Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario


Copyright 2006 by the author.


Forms of Production

Past research, conducted mainly in the 1970s and 1980s, has identified three forms of production in which carpets are woven as commodities. These are petty-commodity production, the putting-out system, and workshop production.

Petty-commodity production involves weaving in the home, with the male head of the household or other male relatives selling the finished product to a carpet dealer or at a local or regional market (fig. 1). The family owns the loom and other weaving supplies, and family members purchase or prepare the yarn themselves. Under the putting-out system, the yarn, rug patterns and perhaps the loom is supplied by a dealer who collects the finished product. Following the workshop model, weavers work in a centralized location, away from their homes, with all materials and patterns supplied by a manufacturer (figs. 2 and 3). Workshop production may also take the form of village- or government-organized cooperatives, in which women may provide their own materials and choose their own patterns, use materials and patterns provided by the cooperative, or engage in some combination thereof. Under all three systems women may be paid by the piece, by the knot, or by the square meter.

These different modes of production are suited to different settings. Where women are able to weave only intermittently due to other duties they are likely to weave in the home as this form of production can be stopped and started at will. Indeed, that is how weaving and many other art forms primarily practiced by women (such as crochet, and needle-point lace) developed – as a way of filling in so-called ‘empty time’ with activities that did not interfere with other domestic duties. Home-based production (either petty commodity or putting out) is most suited to areas that have intensive year-round crops (as in the case of diversified cash crop agriculture), or where families are small and thus there is not as much ‘empty time’. Workshop weaving is most likely found in places with distinct agricultural and non-agricultural seasons or where people live in extended-family households and thus chores are shared among many family members. Under these conditions some women can leave the house and thus weave for extended periods of time uninterrupted.