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Rugs 101: Quality and Construction

Rug & Home has an incredible selection of rugs of all qualities and prices – whether you are looking for a trendy dorm room rug or a mansion sized rug for your dream home – we’ve got you covered – floor covered that is! Rug & Home has a twenty year track record of customer satisfaction and that is all thanks to the passion of our founders and buyers to souring and curating some of the most beautiful and unique rugs in the world. In addition, Rug & Home design team develops and creates rugs that are exclusive to us, bringing you exceptional values and truly unique looks. The relationships we have built in the industry guarantee you get the best prices and quality for your dollar.

“Caveat Emptor” – Buyer Beware. When shopping other websites for rugs not all “handmade” rugs are created equal. Not all wool rugs are created equal. Not all machine made rugs are created equal. We want you to have complete information to make an educated decision and get the right rug fit for your home. We want you to be 100% satisfied and all your expectations met. So, here is a break down all the different rug types – all special in their own right!

First, A Little History

The history of rugs covers about the same time span as human history because people have been using rugs since the earliest days of mankind. Animal hides, in addition to being used for clothing, were used as rugs on the floor of a family’s hut or shelter. The hides were also used for sitting and sleeping surfaces and to provide warmth on a chilly night.

In the mid 1900’s “the Pazyryk carpet,” which dates back to the 5th century BC, was discovered in a block of ice in Siberia and it is, to date, the oldest pile carpet example we have. It is believed that rug weaving was an established art much before this time (estimated as dating back to around 2000 BC) because of the intricate pattern and precision displayed in the Pazyryk carpet, which most rug experts agree was likely woven by nomads from Mongolia. The techniques used today in producing hand knotted carpets are very much in line with the techniques used in ancient times.

There is general agreement that even if the Mongolians first wove pile rugs, it was the Persians who took the craft and made it into a true form of art. Though carpet weaving in Persia – modern day Iran – dates back most likely to much before 500 BC, carpets made up until the 1500’s were used mainly for personal use. It was with the establishment of the Safavid Dynasty in 1502 that came a strong push for the commercialization of the rug craft – producing the finest carpets for export to Europe and the world. This is when the rug weaving industry reached its pinnacle in Persia, during the Safavid Dynasty from 1502-1736, and it is where most of the designs and techniques used today were mastered.

It was after 1,000 AD when the art of pile rug weaving started in Europe, most likely in Spain because of its location in relation to Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia/Iran - good sources for information about rugs. With the trade of goods and ideas along the Silk Route, which easily connected China, Persia and the Mediterranean Sea, came the influence of techniques and designs to India and China. With many years of experience and evolving ideas we arrive to where we are today – an admiration and appreciation for one of the world’s oldest art forms.

Various Qualities and Constructions

Hand Knotted

When we speak of Persian or Oriental Carpets – we are generally referring to the hand knotted quality with roots in the Old World. A rather lengthy process of, drawing the design, sorting the wool, dying it, knotting each individual knot, shearing, then washing it- a lot goes into each masterpiece. The quality and price is based on many variables, including knots per square inch, material, dyes (herbal/vegetable vs. synthetic), quality of the wool and the intricacy of the design.

As you may suspect, the very intricate patterns of the some classic Persian rugs, must have many knots per square inch (500+!) in order to achieve such precision. These intricately patterned rugs would require thinner fibers to be knotted to create such small knots. In contrast, rugs with simpler designs or chunkier patterns can be made with thicker fibers. Both will be very durable – it is just a question of aesthetic preference.

Hand knotted rugs are created on a large loom using a warp thread stretching to the top of the loom and a weft thread stretching across, creating a grid of sorts. A row of knots is then tied and the pile is made dense by using a mallet to push down the row tightly. Take for instance a 9x12 size rug with 200 knots per square inch (which is a very nice rug!) – let’s say the artisan averages 6000 knots per day – the final rug would have over 3 million – yes, over 3 million knots in the final product. This being a lot of work is not to be taken lightly. It would take an estimated 500 man days to complete – this is the reason why normally 4 weavers would work on a rug of this size, and even then, it will take over 4 months to complete!

