Kelims and Rugs
For Glorafilia two main events happened in the eighties.
We began experimenting with large gauge canvas to create easier, quicker and more dramatic pieces than previously, inspired by old kelim rugs. These gorgeous designs could have been made for needlepoint. Thank you Anatolian Turks, weaving your magic in the 12th century – you could not have imagined how many thousands of needle pointers are indebted to you!
The second main Glorafilia event of the eighties? The birth of my daughter Alison, of course!
The scale of the kelim designs are perfect for stitching on canvas, geometric yet not, rich and intricate – there is something wonderful about a design that has been around for hundreds of years. The source supply is almost infinite, so researching was a joy. The first kit was based on a saddle bag from Turkestan, and thereafter scribbling in showrooms and kelim carpet shops, stealing motifs, we created something hybrid. Think of England with their Wiltons and polite florals, where carpets meant a way of covering floorboards and were a far cry from the dyeing and grinding and spinning and weaving in gorgeous celebration of nomadic heritage. They wove the same patterns that their mothers and grandmothers wove, for until recently the weaving was the domain of the women, with patterns passed down through the generations.
We looked at the motifs with a needlepoint eye, angles, shapes and colours – and put them on 7 gauge canvas, which requires a double thickness of tapestry wool to be used, blending and mixing the shades to give a slightly woven and textured look to imitate the roughness of the original.
Kelims are for people who want to create something but don’t do needlepoint, who itch to stitch but believe they can’t, suffer poor eyesight or have a short interest span. It created a new breed of customers. If television is chewing gum for the eyes, kelims are chewing gum for the hands. They are suitable for beginners because they grow so encouragingly fast and make such an impact. If there are mistakes, this adds to the charm. Although, we cannot claim they help mood swings, chronic fatigue, jealousy or infidelity, stitching kelims is invaluable when it comes to panic attacks and general midlife crises.
Our current collection is inspired by flat woven carpets from Turkey, Persia and the nomads of Central Asia and look equally as good in a minimalist interior as in a highly patterned room full of antiques. And in the Autumn we are adding more to the collection as they are still so popular.
Caution stitching kelims can become addictive!!
Needlepoint rugs are very beautiful – there is a flatness and richness to them that we love and the cross stitch gives a satisfying solid texture. Over the years we have designed one off rugs in a variety of styles, Victorian, bamboo and trellis, geometric, flowery, and kelim designs for individual customers to go with their décor in the colours of their choice. These were all hand painted on 7 canvas for cross stitch and 10 canvas for tent stitch. They were time consuming to produce and very expensive. We couldn’t believe that the customers who commissioned them were a rare breed.
We thought we would test the market - our first printed rug was on 5 hole to the inch canvas, which would be much quicker to stitch and had a fringed edge. We looked for the ideal printer to produce the kits in quantity. We also needed to use rug wool as tapestry wool was much too fine for 5 hole canvas but we had a problem as the colours of rug wool on the market were abysmal and not right for our designs.
The depressed Yorkshire Mill which we visited manufactured hooked rug kits. The designs were extremely boring, old fashioned and dull but the printing was excellent – they actually stencilled them by hand in pre-industrial era style which was perfect for 5 hole canvas as they need to be accurate. The Mill was very quiet – it was in the eighties when there had been a huge downturn in the sale of rug kits, and we didn’t know how much work we could give them. Was this the right time to embark on rug production? The wool they manufactured was 4 ply rug wool, exactly what we required, and they were prepared to dye the wool specially for us in Glorafilia shades.
We were taking a risk but so were they as we had no idea how they would sell.
We decided to take our first design, The Tree of Life Rug to IPC magazines and Woman and Home agreed to do a special offer. We were overwhelmed by the response, considering the rug was bigger than our usual needlepoint and more expensive. We were on our way.
The success of the rug kit encouraged us enormously and we began to produce a range of these 5 hole rug kits. There is a flow to working a cross stich rug which is very different from the hooked method and makes it very relaxing to do. We even produced a catalogue just dedicated to rugs and our collection was varied, from the naïve Tree of Life and Tulip design which has the look of a dhurrie, to flowing pretty ribbons and bows and a gorgeous Rose Garden design.
Some of the designs were too intricate for 5 hole canvas so our highly successful Victorian Rug was printed on 7 canvas using tapestry wool but still in cross stitch and of course we made cushions to go with them. And with the success of the Kelim Collection kelim rugs followed.
A Lucky Escape
We used to receive a rug kit delivery from our supplier every week as they were so bulky, we didn’t have the room to stock too many. On this day the driver arrived very late in the day, just as everyone was going home and we all helped carry in the kits and instead of taking them down to the basement where our stock was kept piled them up in the workroom, knowing we would have to put them away in the morning. When I arrived the following day, I opened the door and the smell greeted me, it was a pungent aroma of burning plastic and wool. I walked into the work room and there were the kits smouldering away. The pile had collapsed and rested against the night storage heater. Fortunately, they were not on fire, but the smell was awful and we had to throw away so much damaged stock. But what a lucky escape, no one was hurt, there was no fire and our suppliers were happy to get another order for rug kits, which fortunately was covered by insurance. And, most important our beautiful 18th century building was still intact.
In the next part of the Glorafilia story I will tell you about our obsession with Victoriana and one of our customer's intrepid travels with her Glorafilia Victorian Rug.
Kelims, kelims, kelims.
Kelim Carpet and Cushion.
Kazak and Izmir.
Turkish and Persian.
Rugs, rugs, rugs.
Victorian Floral Rug.