How To Select A Fine Rug
Knowing these basics will help you choose the rug of your dreams.
There’s no easier way to transform a room from bare and boring to warm, inviting and luxurious than to add a fine rug. But choosing the right rug can be daunting. You’ll encounter a huge array of styles, colors, quality and prices. Here’s a basic guide to fine rugs that will remove risk from the process and help you make an informed decision.
Does the way a rug is made affect its quality?
Hugely! Pile rugs can be made by three basic methods—hand-knotting, hand-tufting or by automated machine. With machine-made rugs, also called power loomed, a computer is used to produce a repetitive pattern quickly and at a low cost. The tradeoff is that detail and color are reduced, and the quality of the materials may be limited by the stress of the machine. Hand-tufted rugs, also called hand-made, are produced by punching individual yarns through a fabric sheet using a device called a “tufting gun.” Once the rug has been completed, a second fabric is glued to the back to hold the yarns in place. Hand-tufted rugs are generally a “step up” from machine- made, but the level of detail doesn’t compare to hand-knotted rugs. Hand-knotted rugs are the cream of the rug world. Produced using ancient techniques, they have unlimited design and color variations, and may have investment value.
What’s the process for creating a hand-knotted rug?
It’s woven on a vertical frame called a hand-knotting loom. First, columns of threads are stretched from the top to the bottom. These are called the warp threads and are the foundation of the rug. They also form the fringe ends of the rug and are very important to its longevity. Once the warp threads are arranged up and down the loom, the actual production process begins. The weaver begins by making a flat or non-pile weave. This is intended to secure the knots, which will form the rug, from coming out at either end. After 10 to 12 rows of flat weave are completed, the weaver begins knotting.
How does the weaver manage to produce such complex patterns, one knot at a time?
He consults a “cartoon,” a graph paper on which each square represents a single knot tied in a specific color of yarn. The cartoon has been constructed by a master designer, who may wish to produce an ancient pattern or create a vision of his own. The weaver ties knots in the specified colors to the warp threads across the width of the loom—and then begins a second row of knots, again corresponding to the cartoon. Every row or few rows of knots, the weaver inserts a “weft,” a flat woven thread that holds the knots below in place. This process continues until the entire rug has been produced and the end is finished with a flat woven area similar to the one where the process began.
How long does it take to hand-knot a rug?
Depending on the type of knot, the pattern and the number of knots required, the process may take up to a year. Once completed, the rug is then “sheared” to produce a uniform surface, hand washed to develop luster and, finally, dried (sometimes in the sun for authenticity).
Does Safavieh just import hand-knotted rugs, or do you actually produce them?
We produce them. Safavieh is a leading producer of hand-knotted rugs in the traditional rug-making centers of India, China, Pakistan, Nepal and other countries. We also offer an extensive collection of antique rugs. And we have a large selection of higher quality hand-tufted products from around the world.
How can I tell if a rug is hand-knotted?
Look at the underside. A hand-knotted rug shows the same pattern on the back as on the front. Hand-tufted rugs almost always have a plain backing or show a glue residue. Some machine-made rugs show a hazy pattern on the back. If you’re unsure, the hand-knotted rug is the only one that can be folded in either direction (like a handkerchief); all others must be rolled.
How can I tell the quality of a hand-knotted rug?
Knot count is the most important factor. The finer the knot, hence the more knots per square inch, the higher the rug quality. But wool quality, design, luster and dye method also play a role. A Safavieh professional can speak to each of these quality points when showing you a hand-knotted rug.
While contemporary designs go well with straight-line furnishings, and old-world designs with traditional rooms, don’t be afraid to mix it up.
What type or design rug should I choose?
That depends on your décor and the feeling you want to achieve. While contemporary designs go well with straight-line, clean furnishings, and old-world designs with more traditional rooms, don’t be afraid to mix it up. Some of today’s most beautiful rooms combine modern looks with things of the past. Consider working with an interior designer (Safavieh offers free design services), who can help you choose a rug that will harmonize with its setting.
What should I know about design trends in fine rugs?
Safavieh is making antique reproduction rugs that have the character of real antiques, with mellow colors and the soft, worn look of museum-quality pieces. In our Dream Collection, made with lustrous banana silk and a touch of cotton, a faded appearance, imitating the effect of years of use, is designed right into the weave. Another great look is that of over-dyed rugs. Each one-of-a-kind rug is over-dyed after it’s woven for a vibrant, saturated tone that has the effect of muting the underlying pattern. These highly popular reinterpretations of historic designs work especially well in contemporary rooms.
So how do I decide?
Sometimes choosing a rug is like choosing a mate: When the right one comes along, you just know it! Visit one of our rug galleries, where the selection is huge, and see which rugs “speak” to you. If you have any doubt, let Safavieh help: We can bring a rug to your home on a trial basis, so you can see how it looks and feels in your home environment.
The Ancient Skills of Rug-Making
The skills of rug-making are a thread that links us to the dawn of civilization. A hand-knotted rug is organic, artisanal, hand-made and one-of-a-kind—a true heirloom.