Updated June 16, 2015 with new content. A fine quality handmade rug is a major purchase and when chosen wisely gives years of enjoyment. It is therefore surprising that many people don’t ask a few simple questions that could greatly increase their enjoyment of the rug. Here are 7 tips that will help you choose the best rug for the room, avoid some common rug buying mistakes and know the pros and cons of hand-knotted versus hand-tufted rugs.
- View a sample of the rug in the room before ordering the rug. A rug can look great in a showroom but die when brought in to the room. This happens because colors look very different under different lights. Since a rug covers one of the larges surfaces in a room its colors and texture have a major impact on the look and feel of a room. Save yourself the trouble of returning bulky rugs by first order several rug samples and seeing how they look in the room both during the day and in the evening. If you like a rug sample you can use at as a guide to help you choose fabrics, accessories and wall colors.
- Keep in mind that colors on the computer screen may not be accurate. This is largely due to the limitations of technology which is why the better websites will also describe the colors of the rug in easy to understand language. Even in this case it is always a good idea to have a person at the rug company describe the colors of the rug to you.
- Know the difference between a “hand knotted” rug and a “hand tufted” rug. Lately marketers have been describing rugs that were formerly and correctly called hand tufted rugs as handmade rugs. As you will see below these two types of rugs are very different and only hand knotted rugs can genuinely be called handmade.
How a hand knotted rug is made: The weaver ties each knot by hand. Here the weaver pulls apart two warp threads (the warps are the vertical white threads) and inserts a wool yarn and loops it under one warp and over the next warp thread forming a Persian rug knot. The weaver cuts of the excess yarn leaving an inch long pile. Fingers move at lightning speed selecting yarns of different colors according to the painted paper pattern pinned on the loom at eye level. After several knots have been tied, the weaver runs a cotton thread from left to right (called the weft). The weft goes over one warp and under the next warp. The vertical warp threads and horizontal weft threads form a tight grid which keeps each wool knot firmly in place. A room size hand knotted rug can have several millions individually hand tied knots. After the entire rug has been woven, the warp threads are cut and the rug is taken off the loom. After this there are five finishing steps all done by hand. Image © Adisa | Dreamstime.com
How a hand tufted rug is made: The weaver faces a loosely woven cotton fabric stretched on a vertical frame. This side is the back of the rug. The weaver holds an electric tufting gun which pushes wool yarn through the stretched fabric following the pattern stenciled on the fabric. The wool yarn forms loops on the other side of the fabric and these loops will cut and will become the pile of the rug. Since the fabric is loosely woven it cannot hold the pile and a layer of liquid latex is applied to the back of the fabric. When latex solidifies it holds the wool pile securely in place. The latex is next covered by a thick cotton fabric which forms the finished backing of the hand tufted rug. The backing is one way to tell if a rug is hand tufted or hand knotted. A genuine hand knotted rug will not have a fabric backing and you will be able to see and count the handmade knot.
Pros and Cons of hand tufted rugs:
Pro: If a cleint requires a large custom rug in a very short time frame, a custom hand tufted rug can be a good option as it can be produced quickly. However make sure the mill uses high quality wool and good latex backing as inferior latex deteriorates more quickly.
Con: A hand tufted rug cannot be washed in professional rug washing machines as the latex backing will not go through the washing rollers. Hand tufted rug should only be surface cleaned.
Con: A hand tufted rug has a shorter life span than a well made hand knotted rug.
Con: Hand tufting is not suitable for making intricate patterns with many colors and subtle shading.
Con: A hand tufted rug does not retain its value in the way a good hand knotted rug does.
- Was the rug chemically washed? Manufacturers use a chemical wash to improve the look of a hand knotted wool rug. Be aware that chemical washing has these drawbacks: Chemicals such as bleach turn colors yellow – whites look dirty, blues turn greenish and grays become brownish. Bleach and other harsh chemicals strip the protective outer layer of the wool fiber. While this makes the wool look shiny and feel soft, it reduces stain resistance and durability.
- Make sure the materials used in the rug are accurately described. For example “art silk” sounds like silk but is actually rayon or some other synthetic fiber. “Man made” fibers or yarns is another confusing term because it refers to yarns made synthetically from petroleum.
- Make sure the size of the rug is right for the room. Avoid the common mistake of ordering a rug that is too small as it will make the room look smaller. A rug that is too large doesn’t look right either.
- Make sure you have the option of returning the rug with a week or two for a full refund. You need this time to be sure you like how the room looks and feels with the rug in it.
- Make sure that a custom made rug can be delivered in the time promised. If one supplier quotes a significantly shorter delivery time for a custom rug than the other suppliers, make sure their delivery promise is realistic and not just a stratagem for winning the order.