The Most Common Types of Rug Construction

Rugs are the most versatile of floor coverings and are made in a very wide array of sizes, colours, designs, materials and qualities. They can be made solely or partly by hand, by hand powered or wholly powered machine.  The price you will pay should largely depend on the time taken for the rug to be made – along with the quality of the materials used. It is therefore very important that you know what you are buying as, unfortunately, the rug business has sellers taking advantage of the publics’ lack of knowledge. Basically there are

Three main ways to make a rug according to NielsLarssen of Persian and Modern Rugs

Hand Knotted rug

The most valuable and long-lasting rugs are made wholly by hand and are a true artisan furnishing item. They come in a huge variety, but all share these common qualities which you can easily spot.

  1. Turn the rug over to look at the back. A hand knotted rug will have the exact same design visible on the back as the front – just flat without the pile. However, this is not infallible as modern machine making techniques can closely replicate this attribute.
  2. A genuine hand knotted rug will almost always have fringes at each end as these are the integral ends of the lengthwise warp threads. These are the threads the weaver ties the knots around, one by one, until one entire row has been finished.
  3. Once a row has been completed the weaver will separate the warp threads and insert a width wise weft thread, which is beaten down with a special fork to lock the row in place. On a hand knotted rug you will see this white, cream (or blue ‘lazy’) weft running across the rug.
  4. On a machine rug you will see this narrow weft thread runs lengthwise.

Tufted Rug

The most common rug construction these days is tufted – either using a hand-held tufting gun or a machine tufting one. The rug knots are fired into a pre-drawn cotton mesh which makes the process very much quicker than hand knotting. You can easily identify one of these rugs as they are generally thicker than a hand knotted rug and when you turn them over the back is a plain canvas or cotton. There is zero front design visible.

This cover is to protect the back of the rug because it is glued to hold the knots in place – there is no locking weft thread to do this job.

Machine Made Rug

A machine-made rug is made quickly and inexpensively with no human touch – other than the machine operator and the placing of the thread spools on the machine. The design is programmed into a computer and the rugs are run in sheets, cut and finished with false fringes to make them look like genuine hand knotted rugs. You will see a vague outline of the front  design on the back and the thin white or cream weft thread will run the length of the rug.

Machine made rugs can be very good quality and last a long time but lack the spontaneity and artisan feel of hand knotted or tufted rugs.