Gazni and New Zealand Wool
The wool that is often blended or used in Persian or Oriental Animal Print Rug is sometimes called Gazni wool and is also of high quality because it comes from Afghanistan high mountain sheep who graze naturally on the slopes.
This wool has a sheen, is strong and of high quality. If you see a label on an area rug that says it is a blend of gazni and New Zealand wool you know you have a rug of excellent quality.
Worsted and Semi-Worsted Wool Animal Print Rug
To get the long strands and separate it from short hairs, wool is combed and this process is called worsting. You may see rugs that say things like: made from worsted or semi-worsted wool. Semi-worsted will be a blend of high grade long worsted wool and shorter hair.
The top grade would be worsted wool since this means only the longest, strongest hairs have been selected in the combing process and all the rest has been discarded. Modern rugs of high quality should be labeled as to their quality, be they worsted or semi-worsted, and if a carpet doesn’t say, it’s probably of inferior quality.
The wool that is very fine and delicate that is derived from Himalayan goats is called Pashmina and is well known in Pashmina scarves. It is an excellent quality wool, soft and fine and long, but is very rarely used in carpet making or Transitional area rug because it so expensive. It is primarily reserved for high end clothing and very fine scarves and perhaps tapestries. There are some very exclusive designer rugs made from this wool, and they are often used to double as bedspreads or throws and not just floor coverings. In any case, you will be hard pressed to find very large rugs in this wool.
Some companies are mixing New Zealand wool with viscose, or simply using 100 % cotton, and creating what many call a soft Pashmina Shag rug, but this is not really Pashmina – it’s become just a word used to indicate SOFT when it comes to shag area rug collections.
Another wool term that is thrown around in the carpet and rug world is Manchester Wool, which despite it’s name is used primarily in Iranian rug weaving. The main use is for a rug called the Manchester Kashan and comes exclusively from Merino sheep which are native of Australia. The use of the word Manchester is because the yarn was at one time processed in Manchester from the wool of Australian Merino sheep and later exported to Iran for use in rug making. Despite this wool having to travel a great deal around the world it is in fact of very high quality, with luster, long staple fibers, and found in excellent quality Iranian or Persian hand knotted rugs.
Testing for Shedding and Quality
Some things to watch for when selecting a wool area rug are poor quality wool rugs that have been later chemically washed to appear to have a better sheen. This will cause the rugs to shed very quickly. The way to test the quality of wool to see if it has been artificially enhanced is to agitate the rug and see if hairs come lose easily. Good quality wool Transitional area rug that have long sheep hair and have not been overly washed will not shed into your hand. Poor quality ones will lose some hairs and this is never a good sign.
Although you may not be able to perform an extensive test of quality in a showroom (especially if selecting a large area rug), you may be able to request that a dealer do a test for you, or you may do so at home immediately after buying, when you can still return the rug should it not be up to standard.
Here is what to do: Vacuum the rug and hen immediately agitate the pile with your hand, back and forth, about a dozen times, then see if there are loosened fibers. Roll this material into a ball and see if the dimension of the ball is larger or smaller than the height of the actual pile. If it is larger than the pile of the carpet it is likely poor quality wool.
Also when you touch a rug, really feel it. Is it course and wiry? Does it feel dry and brittle? If so it is not high quality. Good wool Transitional area rug will feel soft, have a sheen and almost give an oily impression to the touch. This will indicate that the sheep were healthy and it has not been overly chemically treated.
Don’t be deceived by cheap imitations and poor quality because it’s not just about how lovely the rug will look and what patterns and colors have been used, but about how well the rug will wear. Will the shedding cause the knots to loosen? Will the loosened knots weaken the carpet overall? Will vacuuming cause it to shed leaving bare patches, rendering your carpet or area rug unusable for high traffic areas.
So choose high quality new Zealand worsted wool or Merino wool or a blend of Gazni and New Zealand wool (even in oriental rugs styles) and enjoy your Transitional area rug or contemporary wool animal print rug for a very long time to come.