Karastan Rugs, Product of Carolina

A circa 1939 postcard of the Karastan factory in Eden. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On April 8, 1928, the first machine-made oriental design rug came off the loom in Leaksville in Rockingham County. Branded Karastan, the process used to make the rug replicated the detailed craftsmanship of a hand-woven rug.

The Karastan method has its roots in 1912 when retailer Marshall Field acquired several textile mills in Rockingham County. His employee Eugene Clark, a New England inventor, began to modify a spool Axminster power loom in 1926 to pull pile yarns through the back, making it possible to weave up to 50 colors with a soft feel and hand-knotted appearance on both sides.

The cover of a trade catalog for Karastan Rugs. Image from Historic New England.The advanced manufacturing process led to Karastan rugs becoming known as “mystery rugs.” At the 1933-34 World’s Fair in Chicago more than 5 million people walked on a large Karastan traditional Persian-patterned rug, which when cleaned displayed its original luster, earning the brand a reputation for producing ”wonder rugs.”

Karastan expanded to produce carpets woven with its innovative Kara-loc process and on computer controlled Van de Wiele Wilton looms. Now a subsidiary of Mohawk Industries, Karastan still makes wool rugs in Eden and is the only U.S. maker of Axminster spool rugs.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.