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How to tell the difference between handmade and machine-made rugs

Unless you are a rug expert, it can be difficult to spot if a rug has been crafted by hand or produced by a machine. This article will help you understand their differences, and inform your purchasing decisions. Firstly, we will look at the diverse types of rugs available, and then provide a guide on how to spot which rugs are handmade, and which have been created by a machine.

Hand-knotted rugs

Hand-knotted rugs are crafted by skilled rug makers, who use hand-tied knots as the foundation. It takes a long time to do this, meaning that hand-knotted rugs are often more expensive. These rugs are formed from natural materials including cotton, wool, silk and jute, and are built to last a long time.

It’s easy to identify a hand-knotted rug and know it was not made by a machine.

Flat hand-woven weave

A common type of handmade rug is flat weave, which has almost no pile or height. Look for rugs named Dhurrie, Kilim or Soumak, which are all hand-made. With a little knowledge of rug making, it’s not too difficult to tell if a flat weave rug is made by machine or by hand.

Machine-made rugs

Power looms are machines that make rugs. These machines are controlled by computers which automatically make rugs at speed. As there is less labour involved, machine-made rugs tend to be cheaper than hand-made ones. Machine-made rugs can still be of decent quality, especially if made from wool.

Hand-tufted rugs

Hand-tufted rugs are made using a hand-held drill gun, so are not considered by some to be authentically hand-made. The cost of a hand-tufted rug is somewhere between the lower cost of machine-made rugs, and fully hand-made flat weave or knotted rugs.

Examine the back of the rug and the fringe

A trained rug inspector can easily spot how a rug has been crafted. For the more inexperienced, the best way to determine how a rug was made is to examine the back and fringe. The back of a handmade rug will tend to look uneven, whereas a machine-made rug should be perfectly level. On the back of a hand-made rug, the fringe will make up part of the rug. If the fringe looks as though it has been sewn on, you can be confident it was machine-made. The latter type of rug will often have white grid lines on the back, which are part of the computer control process.

Variations of colour

Hand-made rugs may vary in colour. The dyeing process will often be a manual one, with slight colour differences between batches. Machine-made fibres, however, are dyed in large batches, causing little-to-no colour differences between rugs.


Hand-made rugs tend to feature elaborate colourful patterns where designs are often ancient, passed down through generations of rug makers. Machine-made rugs may mimic some of these designs, but are batch-printed, and therefore not unique.

The rug edges

The edges of a handmade rug are stitched by hand, which means that the edge sizes can vary slightly, whereas a machine-made rug will have uniform edges.

The price

Hand-made rugs that use the finest materials are expensive. For instance, a 100-year-old handmade Persian rug can cost thousands of pounds. However, machine-made rugs can also cost a pretty penny. Rug makers may offer custom rugs made in a unique, one-off design. An artist may design a limited-edition rug at a high cost. These rugs will usually be made by a computer-controlled machine. The rugs may be excellent quality, but you are paying a premium price for the exclusivity of the design, and the price alone does not tell you if a rug is machine-made or handmade.

The fibre

Luxury rugs are often crafted from natural materials, such as wool or cotton. Ancient rugs, however, were sometimes made from goat or camel hair.

Machine-made rugs are usually made from synthetic fibres such as acrylic, nylon and polypropylene. However, some natural fibre wool and cotton rugs may also be machine-made, so you cannot always tell a rug’s origin from the fibre type alone.

Read the label and ask an expert

Of course, when you go to a rug shop, you can always read the label attached to the rug, which will tell you if it’s handmade. A reputable rug dealer will be able to give expert advice, and should inform you whether a particular rug is hand or machine-made.
Look after your rug

No matter if a quality rug is hand-made or produced by a machine, it needs to be cared for to make it last a long time. Be sure to regularly vacuum it, and periodically send the rug to a professional rug cleaner for a thorough clean.


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