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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Illustration Boys Weaving a Carpet


The

camel men squat in one corner to smoke their pipes and eat their bread, while the merchants form another ring up above on the verandah, where prices are discussed at the top of their voices, a crowd of ever-to-be-found loafers taking active part in the discussion.

On a Friday, the day of rest of the Mahommedan, the bazaar, so crowded on other days, is absolutely deserted. All the shops--if a hatter or two be excepted--are barricaded with heavy wooden shutters and massive padlocks of local or Russian make. Barring a dog or two either lying asleep along the wall, or scraping a heap of refuse in the hope of satisfying hunger--there is hardly a soul walking about. Attracted by a crowd in the distance, one finds a fanatic gesticulating like mad and shouting at the top of his voice before an admiring crowd of ragamuffins squatting round him in a circle.

On these holidays, when the streets are clear, the effect of the columns of sunlight pouring down from the small circular apertures from each dome of the arcade, and some twenty feet apart, is very quaint. It is like a long colonnade of brilliant light in the centre of the otherwise dark, muddy-looking, long, dirty tunnel. At noon, when the sun is on the meridian, these sun columns are, of course, almost perfectly vertical, but not so earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon.

CHAPTER XXXI

style="text-align: justify;"> A carpet factory--Children at work--The process of carpet-making--Foreign influence in the design--Aniline dyes--"Ancient carpets" manufactured to-day--Types of carpets--Kerman carpets--Isfahan silk carpets--Kurdistan rugs--Birjand and Sultanabad carpets--Carpets made by wandering tribes--Jewellers--Sword-makers and gunsmiths--Humming birds.

A visit to a carpet factory proves interesting. The horses must be left, for it is necessary to squeeze through a low and narrow door in order to enter the shed where the carpets are made.

Every one is familiar with the intricate and gorgeous designs of Persian carpets, and one imagines that only veteran skilful artisans can tackle such artistic work. One cannot, therefore, help almost collapsing with surprise on seeing mere children from the age of six to ten working away at the looms with a quickness and ease that makes one feel very small.

In badly lighted and worse ventilated rooms, they sit perched in long rows on benches at various altitudes from the floor, according to the progression and size of the carpet, the web of which is spread tight vertically in front of them. Occasionally when the most difficult patterns are executed, or for patterns with European innovations in the design, a coloured drawing is hung up above the workers; but usually there is nothing for them to go by, except that a superintendent--an older boy--sings out the stitches in a monotonous cadence. A row of coloured balls of the various coloured threads employed in the design hang from the loom just within reach of the boys' hands.

[Illustration: Boys Weaving a Carpet.]

[Illustration: Cotton Cleaners.]

The process of carpet-making is extremely simple, consisting merely of a series of twisted--not absolutely knotted--coloured worsted threads, each passing round one of the main threads of the foundation web. The catching-up of each consecutive vertical thread in the web, inserting the coloured worsted, giving it the twist that makes it remain in its position, and cutting it to the proper length, is done so quickly by the tiny, supple fingers of the children that it is impossible to see how it is done at all until one requests them to do it slowly for one's benefit. After each horizontal row of twisted threads, a long horizontal thread is interwoven, and then the lot is beaten down with a heavy iron comb with a handle to it, not unlike a huge hair-brush cleaner. There are different modes of twisting the threads, and this constitutes the chief characteristic of carpets made in one province or another.


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