Rug 101, How to tell the difference between handmade and machine made rugs!

Are you a rug newbie? Overwhelmed with all there is to know about handmade rugs? If you are, don't worry! We are here to help.

I was where you are now, in 2018, when I fell down the handmade rug hole, trying to find a better replacement for plastic rugs. Rugs have been around for centuries. In fact, the oldest rug we have found intact, has been dated to 500 years before Jesus was born. Countries and cultures have built empires on the rug trade and art form. There is a lot to know and learn, but for now lets start with the basics. 

Many of you are here because you want quality for your money. So lets start with the practical lesson of, how to tell the difference between a hand knotted rug, and a rug made by machine. Not to get confused with the catch all term, "handmade."

Just a caveat to point out that, in most countries, the rug trade isn't regulated. Something that is labeled as handmade, can simply mean touched by hands. I've seen rugs that were hand tufted, made by a tufting gun that shoots the fabric in a muslim netting, labeled as handmade. Why? Well, because hands held that tufting gun. See?! Handmade 🤦🏽‍♀️

The first thing I want you to remember is that, there may or may not be a label. Vintage rugs are often only labeled during the export process. They're labeled for taxation purposes, and are often vague in their identification. Do not rely on the label to authenticate a rug. Persian rugs are no longer legal for importation direct from Iran, so Persian rugs in the past, have been mislabeled as Indian, Pakistani or Turkish to import them into the states. Most often on a hand knotted rug, you won't see a label, so you'll have to rely on your eye, to help you identify whether it is truly handmade. Machine made rugs will always carry a label, put on during its creation. If your rug has a label that tells you where it was made, Belgium, the USA, etc, it is most likely a machine made rug. I'll give you an example below. 

 One of the easiest ways to check whether your rug is truly handmade is to flip it over. Hand knotted rugs are knotted, which means, each knot is inserted into the foundation of the rug and tied by hand. Because of its human made nature, each knot you see will vary in size. Note the inconsistencies of the knots, and the unevenness. The unevenness points to the imperfect weaver who made it!

(the back of a Persian, heriz rug. Note the label doesn't say anything about country of origin, year, or who wove it)

(Don't panic if your rug looks like this on the back. This is a single wefted rug, which means less knots and they run a line of cotton after each row. Giving it this white look on the back). 

In contrast a machine made will be flat and even on the backside. You will see consistent "knots." Though what you are seeing are not knots at all, but fabric pressed together with heat and pressure. A white latex coating is then placed over top, to keep the fabric in place. If you ever see a film of white powder on your rug, that is the latex coating on your machine made rug breaking down.  (note the plastic backing on this rug. This rug was made by a machine). 

Secondly, you should note the fringe. Is the fringe a part of the rug? Does it look like its woven into the foundation of the rug, or does it look like it was added afterwards? A handmade rug has fringes that are part of its foundation. If you flip the rug over and see that the fringe was glued or sewn on after the rug was made, your rug is most likely machine made. Check out some examples below.  




note how the fringe is a part of the rug, not added on afterwards. 

Checking the fringe and the knots, are the easiest way to differentiate a handmade rug from a machine made rug. This is not an all encompassing guide, and as you grow in your knowledge of handmade rugs, you can learn other ways to identify them. 

Stick around for Rugs 102!