock
suitable products. One downside: rubber pads last only a few years. They
eventually dry out, stiffen, and lose their clinging power.
You've mentioned spraying kilims with
to protect them. Where can I get it?
In my opinion, Vectra is wonderful!
It's a petroleum product that can be sprayed on kilims and works much
Scotchguard to prevent soiling. I first discovered this product
when it seemed impractical to use Moroccan flatwoven hambels on the
floor because they included some white cotton. A light misting with
Vectra, however, works wonders. Vectra is also useful for pieces in
heavy traffic areas or in areas where there is a possibility of food
spills. The first Vectra representative I encountered sold me on the
product: He pulled out a Kleenex that looked as though it was straight
from the box--a tissue that he claimed had been sprayed with Vectra. He
poured Coca Cola on it. Well, that Coke rolled around and rolled off!
One light spraying of a kilim supposedly lasts through two or three
washings or cleanings. It does not affect the feel or appearance of the
fabric. Museum folks are reluctant to add any chemical to a textile, but
with a piece that we expect to give hard use, I think it is worth
considering. Where can you get Vectra? If it is not available in
your local rug or fabric shop, you can order a small can with a spray
pump directly from
For anyone living in a tropical climate with high humidity, Vectra
offers another kind of protection: a light spraying can act as a desiccant,
preventing the formation of mildew. Useful indeed!
Finally, why is my e-mail ignored if I send
an anonymous inquiry?
Through the web, I've made many delightful contacts. Anonymous e-mails,
however, are a pet peeve! Why should anyone expect another person
to spend time providing information when he is unwilling to even give
his name? That seems hardly civil, and I, for one, have stopped
responding to such inquiries.
Enjoy the website, thanks for visiting, and happy rug or textile hunting!
It's a fascinating subject!