Rug Knowledge


Traditional rugs are comprised of two sections: the border and the field. The border is the main decorative design that surrounds the rug. Some rugs also have guard borders– narrow decorative designs adjacent to the main border. The field is the area of the rug located within the borders. This can sometimes contain an all over pattern or a medallion, which is most often a round, oval, or polygonal design.

These two parts are also important in identifying the rug. The dominant color in the field and border respectively end up in the name of the rug (i.e., Pietra 6265F Red/Gold). Red is the dominant color of the field and gold is the dominant color of the border.


Oriental rugs come in many different colors, styles and shapes. There are also several different ways to make these beautiful floor coverings. Some constructions are preferred over others, but the end product should still be something suitable to adorn your home.

Oriental rugs can be divided into two categories: handmade and machine made. Handmade rugs can be sectioned further into three types: hand knotted, hand tufted and flat woven. Machine made rugs are also called “power loomed” rugs.

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, 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 knots tied are compacted tightly to form a very dense and strong structure that can withstand many years of hard use.

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. 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 increases, 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. The cartoon is placed directly behind the loom so the weaver can look through the warp strings at the diagram. Unlike pile rugs, the weft in Aubusson rugs is actually what forms the designs in the rug. Aubussons are made using a slit tapestry weave, which means that the colors in the rug are physically separate from each other and must be sewn together once the rug has been removed from the loom.

Once the design for a Needlepoint rug is complete, it is placed underneath the canvas that will serve as the rug’s foundation. Workers peer through the canvas to follow the design, which is spread out flat underneath. Using a stitch similar to a cross–stitch, workers stitch directly onto the canvas. Flat weaves are backed around their borders with a durable fabric to ensure that the finished products will lay flat and have a prolonged life.

Machine made rugs are woven on power looms operated either by hand, machine or computer, hence their alternate name–”power loomed.” The design and colors are determined, and 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. Some common synthetic materials are olefin, which is resilient and if heat set, is not as shiny as many others; polypropylene, which tends to flatten more readily; and nylon which is generally less durable. 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.

Even though some machine made rugs are poor imitations of their handmade counterparts, many machine made rugs produced today rival the look and feel of new handmade pieces. One drawback to power loomed rugs is that once they get damaged, there is very little that can be done to repair them. Handmade rugs on the other hand can be professionally repaired and remain in use for many years. But overall, power loomed rugs are an excellent value and can be a wonderful addition to your décor.


Buying a rug can be tricky! Don’t know what you’re buying? Check these 3 places:

ENDS: In a hand knotted rug, the fringe is “part” of the rug — NOT sewn on as an extension, as is the case in hand tufted and power loomed rugs.

BACK: Hand tufted rugs are almost always covered with a cotton/canvas backing. The pattern is clearly visible on the backside of hand knotted rugs.

SIDE: Hand tufted rugs always have “serged” sides or machine stitching on both sides of the rug.

Hand Knotted Rugs

Generally speaking, hand knotted rugs are the most durable rugs with regard to construction. It is important to realize that within the hand knotted construction, qualities can range from very high to very low, not only in knot count, but also when describing the wool or other materials used in the weaving of the rug. Depending on the overall quality of the rug and the care you give it, these pieces can last for generations. Make sure you never vacuum the fringes of a hand knotted rug. Hand knotted rugs can be stored either rolled or folded, depending on the knot density. For higher knot count rugs, rolling is preferable to prevent breakage of the foundation. Should the fringe of your hand knotted rug become damaged, it is best to seek help from a reputable rug repair workshop.

Hand Tufted Rugs

While hand made in quality, these rugs are not knotted by hand and are made with the assistance of a tufting gun. Hand tufted rugs are often less expensive than hand knotted pieces and can often be more fashion–oriented. Because these rugs take less time to produce, hand tufted pieces can follow the latest fads and color trends. Whereas a hand knotted rug might take months or years to produce, hand tufted rugs usually take only a matter of days or weeks. As with hand knotted rugs, there are a wide range of qualities offered within the tufted category. These are mainly differentiated by pile fiber types and qualities and the density of the tufts.

Because the rug is tufted, there are no knots to anchor the yarns of the pile in place, thus a canvas backing glued to the back of the rug with latex keeps them secured. Over time, the rug’s backing may become stiff, the latex may deteriorate into a non–toxic white powder or it may begin to emit a smell similar to burnt rubber. This is a characteristic of the latex and is not considered to be a defect. Please be aware that any type of spill or accident that exposes your tufted rug to moisture may accelerate this process, especially if care is not taken to clean and dry the rug immediately. Many people do not find the repair of a hand tufted rug to be cost effective due to the fact that they are relatively inexpensive when compared to hand knotted rugs. Repairs to hand tufted rugs are possible, but should be undertaken only by reputable rug repair specialists.

When storing a hand tufted rug, it is important that it never be folded, but rather rolled in a tight cylinder shape to prevent the foundation from breaking or the backing from wrinkling. Never place heavy objects on top of a rolled rug, as it will create creases in the rug and can even break the backing. Should the fringe of a hand tufted rug become detached, it can often be simply sewn back on to the rug.

Power Loomed Rugs

Power loomed rugs, alternately known as machine made rugs, are woven on machines often controlled by computers. There are varying qualities of power loomed rugs. Density, fiber content and number of colors used are all considered in determining the rug’s quality. Because power loomed rugs can be produced in a matter of minutes, these pieces are often much more fashion–oriented toward the trends of the day. The investment of resources and time in the creation of a power loomed rug is generally much less than in that of a hand knotted or even a hand tufted rug, and the cost is a reflection of that.

One drawback to power loomed rugs is that once they get damaged, there is very little that can be done to repair them, and it is usually not cost–effective to do so. Some power loomed rugs have fringes and others do not. Those that have fringes are fringes that have been sewn on, and care should be taken to avoid vacuuming them as they can easily come apart from the rug. Should this occur, they can be sewn back on, provided no damage has been done to the rug’s foundation. Additionally, it should be noted that the serging at the edges of a power loomed rug can unravel when cleaned or vacuumed incorrectly (see “Cleaning Your Rug”).

It is preferable that Power loomed rugs are stored rolled rather than folded, as the rug’s foundation could be adversely affected by folding, and creases may appear if the rug is folded. Just as with a tufted rug, you should not place objects on top of a rolled power loomed rug as creasing is likely to occur.


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