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Machine-Made or Handmade?

If you are a first time rug buyer and you are just getting into the fascinating world of rugs, it might be challenging to identify a handwoven rug from a machine made ones. You will come across handmade rugs, machine-made or hand-tufted rugs available in the market. We highly recommend that you invest in a genuine handmade rug that will last you generations. Here we will try to outline the main differences between handwoven rugs and machine-made rugs.

Handmade rugs are woven by people using traditional looms from natural fabrics. They also have a foundation (fringes/tassels) that keeps the whole structure together. However, machine-made rugs are quickly made on power looms generally from artificial materials like polyester and nylon;  and if you closely examine their fringes (if they have it), you will see that they are sewn or glued to the edges as an additional decoration and don’t constitute a foundation.

Hand-tufted rugs are made by people using a hand tool to punch strands of wool into a piece of fabric that is stabilized on a frame. They don’t require as much time and skill as handwoven rugs do.  Even though they are preferred in some modern settings, they are probably the least durable category of rugs. Our experience shows that they can’t handle traditional hand wash very well. Hand-tufted rugs come in different materials like wool, polyester and propylene.

Here are some other tips from your RugAdvisor:

  • Look at the back! The back side of the rug will inform you heaps, even if you are just getting to know rugs. If the knots look perfectly identical in size and shape that could be a sign that you are looking at a machine-made rug. For the hand-tufted rugs, you would usually see a piece of canvas that covers the entire area at the back which doesn’t allow you to see the knots.
  • The pattern and the design can give you tips. There are often signs of slight imperfections in handmade rugs -which are sometimes intentionally made- whereas machine-made rugs will have a perfect uniform look from one end to the other.
  • Color! Most handmade rugs have vegetable dyes on them, this adds to their character beautifully. “Abrash” is a term that refers to the tone changes in one color as a result of dyes coming from different batches of wool and organic dyes. If you see abrash in a rug, you are probably looking at a handmade rug. The modern machine-made rugs will have “perfect” color tones and no variations.
  • When it comes to size and shape, there are a few differences between the two. Handmade rugs are produced in defined size categories due to defined loom sizes; however they vary from one another by a 3-5 centimeters up and down in a given category as they are made by weavers not by machines. Thus, say if you are looking for a 2×3 m handmade rug, the rug you will fall in love with may be a fraction smaller or larger than the exact 2×3 m. Also in handmade rugs, it is natural to expect that the lines and shape are not always perfectly straight or unified on either side. However, machine-made rugs can come in precise shape and size. It is possible to find the exact same rug in exact size with perfectly symmetrical lines because they are machine-produced. That means handmade rugs will always carry unique elements even if their design looks very similar. They will always carry something special from their weaver.
  • Being made from natural materials by hand, handwoven rugs are more durable and healthier than machine-made rugs. You might have a rug from your grandmother, or you might have heard stories that people inherit authentic handmade rugs from their grandparents that show you immediately how long-lasting they are besides their sentimental value. One aspect that makes them durable is that wool rugs are washable. However, machine-made rugs often have industrial glue and nylon in them therefore as soon as they are washed, they deteriorate and the harmful chemicals get released in the air. It is fair to say from this point of view that they become disposable items after a short time when handmade wool rugs rarely end up in landfill.
  • After going through these steps, if you are still not sure, we are always here to provide you with the best advice.

As a genuine family business, we are dedicated to supply our customers with authentic handmade rugs. Every single piece we have in our collection is handmade from either wool or silk and we welcome you to come and see us in our showroom in Fitzroy North. Too far? Browse our online store here.

We do free delivery Australia-wide.


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