Oval Rugs

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Round and oval rugs are, for the most part, more typical of the 19th century than any other. The earliest nonrectangle floor covering, however, is a 16th-century Mamluk. These rugs were woven in Egypt and without exception featured a medallion motif in their centers.

Round and oval rugs were also woven on French looms during the 17th and 18th centuries. These--known as Aubusson and Savonnerie style rugs--also featured center medallions. In China, round rugs began appearing in the 19th century in Beijing and Tientsin. In the past 40 or 50 years, round rugs have also begun appearing out of Iran, specifically the cities of Tabriz, Esfahan, and Nain. The motif is almost without exception medallion.

America's Oval Rugs

The most common style in oval rugs, however, is more rustic. An early 19th-century tradition in America, braided floor coverings were made at home from leftover scraps of cloth, most often wool. The distinctive patterns and artistry came from how the rug maker chose to combine the colored scraps of cloth. Once arranged, the cloth was plaited into long cords. The cords were then stitched patiently by candlelight into floor coverings. Sometimes circular, the final shape was more often oval.

Braided rugs often had great sentimental value. One story is told of the grandmother who visited the family to whom a rug had been given just to see the rug, because it had been made from "Ira's clothes and Emily's pretty dresses." Thick and warm, the charming homemade rugs were both an insulator against the cold and comfortable to walk on.


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