Without vibrant and radiant colors, Oriental rugs would likely be less desirable works of art. The traditional art of dyeing allows for the magnificent decorative effects seen in rugs. Family recipes for specific colors have been closely guarded and often passed down from generation to generation.
Most rugs contain either natural or synthetic dyes. Natural dyes are made from vegetable or mineral sources. Madder root, saffron, pomegranate, walnuts, indigo and iron oxide are all used in the creation of natural dyes. Synthetic dyes are made from either aniline or chrome. Aniline dyes are derived from chemical processes rather than from natural resources. Developed around 1940, chrome dyes use potassium bicarbonate and come in a wide range of rich colors.
Until the late nineteenth century, only natural dyes were used for coloring weaving yarns. Synthetic aniline dyes made from coal-tar were brilliant, inexpensive, and easy to use; however, they faded rapidly with exposure to light and water. When chrome dyes came along, they were proven colorfast and non-corrosive to the wool.
Today, mostly chrome synthetic dyes are used to color weaving yarns. Natural dyes are used in places where they are easily obtainable. Sometimes the two types of dyed yarns are used side by side in the same piece.
For both dye types, vats of water are hand–fired and then the dye is added to the water. The yarn is then placed into the boiling mixture and stirred around until it reaches the desired color. Next, it is removed from the vat and hung on lines to dry in the sun. Once the yarn is dry, weaving can begin.