Man has been using carpet to add warmth and comfort to his dwellings for more than 2,500 years.
With the discovery of hand weaving, men were able to create a vast array of carpet types, freeing their imaginations to design figures and symbols of all sorts.
The oldest known carpet is the “Pazyryk”. This intricately patterned, beautiful knotted-pile rug was created by Armenian craftsmen during the 4th or 5th Century BC and can be seen today at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Many carpets that were hand-woven over the past 300 years have transcended the boundaries of their craft and have become an art form that is part of many museum collections.
It was the Industrial Revolution that led the way to the development of machine-made fabrics, and ultimately carpet, with such inventions as the “Spinning Jenny”, which pun yarn, in 1767. Later, in 1801 Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented an automatic loom that used punch cards. This allowed for complex patterns to be woven much faster than was possible by human hands.
(It is fascinating to discover that Jacquard’s 18th Century invention of punch cards was later used to create the first computer of the 20th Century. SO his invention was pivotal not only to the Industrial Revolution but also to the modern technological one.)
But it wasn’t until 1904 that a Dalton, Georgia farm girl named Catherine Evans remembered an heirloom bedspread that had been in her family from Colonial days. She worked out a stitch that locked into the fabric and, once snipped, left a small tuft. Fittingly, she called the stitch “tufting” because each stitch resembled a tiny tuft of grass.
Soon families were sitting on farm porches stitching spreads to sell from their front yard clotheslines. The tiny cottage industry soon captured the attention of Singer Sewing Machine Company. Singer wasted no time in developing a twelve-foot wide sewing machine with 1,500 needles to make bedspreads.
In the meantime, a few Georgia pioneer carpet makers wondered if the new machine could be used to produce carpet. They discovered, to their amazement, that they could make forty feet of carpet per minute; ten times faster than with the old traditional carpet weaving looms.
The first carpets were made of wool. Nylon fiber, which was invented in 1939 by DuPont chemist Dr. Wallace H. Carothers, eventually replaced wool as the standard carpet pile.
By the late 1950’s, tufted nylon carpet could be purchased for prices within the reach of every homeowner.