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Color types   |   Procedure of coloring   |   Symbolism of colors   |   Abrash

I. Color types

The colors for oriental carpets were derived originally and exclusively from plants (Saffron, Indigo, Henna leaves), natural minerals (ferric oxide, iron vitriol, copper vitriol) and animals (insects, blood, juice of the magenta snail), called natural colors. Since the invention of aniline dye (1826) new methods were made available to carpet manufactures. But only after the color industry in Europe developed new and qualitatively improved methods for this dye, was aniline dye permitted in the East to be used in addition to natural colors. Over time these have slowly displaced the use of natural colors. The reason for it is the large demand for oriental carpets, particularly in the last four decades. The production of oriental carpets with natural color has become too complex and expensive and therefore cannot likely cover large quantities. Only nomads still use natural colors. We find natural dyes in old and antique carpets as well.

II. Procedure of coloring

The wool is cooked first in water for a half hour, to which one adds about 3% caustic solution (soap or soda), in order to clean and degrease it. Subsequently, it is put into an alum bath (tendered sulphate) for 12 hours. Afterwards the wool is dipped either again for 12 hours into a second alum bath or cooked therein for one hour. By this procedure the wool becomes receptive for the color substance. The actual color bath is prepared by the powder which is made up of those plant parts for a half hour. Then the prepared wool comes into the bath and is cooked for about a half hour. For adjustment the juice of unripe wine grapes is added to the lemons. Now it will cook again for one hour. The wool is left in the tank for about 12 hours to cool down. The period the wool spends in the bath is different depending upon the coloring material. In the end the colored wool is rinsed in flowing water and dried in the penumbra, or with some colors, in the sun.

Ink consumption is not insignificant. Thus one needs 1 kg e.g. during red coloration with Krapp for 4 kg of wool. The quantity varies, according to whether one wants to obtain a bright or dark red. The result of the coloring also depends upon water hardness and wool quality.

III. Symbolism of colors

ColorsMeaning & production
Joy, luck, wealth, fire, courage

Gained from red oak (rubia tinctorum) in addition, from Henna, berries and soft-flower (carthamus tinctorius, wild saffron), scale insects and blood.
Color of the sky, splendour, strength, power and force; mourning (dark blue)

Gained from the Indian Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria)
Joy of life, colour of the sun

Gained from a lot of herbs, fruits and leaves. The fresh or dried fruit peels contain a pigment, which colours the wool lively yellow. The high tannin content of these fruit peels increases colour stability. Most frequent natural products: garnet apple skins, saffron, camomile, alder. The female cymose, unripe fruits and fresh crust result in a yellow colour together with alum.
Humility, devoutness, colour of the Dervishes

Orange is a mixture of red and yellow in addition, than 'bronze-yellow', which is gained from saffron or cross thorn berries engaged with blue vitriol.
Innocence, purity, cleanliness of the heart, selflessness, release from sins

This colour is rarely used wide. It tends rather to ivory or creme. Natural wool or silk provide the purest white.
Colour of the earth

Natural wool, camel and goat hair supply the colour brown. Otherwise one colours wool with green nutshell, oak crust and onion peels.
Mourning, grief and death

From the wool of a black sheep. Dark colours, particularly black, one gains from gall nuts in connection with a ferric oxide containing mordant. Black is rarely used as basic colour, mostly just for sample outlines.
GreenColour of the prophet, hope, paradise, Faith and renewing.

Green is gained as mixed colour of yellow and blue, e.g. from Isperek and Indigo. Since green symbolises a holy colour, it is used rarely as basic colour and stepped with feet. It is used however in many shades for elaboration of single motives.

IV. Abrash

Nomads still use only those colours which nature in its direct environment offers them. However, depending on the lifestyle of each tribe, only a small quantity of wool can be dyed with a limited colour substance. Therefore, the wool's colour intensity becomes irregular. This has the consequence that sometimes colour nuances appear in a carpet in the form of lines, called Abrash. These deviations are now and again very delightful, if they do not arise too frequently or glaringly.

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