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Hand-Made vs. Machine-Made Rugs 

The back of this machine-made rug is rough to the touch due to the layer of latex that secures it in place.

A hand-knotted rug shows the design through to the back because of the many knots used to create it.

Flat weave rugs are useful in high-traffic areas because they are reversible.

It's easier to see the differences when a rug in placed face down:

  • Machine-made rugs are not actually knotted. The wool fiber is put into place by machine, and then secured with latex backing. This makes the back rough to the touch and creates a grid appearance on the back.
  • The image of the design of a hand-knotted rug can be seen in back created out of tiny rows of knots. Creating the design one knot at a time allows it to be more intricate and therefore takes much longer to produce than a machine-made one. The result is better rug density and a tighter, higher quality weave. But even hand-knotted rugs come in a variety of different qualities.
  • One of the fastest-growing categories falls between hand-knotted and machine-made --it's called handgun-tufted. The handgun forces the yarns into a grid, and then the backs are covered with latex or a fabric backing. This makes the process much faster than hand knotting, but still maintain the handcrafted look.

To spot a quality hand-knotted rug, inspect the quality of the wool:

  • Look for the length of the wool fiber, its springiness and the luster.
  • The thickness of a rug doesn't matter when determining the quality of a rug.

When looking at the back of a rug:

  • The image of the rug's frontal design should be clear. A rug that has a less-defined design on the reverse side has not been as tightly knotted.
  • Finer knots denote higher quality.
  • The more knots per square inch, the more labor it took to produce the rug, making it a better quality piece. A finely woven rug will have over 180 individually hand -tied knots per square inch. A skilled craftsman will tie about 800 knots an hour (a 9 x 12 rug takes over 3,500 hours of labor--about 16 months of eight-hour days , including weekends!).

Flat Weaves

  • These are reversible and include types like dhurries and kilims.
  • They're perfect for high traffic areas such as entries and kitchens.


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