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The carpet patterning process – design point sheets to CADs

Recreating a historic carpet pattern is always interesting and fun while often challenging and complex.  However, they all have the same starting point – the preservation goal of the project.


The process is the same regardless of the degree of complexity.  Once a pattern concept is decided upon for a particular area of the project, the pattern has to be drawn.  Prior to the invention of the computer, carpet patterns were drawn by hand, transferred to a “point sheet” and when finished, were colored by painting the individual points that make up the elements of the pattern.


Fig.1a: Simple carpet design point sheet.

Historic point sheets can be simple in design as indicated in Figure 1a and 1b.  Every square is called a point and every point is intended to be a single tuft of yarn in the carpet weaving process. 

Figure 1a and 1b is a four color or four frame Wilton.

Figure 1b: Detail of a simple carpet design point sheet.

Figure 2 is a point sheet with a very complex rug pattern using over 50 unique colors within the design.  The white numbers on the colors indicate a particular color number so the loom can be properly creeled, insuring that the pattern is actually woven to the specifications the designer had intended. Figure 2 is an Oriental hand tufted rug pattern that is mechanically woven on a spool Axminster loom.

The number of colors and the detail within the pattern are significant components in the design process and the root of the complexity.  Hand drawn and painted, an individual point sheet could take months to create and finalize.  Slight changes in patterns were extremely costly to make and could delay the design process for months.  Computers have significantly changed the dynamics of drawing and coloring patterns, making the recreation of historic carpet patterns a much simpler process to implement than in the past.


A modern “point sheet” is referred to as a CAD (Computer-Aided Design).  CADs can be created in several hours and while a hand drawn point sheet required the artist to draw every element of the design, a good CAD designer can draw a single pattern element and mirror the image to quickly create a very complex pattern.

Figure 3 is a modern CAD designed to be manufactured on a gripper Axminster loom.  Utilizing eight unique colors in the pattern, this recreation of an original 1887 carpet pattern makes the remanufacturing of the woven carpet for this particular restoration project a much simpler process.  While the intent of the preservation team was to replicate the original carpet recently located behind a wall, the CAD process could quickly recolor or reposition design elements to be used in other locations throughout the project. 

Redesigning or using elements from a known and documented carpet pattern within the preservation project site would contribute to the historic appropriateness of undocumented areas within the project.

Fig.1b: Detail of a simple carpet design point sheet.


Fig.2: Complex carpet pattern point sheet.

Fig.3: Modern CAD point sheet with color specification key.

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