nr 3/2012

The long pile rug: history and therapy

My latest long pile rug. 175 x 90 cm.











© All rights reserved. Artfool & Lena Adamina Waldau. Info:

The long pile rug is out and to knot one on a pre-made ground, is even more outmoded. But in the 50th and 60th when my paternal grandmother knotted one big rug after another, these warm and enduring rugs where high fashion.


Grandmother bought patterns and material from Svensk hemslöjd; it was expensive but still cheaper than bying a ready-made rug. In the late 60ies this changed with imported rugs and grandmother stopped knotting: it was no fun when you could buy an imported rug for half the price of the material for a home made. She gave me the residue of yarn and a small textile ground to knot my first rug on. I still have it beneath my bed.


When I last exhibited a long pile rug many visitors told me about old or sick relatives more or less forced to knot rugs in the therapy department of hospitals or in homes for old men and women. Many visitors offered me remnants from their relatives rugmaking: yarn in great heaps blocked wardrobes in a lot of homes together with half made rugs. So now I have an enormous stock of yarn in the colours popular in the 70th at home: drab browns and yellows, greyblack, doubtful earth colours and greens that are difficult to separate from the greys. Of pink, white, vividly red or yellow, clear blue there is almost nothing.

An ancient technique

Formerly the rugs were used as bed coverlet with the wool down; it was only in the beginning of the 20th century that Swedes began placing rugs on the floors with the wool up.


The technique of introducing long piles of yarn into a weaving is very old: remnants of such textiles are found from antique Egypt and from Danish Bronze age. The Swedish National Encyclopedia states that the technique aimed at textiles similar to furs, but the historian Barbara W. Tuchman writes in "A Distant Mirror. The calamitous 14th century" that wool was much more expensive in Europe during Middle Age than furs. I can not reconcile these statements, but then I am no historian.

I have begun on a third rug, shown here with the pattern. 160 cm x 80 cm.