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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pull the rug out ... and repair it

By Krys Stefansky
The Virginian-Pilot
July 31, 2011

Sometimes magic carpet rides fall to earth. Beautiful, patterned Oriental rugs, even expensive, high-quality ones from the far reaches of the globe, have accidents.

Bound edges come undone from wear or mishap. Furniture and foot traffic wear down their pile.

Fringe gets caught in doors, tangled in vacuum cleaners, gnawed by four-legged friends.
No matter how painstakingly they are made – by villages or nomads, on looms of wood or metal, knotted in the Persian style or Turkish, hand tufted or machine-made – eventually, they are dirtied by shoes, spilled on by partygoers, spit up on by crawling babies, tinkled on … and worse … by naughty pets.

Rugs with spots and rips or entire missing chunks make their way to rug repair rooms, if they’re lucky.

There, attention and mending makes them presentable again. Their once-dilapidated state stops being an embarrassment to their owners. Lovingly restored, they return to full glory.
But a good transformation doesn’t always happen without some homework.

Choose a rug restorer with care; No. 1 is the shop’s reputation. No.  2 is to ask and decide whether they really sound knowledgeable. No.  3 is to ask to see other repairs they have done. There are a lot of companies that do the wrong things.

The workrooms at Mark Gonsenhauser’s Rug & Carpet Superstore in Virginia Beach stay busy.
“When a rug comes in for cleaning and is damaged as well,” Gonsenhauser said, turning to a computer in his showroom, “we begin here.”

A menu of services offers spruce-ups like deodorizing, moth-proofing, mildew treatments, urine removal, color touch-ups, hand-serging, patching, turning fringe under. The list goes on and on.
“This is America,” Gonsenhauser said, joking. “You can have what you want.”

Most often, Oriental rugs are re-fringed, rebound, straightened, rewoven or cleaned, he said. Customers looking to protect their original investment often say, “Do whatever it is that you need to do.”
Back in the 1970s, Gonsenhauser, who learned the rug business from his father, studied the art of rug repair in Iran.

Owning a rug that looks a bit disheveled doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been abused.
The finest and best rugs will eventually show wear, he said. The sides of an Oriental rug – the bound edges, or selvages, that act like bumpers on cars – come undone or wear thin with time. If the selvage damage gets bad and eats into warp and weft (the threads that form the rug’s canvas backing), the patterned edges of the rug itself might need reweaving and re-piling. At the ends of the rug, fringe wears off and, if left unattended, so do the warp threads of the rug itself.
“In our business, it’s a stitch in time saves nine,” Gonsenhauser said. “You have to catch the damage before it gets worse.”

Taking action sooner rather than later is advice common to the business.

To make repairs to a rug’s pile, Gonsenhauser’s rug restorers use wool imported from India, Nepal or England and wools that are semi-worsted, hand-spun and machine-spun. The options allow restorers to capture subtleties in color and thickness.

“This is the heart of our repairing,” he said, touching hanks of different kinds of wool hanging from racks. “You’ve got to have the wool.”

Gonsenhauser also keeps a stack of salvaged pieces of old rugs so that, rather than reweaving, which can become expensive, patches can be fashioned.

Upstairs in his repair shop, an antique, 150-year-old Persian Hamadan colored with vegetable dyes was recently restored down to the warp and weft threads, which were rewoven before carefully selected strands of wool in varying shades were knotted, two strands at a time, into the canvas to re-pile the rug.

Typically, repair work is hardly more modern than the tools and techniques originally used to make the rug.

In this case, the area being worked on lay over a section of pipe. Beeswax lubricated the curved needles or hooks going through the tight canvas. Knots were tied by hand. Simple pairs of scissors snipped the wool to the right height.

Success or failure lies in the hands of the person doing the repair.

“To do it right, you’ve got to have a sense of mix and match and of how to monkey around a little bit to get the wool right, the color right, the knots right. To be a good restorer, you have to be in tune with the rug,” Gonsenhauser said. “You’re always learning another trick. It’s ultimately in the eye and hands. Anybody can make wine, but certain people make great wines. It’s the same thing here.”

The cost of minor repairs can be small compared to the original cost of a rug.

Gonsenhauser pulled a machine-made Karastan out of a storage bin. A 1-inch-diameter hole had to be rewoven. It would cost the owner $120 to re-pile the spot and $99 to clean the 6-by-9-foot Karastan, a small investment for a rug that once sold for $1,800.

Some damage can’t be pinned on a single incident. It can come from a lack of regular care and can be prevented at home.

People think rugs wear out from frequent walking on them.
“In reality what goes wrong is that sand gets into the pile and acts as an emery board, cutting off the wool,” Gonsenhauser said.

He recommends that, besides regular vacuuming, every six months or so rug owners employ a simple trick. Flip the rug and vacuum the back. Dust and sand will fall out onto the floor, where it can be swept up and the rug’s pile freed of abrading debris.

Mark Gonsenhauser's Rug and Carpet Superstore 
4153 Virginia Beach Blvd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23452

Website: http://www.igotyourrug.com/ 

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