A New Language


Discerning the difference between rugs can be challenging without a trained eye. Rowena offers her insight into how to tell a good rug, from a great one.

Choosing a rug for your home can be a difficult thing to do. When you first start if feels like there is a whole new language you have to learn qualities and materials. It is almost impossible to tell apart a high quality from a low quality rug by eye alone. Not only that but prices for rugs can vary hugely and few people understand what they are paying for. So below are a few terms explained and what to look for.

Handmade doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better, it’s just the form of construction used for the rug. It’s a loose term to indicate a difference.

Hand knotted rugs are at the premium end of the rug making. They are made using the traditional method dating back hundreds of years by skilled artisans working on wooden looms. A hand knotted rug of 3mtrs by 2.5mtrs can take over 6 months to complete. Hand knotting produces a robust rug which can last a lifetime. They are easily cleaned and areas can be rewoven if required. There are examples of rugs over two hundred years old in museums around the world. When looking at a hand knotted rug from the reverse you can see the knots which will slightly vary in size and shape, there will be no signs of glue and the edges will be bound by hand.

Hand tufted, are made by the use of a hand-held tufting gun, which injects the fibres into a fabric backing which is then sealed with a type of glue or latex. The back of the rug is then lined with a heavy-duty fabric such as jute. This process usually takes around 2 – 3 months. This rug doesn’t have quite the same quality, character or longevity as a hand knotted rug.

Hand loomed, these often look very similar to a hand knotted rug, but has many issues regarding wear and quality. It is made on a manual loom, pushing the fibres together. Unlike a hand tufted rug they are not secured on the rear but held in place by the pressure of the other fibres. Due to its construction it is easly damaged by hoovers. If fibres can easily be pulled out by hand then there is a high chance that the rug is loomed.

Machine made, similar to above but a computerised machine will inject the fiber into a backing. The whole process only takes a few hours and will make a uniform rug. This is the type of rug you will find in most high street stores. If you look at the rear of the rug you will find a grid of white thread. These rugs are only expected to last around 10 years.

Wool is the most usual fibre for the luxury rug, it is durable, strong, soft and warm. The pile springs back into shape when walked on or weighed down by furniture. Many rugs are a mix between wool and silk, with the wool giving durability and the silk the colour and sheen. A few rugs are 100% silk, beautiful but should only be used in low traffic areas and kept out of the sun. Synthetics, wool alternatives are common in inexpensive machine made rugs. They are easy to care for and the fibre is strong, but the pile is susceptible to crushing. Artificial silk or viscose, is created from the cellulose of plants, processed using chemicals. There are various forms of viscose, Bamboo Silk and Banana Silk from the dried cellulose of the bamboo and banana plants. Although lovely and silky to touch it doesn’t wear well and it can be susceptible to staining easily.

A few pointers to choosing a rug: if you are renting a property, a rug is an easy way to inject your own personality into a room and it’s portable making it easy to take with you when you move. Some rug shops allow you to try out a rug, make use of this excellent service. Rugs are great for defining areas in large open plan spaces. A good design tip – big rug in small spaces, small rugs can look untidy. Chose a rug like you would choose a piece of art, look for one that speaks to you, that you love. Don’t be afraid of colour, design or pattern.

There are a few organisations now in place that ensure that the skilled artisans in countries like Turkey, Nepal, India and Afghanistan have better working conditions, education and no child labour. Look for the ‘GoodWeave’ or ‘STEP label on the rear of the rug for confirmation that the rug has been made according to these conditions.