Rhode Island: It's All in Our Backyard

Braided rugs aren’t what they used to be

October 8, 2015 by cgrosch

If you have your eye on a braided rug at Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn, chances are it was made right here in Pawtucket, Rhode Island – the birthplace of the American textile industry. For 37 years, Colonial Mills has been manufacturing braided rugs at their 70,000-square-foot-facility on Mineral Spring Avenue. It’s a family affair, with Don Scarlata at the helm as CEO, daughter Meredith Thayer as Creative Director, and son Gregg Scarlata as Vice President of Sales.

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Their made-to-order rugs are sold through almost four dozen catalogs, at major retailers like Kohl’s and JC Penney, and they do a tremendous amount of private label business, making rugs for companies like Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn. “We design something specifically for them, using special colors and special shapes – you do not see the Colonial Mills name anywhere,” says Meredith Thayer, as she guides us on a tour of the bustling factory.

The braided rug is deeply rooted in American tradition and history. Back in the late 1700s-early 1800s, it was a way to keep floors warm and make use of left-over cloth. Women would come together to make these rugs, which were often passed down from generation to generation, becoming heirlooms in many families.

While the foundation of a braided rug is still the same –  using three strands of yarn or fabric to make a single braid – the process has evolved. With the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of machines, new techniques, materials and colors, the braided rug has become something far beyond grandma’s braided rugs. “We still make braids,” says Meredith, “but the possibilities for how those braids come together are truly endless. From color, yarn type, shape, design and braid construction, the outcome of each design can vary significantly. A lot of people don’t even realize that what they are seeing is a braided rug.

“Everything is made to order right here. The furthest any yarn comes from is Canada and the majority of it comes from the South. We inventory raw materials but we have no inventory of finished products – it’s order in, order out. Kohl’s places an order and two days later, we’re shipping it out.

“We’re so lucky to be in Pawtucket, where we have a community of loyal employees who have been here forever.”