We restored an exceptional antique Mahal carpet located at Oriel College. It took around three months to complete this project. The carpet was woven in around 1880 and had obviously been used and enjoyed tremendously during its time!
Before we could begin to think about the repair work we needed to give this carpet a really good clean. The hand cleaning process is very important for a number of reasons. Firstly we need to be able to see the real colours of the wools so when matching the colours we get it right. Also, ridding all of the dirt from the foundations is important so the repairers can work much quicker as the pile of the rug will be reset so we can clearly see where all of the damage is.
We had to remove a lot of the old foundations of the rug which had unfortunately started to rot. This is very common when a carpet gets to a certain age and the wool has worn away leaving bald spots. The warp and weft can then be damaged by any sort of footfall which in turn creates holes in the rug. This can create a big issue which really needs to be attended to as soon as possible.The carpet did have signs of some old repair work which had been done many years ago.
The repairers needed to attach the rug to a placed sized loom and attach new wool foundations. They then needed to match the exact type of handspun wool to match what was used in the original weaving process. This is very important as if the wrong type of wool is used it then will look very different to the rest of the carpet. The dying process is also very important as it is key to get the right colour matches. Natural flower and vegetable dyes were used to mix together the perfect combination of colours to then dye the wool the correct colour. The wools then need to dry so the colours will attach themselves to the wools as to reduce fading. We can then re-pile the rug to match the design that was once there.
A good repair will never devalue an old rug if it is done correctly. As you can see from these images of the before and after shots we took the repairers did a marvellous job in bringing this carpet back to life. It's always very important an old rug still retains its look and this is key in good restoration work.