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Rugs 101: Quality and Construction of Handknotted Rugs

Handknotted Rugs

When buying a rug, there are numerous options as far as compositions go. You would think that a rug is a rug and they are all the same, right? Fortunately, that statement is far from the truth. The rug world today has progressed to not just hand knotted rugs, but hand tufted, hand loomed, power loomed and machine made. Each have their benefits but the one that holds the most character, longevity and history, is the hand knotted.

The process of creating hand knotted rugs is something that is a bit of a mystery to the average person but it is incredibly fascinating.  Using handspun wool and dying it with dyes made of natural materials then tying knot after knot to create a beautiful piece of art, how could you want anything more in a rug? In this blog, we at Rug and Home want to educate you on the entire process that entails a hand knotted rug.

First, a little history on rugs. They have been around pretty much the same amount of time as humans, but were not typically placed on floors and walked on. Animal hides, in addition to being used for clothing, functioned as curtains or doors to keep the family’s hut or shelter warm. They were also used for sitting and sleeping surfaces. Nomads were known to take smaller rugs and use them as satchels or saddle bags. While the rugs were more about functionality back then, it did not stop them from being artistic with it. The famous ‘Pazyryk carpet’ dates back to the 5th century BC and has the most beautiful and intricate pattern. This carpet is believed to be woven by the Mongolian nomads, but it was the Persians who took the craft and made it into a true artform.

As we mentioned before, there is a rather lengthy process in creating a hand knotted rug. There is drawing the design, sorting the wool, dying it, knotting each individual knot, shearing, then washing it. The quality and price is based on many variables, including knots per square inch, materials, dyes (herbal/vegetable vs synthetic), quality of the wool and the intricacy of the design.

They 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. Depending on the size, design and the complexity of it, this process could take anywhere from 3 months, to a year to complete.

Hand knotted rugs are as pretty from the back as they are from the front.  A great way to identify whether or not a rug has been hand knotted or not it flipping it over and taking a look at the back. You can see the design and the knots when you flip the carpet over. When you scratch the back of it, it does not feel like plastic. Hand knotted rugs usually have fringe because that is the warp thread. They do not have binding on the ends.

Another benefit of hand knotted rugs is that they are made from natural fibers: wool and 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 and clean easily. Not to mention wool being an insulator as well as flame retardant! They continue to hold their luster, year after year.

A unique charasteric of handknotted rugs is abrash. If you look closely at a hand knotted rug, you notice a combination of hues throughout the rug, not a solid color. Wool, as you know is hair and is not the same color with every strand. This means, when spun together and dyed, it will not all dye the same color but have variations throughout. This abrash, creates a natural more relaxed look and is something you will not find with rugs made with polypropolene and dyed with chemical or aniline dyes. 

There is a subtle difference from each dye lot. Natural dyes, or commonly called vegetable dyes, are never consistent from batch to batch. There are many different elements that affect this, such as where the plant materials were grown and the soil content. This inconsistency may drive some people crazy, but it’s another unique characteristic that contributes to a one of a kind rug. It can never be duplicated, you are the only one with this rug.

This process has been passed from generation to generation and while it is time consuming, the reward is a true piece of art that is durable and sure to last for 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.

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