This trade that has been passed from generation to generation is painstaking but the reward is a true piece of art that is durable and sure to last for years and years to come. You can be confident that a hand knotted rug will withstand the test of time and the day-to-day traffic of your life with ease. These rugs come in a variety of styles, not just traditional any more.

  • How to identify: Hand knotted rugs are “As pretty from the back as they are the front” – you can see the design and the knots when you flip the carpet over. When you scratch the back it does not feel like plastic. Hand knotted rugs usually (not always!) have fringe because that is the warp thread. They do not have a binding around the edges.
  • Benefits of Hand Knotted Rugs: Hand knotted rugs are almost always made of natural fibers: wool, silk or a combination of the two. These fibers are the most durable for carpet weaving. They do not shed and they are extraordinarily durable making it possible for them to be passed from generation to generation. They are easily cleanable and hold their luster from year to year.
Other Unique Characteristics of Hand Knotted Rugs
  • Sprouting – is a common characteristic with hand knotted rugs - and is to be expected. Sprouting happens mainly with rugs that are made with twisted woolen yarn – they tend to be “washed out” or vintage looking, a very hot trend in the rug circuit. Because the wool is twisted to obtain this look – they can “pop up”. This is totally normal. To fix this, you can simply trim with scissors to the face of the rug. You do not want to pull these out as this could hurt the integrity of the rug. We also do not recommend using the beater bar on any type of rug – and this is partly to lessen the aggravation to the rug.
  • When you look at the back side of a hand knotted rug you can actually see the design. Unlike hand tufted rugs that have a canvas backing, hand knotted rugs are “as pretty from the back as they are from the front”.
  • Why do hand knotted rugs have fringe you ask? The fringe is the warp thread – so the rug is actually made on these strings. But be aware, not all hand knotted rugs have fringe. Now days, a lot of the contemporary and transitional hand knotted rugs are being finished without the fringe. This is simply a decision of the designer/artisan.

Hand Tufted

These rugs take far less time to complete, compared to a hand knotted rug; so they tend to be about half the price - or less.

The process is different for creating a hand tufted rug. The design of the rug is imprinted on to a canvas. The artisan then takes a “tufting gun” that pushes the appropriate color fiber through the canvas creating either a loop pile or a cut pile. I always say, imagine “paint by numbers”. This process is repeated, quickly and efficiently. The more tufts, the more work, but the more intricate the design. A scrim is applied to the back of the rug with a latex to secure the fibers – then covered with another cloth or canvas backing for extra protection.

I like to say hand tufted rugs generally have a lot of “Body” on the floor because they tend to have a thicker pile (say normally at least ½ inch). They do not have a binding around the edge like most machine made rugs do. Hand Tufted rugs traditionally are made of wool, but in more recent years you are seeing them produced in synthetic fibers, including viscose, polyester & poly-acrylic.

A notable characteristic of a hand tufted rug is that they will usually shed. This happens because, as you recall, the fibers are secured with a latex. Because of this, they are not as aggressively washed like hand knotted rugs – which removes most excess or loose fibers.

Hand tufted rugs are still very durable and you can expect anywhere from 3-10 years, depending on the quality and care. Wool is naturally a more durable and resilient fiber, so you will most likely get a longer life out of a wool hand tufted rug than say, a viscose hand tufted rug. But, it all comes down to the traffic in your room and the wear and tear the rug is subjected to. It makes perfect sense to put a viscose hand tufted rug in a bedroom because they tend to be plush, soft and comfortable to step on. Being a lower traffic space you can expect it to perform very well.

