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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.