A Stunning Collaboration of Rare Fiber and Ancient Craftsmanship.
Skilled weavers in India began thinking about making rare rugs from Alpaca fiber back in 2012. In 2015 after experimenting with Huacaya Alpaca fiber the weavers discovered Suri Alpaca Fiber. They soon fell in love with Suri fiber, it has the luster and straight silky locks they were looking for and so many natural colors to work with.
The rugs use Suri fiber of 29 microns and above and a length of at least 4 inches, in all colors. The fiber is supplied by Liz Vahlkamp, North American Suri Company to the rug manufacturing company, which is fittingly located in what is known as the carpet city of India, Bhadohi.
FIBER AND YARN
Upon its arrival in Bhadohi the Suri fiber is inspected and then divided and mixed to create different shades. The natural color of white is used as the base and then blended with the remaining 22 natural colors to create well over 100 shade options. These new blends are then re-packed and start their journey to becoming a luxury area rug. The next stop will be close to 600 miles away to Bikaner, a district in the state of Rajasthan, where the fiber will be washed, carded and spun.
RUG MAP/ CAD
While the fiber is being prepared a map of the rug is created to determine how much of any one color is needed for each rug and to create a pattern. The map similar to graph paper is comprised of small squares. Each square represents a knot. In one inch there are 11 square blocks for a total of 121 blocks per square inch.
These maps are either printed or hand painted by brush block by block. The weavers follow the map and the rug is woven block by block or knot by knot to get the desired design.
50-100 spinners from different neighboring villages, usually women, go the Bikaner factory to collect the fleece, between 8 am-11am on weekday mornings. Each spinner gets between 5-10 lbs of fiber they take home to spin. They return back within a week with finished yarn. This has been happening for decades in the same manner. The spinners are accomplished at spinning wool but Suri is a little different, those who have mastered spinning Suri are paid more.
Shahab Brothers Industries, a family business consisting of Shahabuddin Ansari and his six sons has been creating rugs for over 80 years for four generations. The art of weaving is passed from father to son. Since this area of India is the carpet city most houses have looms and the environment surrounding children is weaving. The children spend time on the loom, learn to knit and then the art of weaving then follows.
Shahab Brothers has over 200 employees that work in their Campus, with another 300 working indirectly outside of the campus. Most men weave, but 30-40% of women also weave. Women are more involved in the spinning and sometimes coloring of the maps. This allows the women to work from home.
Weaving is done on a vertical loom. Before the weaving begins, the warp is done outside the loom, weavers put 2 sturdy metal rods in ground spaced 20-30 feet apart, and one small rod in the middle to make the warp, looks like symbol below. Then it is put on vertical loom and the weaving begins, knot by knot ( block by block ) picking color one by one. It takes apx. 6 months to complete weaving of a 120 knot per square inch rug. If the rug is large more than one weaver will work on the rug.
The Persian Knot or Senneh Knot is a single knot technique allowing a more rounded elegant design. Knots are measure per square inch or KPSI
Once the weaving is done, the rug is inspected for any broken patterns, quality and straightened, if needed.
The rug is washed twice to get the perfect shine and feel.
To wash one 8 x 10 rug, it takes 2-3 washers who spent 4-5 hours to wash one rug. The rug is then rolled and put vertical overnight, the next day it is opened in the sun to dry. This process takes 2-3 days of sun to dry a rug.
STRETCHING AND STRAIGHTENING
After the drying, the rug is stretched and straightened, this kind of straightening is minor to make sure the rug motifs and line are straight and aligned.
After stretching, the rug pile is clipped to give it a nice even look. Twenty years ago, the clipping was mostly done by hand with scissors. These days most of the trimming is by machine, but scissors are used also.
After the clipping is complete then the rugs are bond or warp strings are tied into fringe. The rugs also have a Suri label stating care description, materials used, year it came off the loom, size and KPSI.
A line of modern designs is currently being developed, along with the beautiful more traditional designs currently offered.