  • How to Identify: When you flip a hand tufted rug over you will see a solid cloth or canvas backing – normally neutral in color. They tend to be thicker than machine made or hand knotted rugs. They do not have a binding around the edges. Hand Tufted rugs are the rugs that are known to shed. When you rub your hand over a new tufted rug you can see a bit of shedding or peeling, this is normal.
  • Benefits of Hand Tufted Rugs: Tufted rugs provide a Nice Plush pile – “Body” on the floor. Many times made of – Wool – these fibers are durable, resilient and naturally resistant to dirt and spills. Some Hand Tufted rugs have hand carved details that can add dimension and texture to the rug. Hand Tufted rugs are more budget friendly, especially if changing décor every few years to keep up with trends is important to the consumer. They are available in a wide range of styles and colors.
Other Unique Characteristics of Hand Tufted Rugs
  • Sprouting – can also happen with hand tufted rugs - and is to be expected. Sprouting happens mainly with rugs that are made with twisted wool – they tend to be “washed out” or vintage looking, a very hot trend in the rug circuit. Because the wool is twisted to obtain this look – they can “pop up”. This is totally normal. To fix this, you can simply trim with scissors to the face of the rug. You do not want to pull these out as this could hurt the integrity of the rug. We also do not recommend using the beater bar on any type of rug – and this is partly to lessen the aggravation to the rug.
  • Identification: When you look at the back side of a hand tufted rug you will normally see a solid, natural colored cloth or canvas backing. This is just another protective layer, but has no bearing on the longevity of the rug.
  • One caveat with hand tufted rugs is you never want them to get saturated with water. This is a good way to destroy your rug. Remember, the latex holds the rug together, if it is exposed to a lot of moisture, the latex can begin to breakdown and you will have a powder on your floor. I am telling you this not to freak you out but so that you are aware. If you ever spill on your rug, make sure you blot it up with a towel ASAP and you will not have a problem.

Machine Made

Machine made rugs are created on electronically-controlled looms that are programmed with the design and color. The production time is much faster and precision is carefully monitored. They are then finished by binding the edges and adding fridge if so desired. One industry leader in the machine made arena is Karastan – born in the 1920’s in North Carolina, they have been able to create machine made rugs that actually “act” like hand knotted rugs. This is quite the complement and their line is certainly worth taking a look at – especially if you want a rug made in the USA.

Like all rugs, there is a range of quality within the type of construction but I see this most predominately within Machine Made rugs. Case in point we have had “machine made” rugs, 8x11 size, priced from $199 to $1799. This is a HUGE range and that range is simply because all machine made rugs are not created equal. Major factors that play into the price & quality are material, density & country of origin. A wool machine made rug made in the USA is going to be more expensive, but more durable, than a synthetic rug made in Turkey. The density of a machine made rug depends on how tightly it is woven. Machine Made rugs can be very thin or quite thick (and dense). As a group, I would say they are known as the most cost effective option if you are working with a tight budget.

  • How to Identify: Most machine made rugs have a binding around the edges. They are most commonly made of synthetic fibers so they have a shinier look. When you flip them over and look at the back you can usually see some of the design but not when compared to a hand knotted rug. The backing is normally coarse, rough and feels like plastic when you scratch it. Note: Karastan makes carpets that are not rough on the back and also made of wool – an exception along with a handful of others.
  • Benefits of Machine Made Rugs: Machine Made rugs do not shed. They have a thinner profile and are generally a more cost effective option. They are available and a wide range of styles and colors.
Other Information Regarding Machine Made Rugs
  • I would say 85% of Machine made rugs we sell are made of synthetic fibers. We sell a ton of these rugs because they are a good bang for your buck! They are durable but do not hold their luster as well as wool rugs – meaning they start to show their age after a few years if used regularly.
  • Make sure you have a pad under your machine made rug to protect your floor. Machine made rugs normally have a coarse backing that could potential wear on hardwood over time.
  • If you would prefer a wool machine made rug – Check out Karastan, Nourison & Momeni – these companies have been able to create machine made rugs that look (and act!) like their hand knotted counterparts.
  • If you are looking for a rug made in the USA – check out Karastan, Orian and American Rug Craftsman – among others
  • Power-loomed or Wilton Woven, are both types of Machine Made rugs

Hand Loomed

Hand Loomed rugs are simply made using a hand loom. Generally speaking, these rugs have very simple patterns because of this process. Ranging from very thin to very thick pile, they are made more quickly than hand knotted rugs because of less design and color changes. They are generally more casual in presence and priced very competitively. They can be made of any variety of fibers and their durability factor will rely on that.

