When clients ask interior designer Mary Ann Hart Beardman if a needlepoint rug is durable enough for active living rooms and dining rooms, she recalls the day when a neighbor’s large dog ran all over her living room needlepoint rug leaving large, wet and muddy paw prints all over the pristine cream background of her Branches needlepoint rug. Others may have panicked, but Mary knew better. She waited a day until the wet mud had completely dried and then vacuumed off the dirt without leaving a trace!
Mary Ann, owner of Bailey & Hart Interiors in Lake Forest, Illinois has clients who have had needlepoint rugs for years. The Branches needlepoint rug has been in Mary Ann's living room for 8 years, and she says the rug is “...in a high traffic area....I have had dogs with muddy feet, grandkids with food, and parties where adults have spilled wine and food, and the rug cleans beautifully. Actually, in 8 years I have never had it cleaned. The superior wool that Asmara uses enables it to clean up just by me doing it myself. As far as dirt and mud, I just let it dry and vacuum it. All dirt comes right up. I love this rug and never worry about traffic or spills... the best rug I have ever owned”.
A Branches needlepoint rug like the one in Mary Ann Hart Beardman's living room. Spills on a needlepoint rug, or any other type of high quality rug, should be promptly dabbed and lifted by using dry towels to absorb as much of the liquid as possible and then making sure the rug dries completely. Regular vacuuming lifts out dust and dirt and extends the life of a quality needlepoint rug. Unless they are heavily soiled, good quality rugs should not be routinely sent out for cleaning. Branches Rug Design © Asmara, Inc.
Mary Jane Pool, former editor of Vogue and House and Garden has had this Asmara needlepoint rug in her living room for over 23 years. The needlepoint rug's antique shades of brown, red, gold and green resonate with Fortuny pillows from Venice, a silk-upholstered sofa from a design by Syrie Maugham, and a pair of Neoclassical Italian gilt-mirror frames. Domino Magazine image via chinoiseriechic blog and Pinterest Decorating with Red Rugs.
Unlike oriental rugs, needlepoint rugs do not have a pile and are grouped under the category of "flat-weave" rugs which also includes Aubusson rugs. In comparison to oriental rugs, good quality needlepoint rugs are quite thin and this leads people to mistakenly assume they are too fragile for actively used rooms.
How to tell which needlepoint rugs are durable for active living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms:
1. The most durable needlepoint rugs have millions of handmade stitches
Needlepoint rugs are still stitched entirely by hand, with nothing more complicated than a simple sewing needle and wool thread. The hand stitching is done on an open grid cotton fabric called a "canvas". The wool stitches cover the entire surface of the cotton canvas which then becomes the needlepoint rug. Every square foot of the Branches needlepoint rug has 14,400 individual hand made wool stitches. A 9'x12' needlepoint rug contains more than 1.55 million hand stitches.
The pattern is first hand painted on the sturdy, open grid cotton "canvas". The needlepoint artisan uses custom dyed wool yarns and covers the canvas with wool stitches following every detail of the painted pattern. Millions of stitches in high quality wool on a sturdy cotton canvas foundation is what gives needlepoint rugs their exceptional durability. Image courtesy The Royal School of Needlework, London.
An embroiderer hand stitching a floral needlepoint pattern with a sewing needle and wool yarn. Image courtesy The Royal School of Needlework, London.
2. Needlepoint rugs made with high quality wool are more durable and easier to clean
If you were to unravel good quality wool yarn, you will notice that the wool fibers are long and strong. Longer and stronger fibers is what gives wool its strength. Mediocre wool yarn contains shorter fibers which break easily. Needlepoint rugs made with good quality wool are resistant to abrasion and pulling which takes place during normal usage. Additionally, good quality yarn has more lanolin which protects needlepoint rugs when a drink is spilled on the rug. Lanolin keeps the spilled liquids on the surface of the rug for a little while. This gives you more time to lift the liquid by absorbing it into a dry paper towel or a clean cloth towel. Lift as much of the liquid as you can, and then make sure the rug is air dried so mildew does not have a chance to set in.
3. Chemically washed needlepoint rugs are less durable and less resistant to spills
In order to improve the appearance of poorly colored needlepoint rugs, manufacturers began washing them with chemicals including bleach. These chemicals strip the protective outer layer of wool fibers and turn colors yellow which can then resemble antique rugs and become more saleable. Chemical washing also makes the rug look shiny which can be mistaken for higher quality. However, if durability, clear colors and authenticity are important, you should avoid chemically washed needlepoint rugs. This is very difficult to do for oriental rugs where nearly 99% of all rugs made in the last 50 years have been chemically washed. Luckily chemical washing has not been quite as pervasive with needlepoint rugs and Aubusson rugs, but you should still ask to be sure.
4. A good rug pad will enhance comfort and prolong the life of a needlepoint rug
A good rug pad under a needlepoint rug gives additional cushioning which is important for thin rugs. A pad prolongs the life of a needlepoint rug by allowing dirt to fall through the rug and onto the pad from where it can be removed by regular vacuuming of the pad in addition to the rug. A pad also helps a needlepoint adhere to the floor. finally, a pad is essential if you ever decide to have a needlepoint rug installed wall to wall. See the dining room in the last image in this post.
5. Look for manufacturers who have their needlepoint rugs tested by an independent lab.
Independent testing labs such as the Independent Textile Testing Service in Dalton, Georgia perform wear and color fastness tests on all types of rugs and carpets. Ask if the manufacturer has had his needlepoint rugs independently tested by a lab and how it was rated.
Needlepoint rugs are used in all types of rooms. Interior designer and Greenwich Style author Cindy Rinfret captured a relaxed mood in this sun room with an Ascot D needlepoint rug in a brown and pale beige geometric pattern. The Ascot needlepoint rug is made with hand spun wool yarn which produces appealing variations in color and texture. Image courtesy Elizabeth McGann and Rinfret, Ltd. Ascot Rug Design © Asmara, Inc
Legendary interior designer David Easton chose a cream needlepoint rug for the family/breakfast room. The house is just outside Aspen and was featured in Architectrual Digest. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
A cream, beige and blue needlepoint rug grounds a pale blue toile wall covering, gold framed oval mirror and elegant crystal chandelier in a stunning New Jersey estate designed by Janet Simon. Dining room needlepoint rug should extend beyond the dining chairs when they are fully pulled out. Large room size needlepoint rugs are sometimes installed wall to wall for an ultra luxurious look. Image courtesy Traditional Home Magazine.