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European Carpets

In 1608, King Henry IV of France established weavers in the Louvre. About 20 years later an old soap works, the Savonnerie, near Paris, was converted to carpet weaving, and its name remains attached to one of the finest types of handmade carpet, now made at the Gobelin tapestry factory. Tapestries for walls and floors were made at Aubusson at an early date.

In 1685 the revocation of the Edict of Nantes scattered skilled Protestant carpetmakers over Europe. Centers of weaving were established in England, first at Kidderminster (1735) and later at Wilton and Axminster. Cheaper, more easily manufactured floor covering soon came into demand, and the making of ingrain, or reversible, carpets began at Kidderminster. The weavers of Flanders had made a loom that produced a pile by looping the worsted warp threads, and this loom, although guarded, was copied by a Kidderminster weaver; soon many looms in England were making Brussels carpet. Axminster was England's headquarters for imitation Oriental, or tufted-pile, carpet.

Until about 1840 all carpets were made on handlooms with such devices and improvements as could be operated by hand or foot power; then Erastus Bigelow's power loom (first used in 1841), which made it possible for carpets to be mass produced, revolutionized the industry. Although handmade rugs are still produced in some countries, e.g., Turkey, carpet manufacturing has become a highly mechanized industry, notably in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Belgium, and Japan.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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