  • Benefits of Hand Loomed Rugs: Hand Loomed rugs are have versatile styles. They can carry to look of high end Tibetan hand knotted rug but priced very competitively. Hand Loom rugs’ durability is based on fiber – these tend to be very durable.
Other Information Regarding Hand Loomed Rugs
  • When vacuuming hand woven rugs, as with all rugs, you want to make sure you raise the beater bar and just use the suction. This will lengthen the life of you rug as well as having a pad underneath it for air circulation & to prevent slippage.

Hand Woven

The term hand woven can be an all-encompassing because any rug literally woven by hand, is hand woven. That being said, many Shags, Natural Fiber rugs like Jute & Hemp, and Flat weaves are also considered Hand Woven. Many times, hand woven rugs bring texture to the floor and have generally a casual, natural presence. They can be made of a variety of fibers and can be very thick or very thin. They tend to lean towards more simplistic designs – including, solids, stripes and geometrics.

  • Benefits of Hand Woven Rugs: Woven Rugs are versatile and priced competitively. Many times they offer more casual / natural looks. The durability depends on the fiber – but these tend to be very durable
Other information Regarding Hand Woven Rugs
  • When vacuuming hand woven rugs, as with all rugs, you want to make sure you raise the beater bar and just use the suction. This will lengthen the life of you rug as well as having a pad underneath it for air circulation & to prevent slippage. Read our Care & Cleaning Guide for more information.

Hand Hooked

The art, and craft, of hand hooking rugs has been around for centuries. By pulling small loops through a canvas cloth and securing it by applying a protective backing, a beautiful rug is born. Hand Hooked rugs are very popular in kitchens, dining rooms, bedrooms and sunrooms. Much sought-after French country florals, classic kitchen rugs and seaside nautical motifs are some of our bestselling hooked rug styles.

In the past few years, we have started selling hooked rugs that are actually indoor/outdoor! These are colorfast and mildew resistant and add some much life to your outdoor setting area – or are perfect for a busy kitchen. Hooked rugs tend to be more casual – I always have called them “Happy” rugs because they are usually bright and cheerful.

  • Benefits of Hand Hooked Rugs: These charming rugs quickly add character to any space at a reasonable price. Some Hand Hooked rugs are indoor/outdoor – which means they are colorfast and mildew resist. They are low to medium pile height. Hand Hooked rugs are also popular and great for children’s rooms.
Other Information Regarding Hand Hooked Rugs
  • Sprouting: Should one of the loops “pop up” or sprout in your hooked rug you never want to pull it. You can try to tuck it back down into the rug – or more simply cut it to the face of the rug. This will not affect the integrity of the rug and is to be expected.
  • Hand Hooked rugs can be made in an array for fibers – including wool, cotton & polypropylene.
  • It is recommended not to use the beater bar on any type of rug – but this holds especially true for hooked rugs. You can raise the beater bar and use only the suction and vacuum regularly.
  • A rug pad should be used to allow air to circulate and keep your rug from moving.

Braided

Ah, an American signature. Braided rugs continue to be a popular choice among consumers. By taking a fiber, whether it be wool, cotton, a synthetic or a combination of types, and braiding it with various colors – a special piece is created. Once this piece is secured at the end it is sewn together with other strands to create the rug. This strong clear thread keeps the rug together but goes unnoticed until you look much closer. Braided rugs are available in a slew of color options and combinations. Super popular for kitchens, casual dining rooms, living rooms, playrooms and kids rooms – braided rugs are a home comfort that is here to stay.

  • Benefits of Braided Rugs: No adhesive is used in production when making Braided rugs. The art of braided rugs originated in the USA, and many of our braided rugs are still made here. Some rugs have indoor/outdoor options are available. Many braided rugs include great price points. Braided rugs come in rectangles and runners, of course – but they are also available in ovals and rounds and in hard to find sizes - ovals up to 12x15 – rounds up to 12x12 – and the prices are unbelievable! Braided rugs create a casual environment – where traditions are made and creativity is treasured. Maybe best of all, Braided rugs are versatile.
Other Information Regarding Braided Rugs
  • It is recommended not to use the beater bar on any type of rug – but this holds especially true for braided rugs. You can raise the beater bar and use only the suction and vacuum regularly.
  • Braided rugs really have no pile and are relatively thin – so it is important, as always, to use a pad underneath to avoid slippage.

