Wool Rugs

Wool is one of the most commonly used fibers for rugs and also one of the most durable. It’s a good choice for a high-traffic area like a living room or dining room because it’s resilient, yet it’s still incredibly soft and comfortable. Wool rugs are naturally water and dirt repellant, and because the fiber is elastic, it bounces back to its original shape quickly. They are available in a range of different pile heights and styles, and are often combined with other fibers to bring down the cost of the rug, as a pure wool rug can be quite expensive. Wool rugs are one of the oldest types of rugs, the original hand-knotting technique dating back to BC times. By definition in most textile texts: fibers from various animals including sheep, goats, camel, alpaca and llama. According to the Wool products labeling act textiles made with wool must list the source of their fibers. There are many different breeds of sheep and the wool from each breed has different qualities and characteristics. Considering the differences helps when determining which type of wool you are working with. Because of the handcrafted nature of wool rugs, they tend to be more expensive than synthetic fibers. But because they are durable, they will last a lifetime. In fact, many antique and heirloom rugs are made from wool.

Because wool is highly durable, wool rugs can be used virtually anywhere in the home except areas where moisture may be present, such as kitchens or bathrooms; also, wool rugs are typically spot-clean only. Wool rugs are ideal for living rooms, bedrooms, hallways, and stairs.

As many of you deal with how to care for these fibers. Since wool is essentially protein made of amino acids, they are far more complex than cellulose and as such have many more ways to react with chemical dyes. Acid Dyes require some things to be careful about: they are sensitive to high pH so you cannot use the high soda ash recipes that one uses to dye cotton.

Usually an acid is used in the dyeing process. Wool is typically dyed including heat in the recipes as it incurs the best results. This also requires caution to where this process takes place as the acid recipe is reactive. Stainless steel is the vessel of choice. Vat Dyes are used when doing some the natural dyes such indigo as the fibers must sit and absorb the dye but can’t be at a pH too high. Natural Dyes work extremely well on wool fibers but with a mordant of metal like copper, alum, tin or iron. So though the dye source is natural the process still may be toxic. Most wool is subject to shrinkage unless you are dealing with chemically washed wool like Smartwool or Superwash. Be careful of inducing sudden temperature changes as this may affect the wool’s resiliency. Mohair is from angora goats that take dyes beautifully as does Cashmere. They pick up intense colors easily. These fibers are less likely to exhibit felting or matting together as there structure is quite fine.

When talking about sheep’s wool, luster wools such as Cotswold, Lincoln and Romney are used for making carpets as they are hardwearing. Shorter wools are more typically used for clothing like merino, Rambouillet and Polwarth. Wool has good resiliency when it is dry, but not when wet so one must be cautious about any mechanical tension applied while wet”. Alpacas and Angora goats fur in younger animals is softer. Alpaca fiber described as ‘cria’ – the name for baby camelids, will be the softest of the fibers. Where on the animal it was sheared from will determine its softness, with the ‘blanket’ being the best part, it is soft and long. The neck and upper legs fibers are soft, but shorter; this is usually called ‘seconds’. The lower leg fibers and those from the belly has guard hair, and is coarser and usually quite dirty. Alpaca is very soft and has a silky feel. Because it doesn’t have scales like sheep wool, it is less likely to cause the ‘itchy’ feeling some people get from wool. Angora goats produce is mohair. Kid mohair is from the youngest goats and is curlier. Older goats known as ‘Yearling’ is courser and more wavy than curly, and fleece from older animals is known as Adult mohair’ or ‘grown mohair’. Mohair is very shiny. The micron size of the fibers increases with the age of the animal.”

Wool rugs are typically fashioned into these types: hand woven, hand tufted, flat weave, nubby fiber rugs, and cut pile. A wool rug can make the difference between a “ho-hum” abode and a “wow” pad: The secret’s on the floor! Known in the trade as the “fifth wall,” the floor can become a major decorating focal point. Choosing the best type of area rug for living rooms naturally is different from choosing the best type of rug for bedrooms