It’s a well known fact that handmade area rugs are beautiful, last for decades and they are very expensive compared to machine-made rugs. The art and tradition of rug weaving is generally believed to have been born in ancient Persia, where Cyrus the Great is said to have introduced wide scale rug making in about 529 BC. Today, all styles of beautiful area rugs are woven and hand-knotted on upright looms in much the same way as it was done thousands of years ago. In addition to Iran, countries where rug weaving flourishes include: Morocco, Afghanistan, India, Nepal and China.
Considering a New Rug
Shopping for a new rug for your home is both an enjoyable yet difficult task. While it is fun to watch your decorating vision come to life, sifting through innumerable options, and the various styles, patterns, and colors can be daunting. It is hard to make the right decision with the variety of choices, and the process of shopping and examining area rugs is rather time consuming with the huge list of things to consider. Although it takes a certain amount of effort, putting the proper time and energy into rug buying is well worth the wait and buying a handmade rug for your home can help create an authentic and artistic feel in any room.
One of the most important factors to consider when shopping for a new rug is the function you wish the rug to serve. Is it going to be a centerpiece of your large living room, or do you simply want a fairly attractive area rug? It is important to keep your desired design taste in mind when rug shopping.
For any rug other than a small one in the bathroom, it is best to stick with handmade rugs. These rugs have a longer lifespan and ultimately are better quality than their mass, machine-produced counterparts. However, it can be pretty difficult for a rug novice to identify authenticity, and there are thousands of falsely advertised area rugs in the industry. This is especially true in regards to traditional oriental rug styles. Some rugs claim to be handmade to have a higher price tag when they are really machine made, and therefore should not cost the same as a luxury item. Others claim to be handmade but they are not made in a legitimate fashion, and often use child labor.
What Is the Alternative?
Machine-made rugs are sometimes also referred to as “power-loomed” rugs. this is because they are made on giant power looms, that mimic the process of the hand loom. Machine-Made rugs are getting better and better, and some of the higher end makers of machine-made area rugs are producing some very respectable product. Companies like Karastan rugs, Ikea rugs and Shaw rugs are turning out some nice-looking machine-made rugs these days. They are usually made from synthetic fibers, such as Nylon, Polypropylene, Olefin and Viscose. Blends of these materials can produce an amazingly soft, silky and luxurious rug, but usually this is at the expense of durability. Some of the higher end power-loomed rugs, like those made by Karastan, are also made from genuine wool pile, which increases durability and ease of cleaning.
Why Is a Handmade Rug So Expensive?
The most expensive handmade rugs are made by a process called hand knotting. The quality of a hand knotted rug is measured in knots per square inch. The number of knots per square inch range from 25 to 1000. It takes a skilled rug maker approximately 10 seconds to make one knot, so, if a 6 x 12 piece has 100 knots per square inch, it took the weaver 288 hours to make it. Add to that the finest quality wool and silk and the cost of shipping it halfway across the world, and you’ve got a very costly item.
Tips For Identifying an Authentic Handmade Rug
- The first thing to do when browsing traditional styles is to flip the rug over and examine the back. An authentic rug will have white, blue, or horizontal lines from the foundation threads. These threads are known as weft threads, and it is very important that the threads run horizontal to the fringe. The length of the weft threads can vary and the wefting may not be perfectly straight lines, but the biggest concern is whether or not the threads are horizontal to the fringe.
- Slight imperfections on the underside of a rug indicate authenticity of being handmade, and fashioned by a human rather than a machine. If there is unevenness in the colored knots on the back, this is okay and does not indicate poor craftsmanship or quality. Some areas on the backside can be slightly thicker than others.
- Once you have examined the back, flip the rug back over and scrutinize the design and pattern very closely. Close examination of patterns is very important when considering an oriental rug that claims to be authentic in origin. As mentioned above, truly handmade rugs will have uneven imperfections, and it is extremely rare for a handmade rug’s design to be exactly symmetric in shape and size from one end to the other.
- Check for changes and unevenness of colors on the rug. Color changes, known as “abrash,” are common in hand-dyed rugs and they are to be expected in the background color of a handmade rug. Color changes occur from changes in dye lots of the wool as well as how the wool or material responds to different light exposure and atmosphere. The changes of color do not detract from the look or value, and the slight color changes only cause subtle thick or thin stripes in the background color of the rug.
- Handmade rugs are generally made with a woven wool pile, while machine-made ones are almost always made with either a polyester or nylon pile. Imperfections in the weave are indicators of authenticity, while machine made rugs have a uniform weave.
- Some rugs feature a cloth tag that has been stitched into a corner of the rug which clearly indicates where the rug was made (“Made in India,” “Made in Pakistan,” etc.). This extra stitched tag is a strong indicator that the rug is in fact handmade.
Handmade Rugs Are Eco-Friendly
Many carpets and rugs available in the market are made using synthetic fabrics or have been treated with stain protectors, insecticides, and fire retardants that are harmful for exposure in the home. Synthetic carpets get their “new carpet smell” from dangerous organic compounds (VOCs) that cause serious health problems ranging from allergies to nausea.
Due to the common presence of these volatile compounds in carpets, area rugs are increasingly considered healthier flooring options for our homes. In order to have softness underfoot, greater decor opportunities, and extra padding and insulation on your flooring without traditional carpet, area rugs can work very well in place of carpet. We pride ourselves on featuring rugs that are skillfully made by hand from only the finest, premium quality natural ingredients, such as high mountain wool and sari silk. All of our rugs are handmade so as to avoid harmful chemicals and synthetic fibers.
Even with rugs that are knotted by hand and using natural products from India to Nepal, it does not hurt to follow some helpful hints to keeping your rugs as healthy as possible in your home with proper care and cleaning. All area rugs will gather dirt over time, so a few careful yet simple practices should become habits in order to maintain the quality of your purchases.
Healthy Maintenance For Your Area Rugs & Artisan Carpets
Most people know to remove shoes when indoors to reduce the spread of dirt and germs onto carpets, rugs, and flooring. Another smart practice is to invest in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, or High Efficiency Particulate Air filter. HEPA filters ensure that the dust does not blow around and circulate in the air when you vacuum, as do many other vacuums. Average carpet has nearly seventy grams of dust per square meter, so it defeats the purpose to clean your carpets with vacuums that are actually spreading the dust and dirt around as you “clean”. Also, it is important to keep your house well ventilated. While most traditional carpet has toxic chemical additives, area rugs offer a safer way to update the look of your rooms or get softer carpet. Area rugs are generally less toxic than wall-to-wall carpeting, as they do not need to be fastened to the floor with adhesives that give off dangerous gas fumes. Be sure to take proper care of your handmade area rugs, and exercise careful cleaning practices if rugs made from natural materials have become wet or dirty, to ensure the healthiest, safest, and most attractive living spaces for your family.