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Area Rug How They’re Made

Being familiar with area rug construction also helps you understand and evaluate performance aspects: why certain rugs wear better and longer. Understanding how area rugs are created helps you better determine rug value and keep you inside the borders of your budget.

Machine made

  • Less expensive
  • Not considered investments
  • More flexibility and variety
  • Woven rugs created on automated weaving looms
  • Elaborate designs created by the placement of different colors of yarn


  • Handmade (also called hand knotted)
  • Custom-made
  • One of a kind designs
  • Incorporate creative, brilliant uses of color
  • Unique details and intricacies in each due to the village, city or country of the creator
  • Often created with natural dyes for color longevity
  • Considered an investment
  • Many become heirlooms
  • Ancient and unique process

Elements that tie any handmade rug together


  • A technique used in making handmade rugs

Three major techniques: pile weave, flat weave and hand-tufted

Pile Weave

  • Method of weaving used in most rugs
  • The rug is woven by a creation of knots
  • Different weaving groups use different types of knots
  • Every single knot is tied by hand
  • Can consist of 25 to over 1000 knots per square inch
  • Skillful weavers tie knots in about ten seconds (meaning it would take a skillful weaver 6,480 hours to weave a 9x12-foot rug with a density of 150 knots per square inch)
  • Time reduced with workshops or multiple weavers

Flat Weave

  • Technique of weaving where no knots are used
  • Warp strands used as the foundation
  • Weft stands are used as the foundation and in the patterns
  • Called flat weaves since no knots are used in the weaving process and the surface looks flat

Hand Tufted

  • Created without tying knots into the foundation
  • Pile height determined by the amount of yarn cut off
  • Less time consuming than hand-tying each knot
  • Requires a high level of craftsmanship
  • Can be made faster than hand-knotted rugs
  • Generally less expensive than hand-knotted
  • Highly durable and accurate
  • Weathers foot traffic for years


  • Woven by tying knots on the warp strands
  • Two predominant types of knots: asymmetrical and symmetrical

Asymmetrical (Persian or Senneh) Knot:

  • Used in Iran, India, Turkey, Egypt, and China
  • To form, the yarn is wrapped around one warp strand and then passed under the neighboring warp strand and brought back to the surface
  • Creates a finer weave  

Symmetrical (Turkish or Ghiorde) Knot:

  • Used in Turkey, the Caucasus, and Iran by Turkish and Kurdish tribes

Knot Density:

  • Refers to the number of knots per square inch or square decimeter in a handmade rug
  • Measured in the imperial system in square inches and in the metric system in square decimeters
  • KPSI is sometimes used to indicate value
  • Higher the number of knots per square inch, the higher the quality, and price


  • Process of changing the natural color of materials such as wool, silk, and cotton
  • Two types of dyes: natural dyes and synthetic dyes

Natural Dyes:

  • Natural dyes only used until the late 19th century
  • Include plant dyes, animal dyes, and mineral dyes
  • Plant dyes come from roots, flowers, leaves, fruit, and the bark of plants
  • Woad, a plant from the mustard and indigo family, is used for blue dye
  • Yellow is produced from saffron, safflower, sumac, turmeric, onionskin, rhubarb, weld, and rustic
  • Madder, Redwood, and Brazilwood has been used since ancient times for reds
  • Browns and blacks come from catechu dye, oak bark, oak galls, acorn husks, tea, and walnut husks
  • Henna is used for orange
  • For green, indigo that is over-dyed with any variety of a yellow dye is used
  • Mineral dyes come from ocher (yellow, brown, red), limestone or lime (white), manganese (black), cinnabar and lead oxide (red), azurite and lapis lazuli (blue), and malachite (green)

Synthetic Dyes:

  • Mid-nineteenth century, when demand for handmade rugs increased in the West, production increased in the East
  • Need for easy-to-use and less expensive dyes with a wider range of colors caused the development of synthetic dyes in Europe
  • Synthetic dyes imported to Persia (Iran), Anatolia (Turkey) and other Eastern countries
  • First synthetic dye, Fuchsine (a magenta aniline), was developed in the 1850s
  • Other synthetic aniline dyes followed, later banned by the Persian king
  • Persian weavers discontinued the use of synthetic dyes until the modern synthetic chrome dyes developed between World Wars I and II
  • Chrome dyes are colorfast, retain their intensity and are produced in a variety of attractive colors and shades
  • Mostly chrome synthetic dyes are used for coloring weaving yarns
  • Natural dyes are used in places where they are easily obtainable