Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On the edge: Rebuilding a Kilim's Fringes

Rugs, in some ways, are like people.  We are solid, strong, and close to indestructible at our core, but at the edges - those places where we are most exposed and where we most directly meet the world - at the edges are where we are most fragile and where we can literally unravel and come undone.  (NB: Tortured analogy ends here.)

Below is a picture of a kilim suffering that exact fate.  Notice how the fringes are completely missing, frayed, and altogether damaged in other areas.  Perhaps even more significant, notice how in the areas where the fringes are missing, the field of the kilim is starting to unravel.  Fringes, while decoratively pleasing at the edges of the rugs and kilims, are much more that simple adornments.  They serve a very real function - they prevent the field (the core, if you will) of a rug or kilim from being damaged.

Fringes are technically part of the warp of a rug ( or kilim ).  The warp is made up of the vertical yarns that, together with the weft, form the "backbone" of the rug.  When a rug or kilim is cut off a loom, the warp yarns that remain at the ends of the piece are what are known as fringes.  Often, once a rug or kilim is cut off the loom, a weaver will bind the fringes and, sometimes, even decoratively knot the fringes.  The binding and knotting is meant to provide extra protection against the risk that the field of the rug or kilim will unravel.

We restored the damaged fringe area of this kilim by creating a temporary loom on  which we extended warp strings into the field of the kilim.  This is a very time-intensive task, but one that will go a long way to protecting the edge of the restored kilim.  When the reconstruction of the fringe was complete, we added a simple braid knot at the edges for aesthetic purposes, but also for further protection.  Below is a picture of the final result of our kilim fringe restoration.