Looking at a Truly British Phenomenon
Hand knotted carpets have always been the aspiration of the house proud, ever since the 16th century when Cardinal Wolsey set the trend by persuading the Venetian Ambassador to 'donate' a couple of bales to furnish Hampton Court. From that time, the instinctive marketing obsession to provide goods of comparable quality with more features and benefits at a cheaper price and consequently better value-for-money has ensured a steady flow of improvements in carpet manufacturing. Hand knotting then, as now, is a pricey way to make a floorcovering and so the natural direction was to develop machinery that would eventually bring beautiful patterned carpet within the reach of everyone.
The earliest machine-made carpet to get anywhere near these objects of desire was invented in 1755 by Thomas Whitty, of Axminster. The town subsequently gave its name to a technique which, with many innovations bequeathed by the inventors from the industrial revolution onwards, is now used the world over to produce what are still acknowledged to be the best in beautiful flooring.
Axminster combines all the flexibility of design with the performance standards required by the most discerning private citizen and the most demanding contract specifier. The reasons for this are inherent in the process. Weaving Axminster is a gentle and comparatively slow process but specifically suitable for wool yarns, which are themselves soft to the touch, absorbent of the most beautiful colours, fire retardant and practically free of static electricity.
Because each yarn is dyed before the carpet is woven, unlike other carpets which are produced in white and have a design printed on the pile the pattern on an Axminster goes all the way through to the back.
But it is not only the high standards and craftsmanship of the weavers that contribute to its popularity, it is also its flexibility. Axminsters can be woven with up to 35 different coloured yarns although to be realistic there are rarely more than seven colours ever required. These designs can be off-the-shelf or bespoke. In truth, one of the major appeals for interior designers is the phenomenal colour and patterning possibilities. Borders, Persian Panels, pin dots, centre medallions and tonals are available and woe betide anyone who thinks of chucking out this chintz.
Safety, looks and hard wear, make Axminsters the first choice for public and prestigious buildings including The Royal Albert Hall, Windsor Castle, Wembley Conference Centre, all major hotels and certainly every one in Park Lane, even Number One Nob Hill, San Francisco boasts a British Axminster - supplied by Axminster Carpets of Devon. Many well know department stores, theatres, casinos, airlines and ships insist on Axminster carpets to provide the ideal floor show.
I have selected a short list of the latest designs from our leading Axminster carpet companies, all of which can be seen at a high street store near you. These, and over 100 more, can also be accessed through the Carpet Information Centre website - www.carpetinfo.co.uk.