Shags

Shag are more than back, they are here to stay! These rugs made their hearty debut in the 60’s and then retreated – but it’s safe to say their back and not going anywhere soon. These plush, lush, high pile rugs add texture, comfort and a healthy level of spice to any space. This, my friends, is undeniable!

The look of the shag is generally dictated by the thickness and material of the fiber – ranging from very thin & shiny to very thick, nubby and matte. They can be modern chic to simply casual to nursery ready. It all depends on the fiber, the thickness of the fiber, the density of the material and of course the color! Given all these variables, the price can vary considerably – but most are priced low to moderate.

Simple solids are always popular, but recently we have been seeing all types of designs in the shag construction.

  • Benefits of Shag Rugs: Comfort, comfort, comfort – if you are looking for comfort – then consider the versatile, “sink your feet into me” shag. Shags have a lot of “body” and naturally add warmth to any space.
Other Information Regarding Shags
  • There are 2 spaces that I do not highly recommend shag rugs: dining rooms & bathrooms. And note, this is only if you actually use these rooms regularly. I just have found that they are not being used at their full potential in these rooms.
  • As with all rugs, we recommend regular vacuuming – but always raise the beater bar and just use the suction. Many people find that using the attachment of the vacuum to get deep into the pile is helpful. Others find the “shake-out method” is the way to go – simply going outside (easiest with a partner / helper), flip your rug over and shake it out! Whatever way works for you – your shag will be sure to endure many years of fun and excitement.
  • Friezes – are shags that are highly twisted.
  • Flokati – an all wool, handmade shag that looks like natural sheepskin. Traditionally white – they are popping up in different color ways now days. Originally from Greece.

Flat Woven

This type of rug is unique because it is reversible! It is reversible because it does not actually have a pile per say. These rugs are woven on a loom by passing a weft strand back and forth through the warp. They are usually made of wool, which makes them very durable. They tend to be very thin and “flat” to the floor.

Kilims, Dhurries, & Soumaks are the most popular types of flat weaves. Soumaks are considered the thickest of flat woven rugs – sometimes reaching ½ inch thick. Many of the traditional southwestern and tribal rugs are flat weaves. They are very popular in rustic / lodge settings but of course can be used anywhere. Just recently, flat woven rugs, in more transitional and geometric designs, have taken the rug industry by storm and the price points are fabulous.

  • Benefits of Flat Woven Rugs: Flat Woven rugs are reversible. Also, Flat Woven rugs have great price points for the look that it presents. There is no adhesive used in production. The rugs are usually made of wool – so very durable, cleanable and long life expectancy. Their “flat” presence tends to radiate a casual, natural setting – they are not formal rugs. With Flat Woven rugs there is no noticeable shedding either.
Other Information Regarding Flat Woven Rugs
  • Flat Woven rugs are not necessarily the softest rug on the market – so take that into consideration. If you love laying on the floor and you decide on this type of rug you may want to consider purchasing a thicker pad for added cushioning.
  • Remember to put a pad under all rugs – flat weaves tend to me quite thin and relatively light so they can move – by putting a rug pad under it, you are not only allowing air to circulate underneath but you are keeping them from slipping.

Printed

A cutting edge trend in rugs – printed rugs are generally, machine made rugs, where the design is actually printed after the rug is woven. It allows for great precision and endless color options within the same rug. Priced super competitively for the amount of bang for your buck!

Hand Woven rugs can also be printed, usually block or screen printed. Most common on natural fibers such as jute and hemp, this is a cost effective and fast way of achieving a unique look.

  • Benefits of Printed Rugs: Printed rugs have a precision of color and sharpness. These rugs are also very cost effective.
Other Information Regarding Printed Rugs
  • Always use a pad to protect your floor and keep your rug from moving or slipping with printed rugs.

2 comments

  • 1. Nick Moh on

    Good day,
    Please visit NasserLuxuryRugs.com

  • 2. ahmad afraz on

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