IN England the introduction of tapestries as hangings for walls was made by Eleanora, sister of Alfonso the Tenth of Castile, when she became the wife of Edward the First. In her journeyings these fabrics of the loom were carried as part of the royal baggage, and must have given some sense of cheer, particularly when they clothed the bare walls of the dreary castle of Caernarvon.
Edward the Third (1327-1377) invited Flemish weavers to settle in England. At that time England produced wool in large quantities, although very few fabrics were woven there, nine-tenths of the wool being sent to Ghent or Bruges to be manufactured ; for the Flemish were the first people in the northern part of Europe who advanced in the arts and in manufactures. Throughout Northern and Western Europe rugs were seldom used, except for wall hangings and table covers, until the time of the Reformation in Germany.
Great Britain is now quite active in the manufacture of rugs with certain designs, a decided impetus to the improvement of this industry being given by Mr. William Morris, the English poet and artistic decorator, who was born near London in 1834.
The Morris Rug. With strong, firm texture, fine vegetable dyes, and with purely artistic designs, the Morris rug bears testimony to-day to the honesty, per-severance, and skill of the man for whom it is named. He himself testifies : ” I am an artist or workman with a strong inclination to exercise what capacities I may have a determination to do nothing shabby if I can help it.” Decorative art in many branches is the richer to-day for the influence of Mr. Morris, but it is his rug-making that now claims attention. Mr. Bern-hard Quaritch informs me in a letter dated August 31, 1899, that Mr. Morris learned the art of making rugs from a volume of the work entitled ” Descriptions des Arts et Metiers.” Mr. Morris had his own loom, and not only wove rugs, but dyed the wool for them himself, and instructed pupils, to whom his inspiration was a power. Long and laboriously he worked to achieve the best results, using vegetable dyes only, and he was finally successful. No dyer of the Orient could have been more pleased than was he when his efforts resulted in soft, glowing tints.
In design Mr. Morris excelled. He educated the popular taste by bringing forth the beauties of the simpler forms of the floral and vegetable world ; he delighted especially in displaying the acanthus in varied conventional forms.. Every rug he designed bears witness to his enthusiasm for harmony. Too aesthetic, some critics declare him to have been; but no one can deny the importance of his creations, for England needed to be awakened to a knowledge of her own inability to appreciate artistic decoration of the home, especially by means of the productions of the loom. It was this very fact, and his inability to procure artistic furniture such as would satisfy his aesthetic taste, that started Mr. Morris to create those fabrics which he desired.
( Originally Published Late 1900’s )