As rug lovers, collectors, and restorers, we greatly appreciate the sentimental value that rugs can have, but are also conscious of the need to be mindful of cost considerations. There are instances when we have to advise clients that - from a purely economic perspective - it is not cost effective to repair or restore a rug. In instances when a rug is too worn or has damage that is too extensive, then it is necessary to consider alternatives to repair. For machine-made rugs, the answer would be to discard them. For handmade rugs, discarding them is hardly ever the answer. This is yet another wonderful advantage of handmade rugs. They have life beyond their original purpose.
So what can be done with rugs or kilims that are beyond repair? If the rug is not too fragile, we recommend to first clean the rug so that it is ready for its repurposing. Then, there are several options:
(1) Pillows and floor cushions. A quick look through any home magazine, home decor blog, or high street store will reveal a trend close to our hearts here - the rug or kilim pillow and cushion. These are made by carefully cutting damaged or worn rugs and kilims, binding a simple edge along the cut sections, sewing a backing onto the "recycled" piece, and inserting a cushion insert. The result is a one-of-a kind cushion or pillow that is both traditional in its handmade past, but is also modern for its "recycled" creation. Many people buy rug pillows already pre-made, but there is no reason why an owner of a damaged rug can't make his or her own pillows and cushions out of a treasured rug.
(2) Patchwork pillows or rugs. This form of repurposing is a more ambitious alternative to the first option outlined above. One could take several sections from an old rug or kilim and patch them together into a large pillow, or even another rug. This is the rug world's answer to quilting. The patchwork rugs that are popular today illustrate how modern and beautiful this repurposing can look.
(3) Hanging. Rug hanging is a common way to decorate homes in many parts of the world. In Russia, for example, a large warm rug hanging on a wall behind a sofa is nearly as ubiquitous as rugs used for floor coverings. This is a good solution for rugs or kilims that are too fragile for the floor. Just be careful to distribute the rug's weight evenly so as not to damage the rug even more.
(4) Unraveling for kilim or rug restoration. This alternative is close to our hearts and may not be as practical for everyone. But, for us, when we come upon an old kilim that is beyond repair, we unravel the uncompromised yarns from undamaged sections to use them in new restoration projects. This is a great way to ensure that the yarns we use for restoration projects result in newly woven sections that can blend in with an older rug's muted palette.