Greek Flokati Rugs

A few years ago on a wonderful holiday to Corfu, Greece I purchased a beautiful sample of a Greek Flokati rug. It had been woven by my friend, Agathi the weaver, in Kassiopi, Corfu. She very kindly explained to me how these wonderful rugs are woven. The shaggy weft wool pile was made of handspun wool from local sheep. Her sister had done the handspinning and Agathi woven this fluffy rug that now sits on my rocking chair.

Corfu Flokati Rug
Corfu Flokati Rug
Agathi and Flokati Rug
Agathi and Flokati Rug

The warp and ground weft is a 2-3 ply wool yarn woven in tabby weave. The handspun wool is cut into 15-20 cm lengths and then laid in between weft sheds, going under 3 raised warp threads. A shot of weft yarn is thrown across, change shed, and then the weft pile is woven back through 2 warp ends. This locks the cut pile firmly in place. Then 3 shots of ground weft are woven in tabby, before another row of handspun cut pile is laid across.

Flokati Rug Closeup
Flokati Rug Closeup

Flokati or Floccata rugs have a long history in Greece dating back some 1500-2000 years to villages in the northern mountainous regions of Greece. Sheepskins were used for warmth and the long shaggy pile of sheepskin was duplicated by weavers who inserted the wool locks into their woven rugs. These shaggy pile rugs are somewhat similar to the early rya pile rugs of Scandinavia, but the method of knotting the pile differs. IN a Flokati the cut pile is laid across the weft. In a Rya rug, the cut pile is wrapped and looped around the warp threads.

The definition of Flokati: “A Hand-woven shaggy 100% wool rug made in Greece.”
In 1966 the Greek government set standards for the Flokati rug industry. The law specified that for a rug to be classified as a “Flokati, it must be hand woven in Greece and must be made of 100% wool (warp, weft, and pile). Total weight of the rug must be at least 1800 grams of wool per square meter. The Flokati must be subjected to the water friction process for the pile to unravel and fluff out.

Flokati Rugs in Greece
Flokati Rugs in Greece
Spindle Spinning
Spindle Spinning

In the 1960’s Trikkala was the centre of the flokati rug industry and the wool market was held there in May and handweavers came from surrounding villages to buy their fleece, weaving tools and cotton yarns. There was a factory headquaraters in the centre of town where wool was carded and spun by machine. Weavers wovek the rugs in their homes, workig on narrow looms, threaded with singles yarn. The tufts were inserted without knotting at irrgular intervals. Because the looms were small and the woven rugs were thick, they had to be cut off the front roller of the loom frequently. The pieces were stitched together to create the larger rugs.

Trikkala Wool Market
Trikkala Wool Market

After weaving, the rug was heavily felted by heavy beating and immersion into pools or waterfalls. The flokati rugs were woven in natural white or alternating striped natural colours of browns, greys and creams. Natural dyes were also used on some of the rugs.

Flokati Rug Sample

I had about a meter left of wool warp on my loom after I wove a number of handspun blankets, so I thought I would try to weave a bit of Flokati.

Using the same wool yarn as was used for the warp, I wove several shots of tabby weave.

Cut the handspun yarn into 15-20 cm lengths. I cut a piece of cardboard into a width of 10 cm and wrapped the handspun around it. Then cut the lengths of pile.

Cutting Flokati Pile
Cutting Flokati Pile

With an open shed in tabby weave, lay the cut pile ends across the weft, passing each thread under 3 raised warp ends. Repeat this across the width of the warp.

Flokati Rug Weaving
Flokati Rug Weaving

With the same shed still open, weave across a shot of the wool ground weft.
Change the shed.

I like to work from the right to the left, so I pick up the right side of the cut warp pile, and feed it back through 2 warp ends to the left. Repeat this across all of the handspun cut pile.

Laying Flokati Pile Across Warp
Laying Flokati Pile Across Warp

With the same shed still open, weave across a shot of the wool ground weft.
This locks the flocati pile firmly into place.

Weaving in Flokati Pile
Weaving in Flokati Pile

Weave another 2 shots of ground weft in tabby.
There will now be 3 shots of tabby weave between the row of pile.

Lay in another row of cut pile across the width of the warp as above. Each row of pile should be about 1 cm apart, with 3 rows of ground tabby.

Flokati Rug on the Loom
Flokati Rug on the Loom

I will be weaving this Flokati rug sample with different types of handspun wool, to see what works best.

When it is complete, the rug will be fulled by washing and beating in the bathtub, to fluff out the pile.

References:
CIBA Review 1969/2 Greek Contemporary Handweaving

Where the Greek Flokati Rug is King Chicago Tribune, Apr 4, 1976

Agathis
Agathi, a wonderful and talented weaver I met in Kassiopi, Corfu

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