Area Rug: How It’s Made

There are essentially two types of area rugs being made today; those made by computer-controlled looms and those made by artisans who still use the hand-knotted or hand-weaving techniques that have been passed down through the generations. Both manufacturing methods result in beautiful area rugs and both methods have their own pros and cons. Understanding the difference in how these rugs are made will give you a better idea as to which type will best fit your home and your needs.
Machine-Made Area Rugs
Area rugs that are made by computer-controlled looms are traditionally less expensive than hand-made rugs. They will often be made of durable, man-made materials like olefin or nylon, although some manufacturers produce rugs made from 100% wool, satin or a blend of both materials. Machine-made rugs are virtually impervious to moisture and mildew.
One of the characteristics that set machine-made area rugs apart from their hand-made counterparts is that they can often feature very intricate designs that can’t be replicated by hand. This is because the design is programmed into a computer which then controls the looms to reproduce the image exactly. With these rugs, multiple colors of yarn are threaded or sewn by the automatic loom into a backing material, much like a carpet. When you’re looking at a gorgeously designed machine-made rug, you’re looking at someone’s vision, not their handiwork.
Since machine-made rugs are less expensive than hand-made rugs, they are not often considered heirlooms or long-term investments.

Hand-Made Area Rugs

Area rugs that are made by hand are very unique, often contain inconsistencies and are highly regarded for their artisan qualities. These rugs are usually made of natural fibers like wool, silk, bamboo or cotton and they feature one of three different weaving techniques – pile, flat or hand-tufted.
Pile Weave – Pile weaved rugs, also known as knotted weave rugs, consists of the weaver tying a short piece of yarn around two neighboring “warp” strands to create a knot on the rug’s surface. Every knot in the rug is tied by hand and most rugs made in this fashion feature between 25 and 1000 knots per square inch. These rugs are extremely labor intensive and a single rug can take up to two years or more to create. This is why hand-made pile weave rugs of this nature are considered an investment and are priced much higher than machine-made rugs.
Flat Weave – Flat weave area rugs contain no knots. They consist of weft strands that are weaved in and out through the warp strands. These rugs are flat, hence the name, and feature no pile.
Hand-Tufted – Hand-tufted area rugs also do not contain knots, but they do have a pile. These rugs are made by pushing loops, or tufts, of yarn up through the primary backing of the rug. Once all of the tufts are pushed through, two more backing layers are glued over the primary backing to prevent the tufts from being pulled back out. The last stage of production involves cutting the tufts to an equal height to form the pile. Of the three types of hand-made area rugs, hand-tufted are the fastest to make and the least expensive.
Understanding Knot Density
The higher the knot density, the better quality the hand-made rug will be. Knot density relates to the number of knots per square inch. If the manufacturer doesn’t list the knot density, just count the number of knots on a linear inch on the rug along the warp and the weft and multiply the two numbers to get the density number.
Natural vs. Synthetic Dyes
Both machine-made and hand-made area rugs can feature various colored yarns that have been made by using either natural or synthetic dyes. Natural dyes are those that are derived from all-natural sources, including:
Flowers Roots Leaves Fruits Bark Wood Resin Insects Minerals Today’s synthetic dyes are called chrome dyes. They are much less expensive to produce than natural dyes and they are much more readily available. They are just as colorfast as natural dyes and offer a wide selection of colors to choose from. Most of today’s area rugs, both hand- and machine-made, feature chrome dyes although there are still some dye-houses and villages that rely solely on natural dyes.

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