From sheep to rug––it is an interesting process that not many people think about when browsing for a new rug. The techniques used in wool rug-making date back thousands of years, and not much has changed in the process aside from the technology used. Around the world, wool rugs are cherished, as they have many beautiful qualities compared to some other fibers. Wool is long-lasting, easy to care for, and most importantly for some, it is an environmentally-friendly, sustainable product.
Millions of sheep in New Zealand graze the vast fields and mountains, waiting to be sheared when it is time. Resonnaire Home only uses pure New Zealand wool, one of the highest quality wools known today. Further down, you will learn more about what makes New Zealand wool so unique and the process of going from sheep to yarn for the use of rug-making.
The History of Wool Rugs
Nomadic tribes of central Asia were the first to use wool to create rugs. Due to the freezing temperatures, the nomads didn’t entirely utilize rugs like we do today. Historically, wool rugs were used for functional and survival purposes, such as for tent flaps, tent flooring, saddlebags, and keeping warm in the harsh weather. The use of sheep’s wool to make products dates back to 10,000 B.C., when the domestication of livestock for agricultural purposes began. The oldest known carpet, made from wool, is called the Pazyryk carpet, which comes from the fourth or fifth century B.C. from the mountains of Siberia. Travelers can see this work of art today at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
Traditional Persian and Oriental rugs are made from sheep’s wool and are often given intricate, embedded designs with silk, gold thread, and other materials. After wool rugs became well-known outside the nomadic people, they were considered valuable and used in trading. Nobels looked upon Persian and Oriental rugs as prestigious luxury pieces and requested hand-made rugs for their palace. Historically, wool rugs were used in religious and celebratory ceremonies and became a huge part of Asian and European culture.
While sheep’s wool was, and still is, used to make most rugs, other animals also contribute to the rug-making process, such as rabbits, goats, and camels. There are only a few specific areas around the globe that produce the sheep used in most rug-making wool.
From Sheep to Rug
There are over 900 breeds of sheep, and only a few have the qualities and characteristics needed to produce the wool used in rugs. According to the sheep experts at Savvy Farm Life, “the best sheep breeds for wool depends upon the intended use for the wool.” The most popular breeds of sheep used for wool include:
- Booroola Merino
- American Cormo
- Blue Faced Leicester
Sheep that are bred for their wool need to live in an optimal environment. Several factors depend on the quality of wool, such as the altitude and weather, the sheep’s age and diet, and the time of year the sheep are sheared. Autumn is the best time to shear sheep for wool for textile production.
Wool from the sheep’s shoulder is most often used for rug-making, as it is the longest and softest part of the sheep’s body. Only the best quality sections will be processed. After the sheep are sheared, the fleece will be washed to remove dirt and fat. Next, the wool is sorted by what weavers can use and can’t. Carding occurs next, which helps align the fibers before the wool gets combed. Next, a weaver spins the fleece into single threads of yarn, which can be done in one of three ways, depending on what it will be used for. Many Moroccan wool rugs like our Atlas are made from New Zealand wool.
Many traditional wool rugs are hand-made, even today. However, technology is a convenient way to help the process along. Designers create rug designs on computers, where they decide what the rug will look like and what colors it will be. The wool yarn is dyed whatever colors are necessary, sometimes with natural dye, while synthetic dyes are also used.
Finally, weavers can begin their process. They are given life-size designs, materials, and tools to work with to create a rug. After completing the rug, washing and hand-carving occur; this ensures the wool rug will be free of any uneven pieces.
Hand-weaving a rug takes several days. The precision and technique that go into weaving a wool rug show in the quality and durability of the rug itself.
Are Wool Rugs Sustainable?
Because wool comes from sheep, it is considered a natural, sustainable product. Here are key facts from the International Wool Textile Organization on the sustainability of wool.
- Wool products have long lifespans, meaning they are used or worn longer than other textile fiber products.
- Wool textile products tend to be spot treated frequently at lower temperatures which has a lower impact on the environment.
- Wool is readily recyclable: with a market share of 1,3% of all textile fibers, wool claims 5% within the recycled fibers market share!
- Wool biodegrades readily on land and in water – as a protein-based fiber, wool does not contribute to microplastic pollution.
The New Zealand wool that Resonnaire’s rugs are made from offers these benefits and more. Their gorgeous selection of hand-woven, soft wool rugs is just what you are looking for. Many of their wool rugs come in six different sizes, and potential customers have the option of ordering a swatch of material to test out. Whether you are looking for an entire wool rug or one that combines wool, bamboo, and silk, Resonnaire has the best selection.