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How are Rugs Made - Rugs Direct

Rugs give our homes something different, either a splash of colour, an added texture or a focal point in a room, but do we actually know how they’re made? In recent years, home furnishings are either handmade or machine manufactured in equal amounts, but very few of us know how either of these processes work. Believe us; how the rugs are made is as interesting as the rugs are beautiful.

In this article, we’ll give you the lowdown on every way a rug can be made, from rug knots to machine manufacturing. It may even give you the inspiration to create one of your very own.

Hand-crafted rugs

There’s something intrinsically satisfying about knowing an object has been handcrafted, and rugs are no different. For centuries, hand woven rugs have been centrepieces of households and even with modern machinery intervening, the handcrafting techniques have stood the test of time.

So how do these rugs outlast most of us? Which weaving techniques not only make them beautiful on the eye but make them durable and sturdy? All will be revealed.

Hand-knotted rugs

Probably the most time-consuming rug making technique, but with the highest quality output, is hand-knotting. The ancient technique sees the rug experts insert ‘knots’ into the foundation of the rug and then tie by hand – this section is called the ‘pile’.

Incredibly, there are records of 12’x15’ rugs taking over one year to produce as they were commissioned to be super fine quality. The main reason why they take so long to make is that the materials used to construct them (wool, cotton, jute, silk and other natural materials) have incredibly thin fibres. However, this means a time-consuming process but an incredibly tough end result to last for generations.

Flat weave rugs

The more common handmade technique to produce a rug is the flat weave. Also dating back to ancient times, the process doesn’t involve a pile and instead is just one thin single weave. You’d think this means less durability, but really these rugs are as hardened as their hand-knotted or machine-made counterparts.

We do suggest combining these types of rug with an underlay though, especially if used under the dining room table, as it stops the material from slipping.

Machine-made rugs

Essentially, the age of technology has taken the ancient techniques of old and updated them to modern standards. There’s nothing like a handcrafted rug, but with all the modern equipment on hand, contemporary rugs are a much more efficiently produced, and trust us, they still have that authentic rug feel. 

So how do machines make rugs? Well, like the original looms of old, the new power looms are the basis of the rug-making process. The electrically automated and computer monitored machines weave rugs at high speed in their masses and use both natural and synthetic fibres (e.g. polypropylene, polyester, acrylic, nylon and art silk (artificial silk).

As we know, handmade rugs – either hand-knotted or flat weaved – last for generations, but is this the same with machine-made rugs? Well, some can last up to 20 years so we don’t think you need to worry about that.

In fact, top rugs manufacturers like Karastan have gained a loyal following as their products are considered to be of a higher quality and have superior designs to the rest of the machine-made industry.

Hand tufted rugs

There is then the rug-making process that’s blurring the lines between handmade and machine manufactured – hand tufting. During this process, the rug pile is handwoven, but to create the loop pile, a drill gun inserts the pile into the foundation. The resulting loop pile can then be sheared, which we now know as a cut pile, or if not sheared then it’s known as a hand-hooked rug.

By using both pile processes, the rug is given an added dimensional effect to the pattern which in turn gives it more volume. You may be wondering how all those tufts actually stay in place, well, a latex coating is placed onto the backing of the rug and a canvas-style fabric is placed over the top.

This relatively complicated process would be impossible if just handcrafted. The use of machines means a rug of this type can be made in just a day. To put that in perspective, an 8’x10’ hand-knotted rug can take between 7-14 months to produce.

One of the main differences between handmade and machine-made rugs

Generally, given today’s technology the modern machine-made rugs replicate the classic handmade rugs extremely proficiently. But there is one difference that stands out.

With a handmade rug, the fringe of the rug (the section that forms the outside edge of its main body) is always woven into the foundations of it. The fringe is perfectly integrated, even if turned over, whereas with machine-made rugs, the fringe is added on and sewn over the other material. With modern machine manufactured rugs, the fringe is almost like finishing touch while it is simply the outside fabric on an original handwoven rug.