When considering a rug for your home, there are a number of reasons to choose handmade rugs instead of machine-made ones. Ease of Care and wearability are the most important considerations.
Handmade rugs are much more durable than mass-produced machine-made rugs. Handmade rugs are usually made with natural materials such as cotton, wool or silk. These natural fibers last longer and release no harmful gasses into the environment over time. And since each rug is hand-knotted, each strand has been tied individually for greater combined strength and consistency.
Handmade vs. Machine Made
Rugs can be divided into two categories: handmade and machine-made. Machine made rugs are also called "power loomed" rugs. Handmade rugs can be sectioned further into four types: hand- knotted, hand- tufted, hand- hooked, and flat woven.
Hand-knotted rugs are by far higher in quality than machine made rugs. These investments, possessing a high resale value, will last through generations. The construction of these rugs is much stronger than hand-tufted, hand-hooked, flat woven, or machine-made rugs.
The fringe in a handmade rug is actually the warp thread of the rug, running through the rug from end to end. The pile is tied into the warp threads using one of two traditional knots, the Persian knot or the Turkish knot. A weft thread is then woven in between each row of knots to secure them even more tightly into the rug. All this is compacted tightly to form a very dense and strong structure that can withstand many years of hard use.
Hand- tufted and hand-hooked
The piles of hand-tufted and hand-hooked rugs are constructed by injecting a "U" shaped loop of yarn loaded onto a tufting gun through the back of a canvas backing to form the pile (instead of tying an actual knot around warp and weft fibers). Tufted and hooked rugs differ because tufted rugs are sheared or cut to look more like carpet, whereas hooked rugs are left unshorn with the "U," or hook shape, to form the pile. The height of the pile is determined during the making of the rug.
There are 3 qualities of hand-hooked rugs based on the density and size of the loop. Gross Point rugs, known in the industry simply as "hooked" rugs, have large loops (1/2 inch high) forming the pile. Petit Point rugs have piles made of smaller loops (1/4 inch high), and a Micro Point rug’s pile has very tiny loops (1/8 inch high). As loop size decreases, the amount of detail in a rug’s design will increase, thus one can achieve a much more intricate design by using the micro point hook than by using a petit point hook or gross point hook.
Hand-tufted and hand-hooked rugs are affordable alternatives to authentic hand-knotted rugs. The pile side of hand-tufted rugs often looks and feels just like that of an authentic hand-knotted rug. The fast tufting technique enables the manufacturer to produce these rugs more quickly and with less labor, enabling faster delivery to the market. It is for these reasons that hand-tufted rugs can easily cost 10 times less than a hand-knotted Oriental rug of the exact same size.
Flat woven rugs are pileless rugs. Some common flat weaves are Kelims, Dhurries, Soumaks, Needlepoints and Aubussons. Aubussons are woven on looms. Unlike pile rugs, the weft in Aubusson rugs is actually what forms the designs in the rug.
Machine-made rugs are woven on power looms operated either by hand, machine, or computer, hence their alternate name, “power loomed." Once design and colors are determined, a computer card is created which tells the computer which size and color rug it needs to produce. The loom is strung with a warp of jute, or sometimes cotton. The rug is then woven using wool, nylon, polypropylene, olefin, or another suitable yarn. There are two types of looms used to create three different categories of Oriental reproductions: Wilton, Cross-woven Wilton, and Axminster. Each of these can be designed to achieve various pile heights, densities, finishes and qualities
Natural fibers vs. synthetic
Wool is a versatile fiber that dyes easily to create a limitless range of colors. Because of the natural scales on wool fiber surface, light is diffused and provides a soft appearance with less shine. The protein core of wool fibers are reactive, therefore they absorb dyes beautifully and hold the color well.
Wool has an elastic property that enables it to retain a dense pile through the weight of furniture, traffic and other uses for area rugs. Wool is extremely durable and maintains a good appearance for longer periods. Wool fiber is naturally flexible and coiled, which means it is more likely to stretch rather than break
The scales on a wool fiber naturally repel water and other liquids. Although wool will absorb moisture, if liquid is spilled on a wool area rug or other wool fabric it may take time to penetrate.
Wool is naturally fire resistant and will not melt when burned. While wool will catch fire, it will not support a flame, which may make it a good choice for an area rug close to a hearth.
While area rugs of any material provide acoustic benefits, wool provides excellent insulation against sound and reduces noise levels. In addition, wool naturally resists static electricity by absorbing air moisture. Wool stays cleaner longer and resists dirt. The same qualities of wool that prevent static electricity also protect against lint and dust attraction.
Cotton is available in many colors, provides softness and good performance.
Nylon is manufactured in an unlimited variety of colors, resists soil and is easily cleaned. The resilient nature of nylon withstands the weight of furniture and heavy traffic. Nylon is very strong, abrasion-resistant and elastic. While nylon can simulate the look and feel of wool, its lustrous quality will create a relatively shiny appearance in area rugs.
Olefin is the predominant machine-woven synthetic fiber. Olefin has a soft wool-like feel, but resists wear and stains while being colorfast, strong and affordable.
Polyester provides softness when constructed into thick, cut pile textures for area rugs and durability in furniture fabrics.
Acrylic can be blended with other fibers to provide the look of wool at a lower cost.
Any of the above natural and synthetic fibers may be blended. Synthetic fibers such as olefin and nylon are petroleum products, while rayon (Viscose) – a man-made alternative to silk – is synthesized from cellulose found in trees. Animal-derived natural fibers include wool spun from sheep, goats, llama and alpaca. Plants produce natural fibers such as sea grass, jute, flax and cotton.
Source: HSN Inc. 2015