What is the first thing you notice when shopping for an area rug? As you flip through dozens of rugs in the store, the initial draw tends to be color and pattern—how it suits your taste and works with other elements in the room. While those attributes are extremely important, you should also be aware of how a rug is constructed. The method used to make your rug is a statement of quality, which ultimately affects price and long-term durability.
Knotted rugs are extremely time-consuming to produce, thus making them among the most expensive and treasured. When crafting oriental rugs, the knots are tied onto a foundation of warp threads that actually form the pile of the finished rug. The warp threads are what create the decorative fringe at either end. The greater the number of knots per square inch, the more durable and valuable the rug.
Tufted rugs begin with a backing in which pieces of yarn are pushed through to create loops. When the tufting process is complete, a layer of muslin or canvas is glued to the backing to keep the loops secured in place. The individual loops are then trimmed to a uniform length creating the pile. Tufted rugs require less labor than knotted rugs, so production is quicker and less costly. Since the yarn is glued rather than tied, it is recommended tufted rugs be vacuumed regularly to reduce shedding.
While the construction technique is identical to that of tufting, the yarns of hooked rugs stay in their looped state without being trimmed. The loops are what create the pile, giving hooked rugs a rustic, folk-artsy appearance. The art of rug hooking is native to the northeastern U.S. and Maritime provinces of Canada. Examples of hooked rugs date back to the 1840s. These antiques are highly prized pieces of Americana. Their reproduced counterparts are just as popular today.
Unlike knotted, tufted or hooked, flat-woven rugs have no pile. The warps (vertical yarns) are woven directly into the wefts (horizontal yarns). You will see this construction method when shopping for kilims, durries and even natural fiber rugs like jute, seagrass and sisal.
Versatile braided rugs, like their flat-woven cousins, have no pile and are often reversible. As the name implies, yarns are braided into a single rope that is stitched together into a spiral. This construction results in an extremely durable floor covering that will hold up even in the heaviest traffic areas.
Man Versus Machine
So which is better? It’s all a matter of personal preference and budget. Hand-made rugs take a great deal of time, care and artistry to produce. They are typically crafted from natural fibers like wool, cotton and silk, which add to their mystique and higher price tag. Hand-made rugs are considered an investment. They can easily cost thousands of dollars but will serve your home for decades if maintained properly.
Ease of manufacture and uniformity are key attributes of mass-produced rugs. While they are much more affordable, they lack the charm, variations and intrinsic beauty of handcrafted rugs. Most machine-made rugs are created from synthetic yarns, making them a versatile and durable choice for modern households—perfect if you like switching them out after a few seasons of use.
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