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Distinguishing between Oriental Rugs and Other
Know Your Rug
There are ten basic rug types. Hand knotted rugs, dhurrie, kilim, soumac, chainstitch, needlepoint, hand tufted, rag rugs, machine made and wall-to-wall (cut-pile and berber).
As the consumer, you need to be informed. It is not unusual to walk into a Oriental Rug store to find that machine made and hand made rugs are both mixed within the piles. Beware of the online sellers who give little information regarding construction and origin of a rug both in store and online. Unfortunately, in recent years, we have observed too much misrepresentation of construction online, which is why we are here to inform you! The more familiar you are with determining quality, the more comfortable you will be in the rug selection process. One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the types of rugs is to see as many as possible. Pay particularly close attention to the edge of the rug, as well as the reverse side.
IN GENERAL: Although newer hand knotted rugs have incorporated highlights of synthetic materials such as artificial silk, and machine made rugs can also be made of wool, if the seller states the PILE of the rug is made of: rayon, viscose, nylon, polypropylene, mercerized cotton or any other material, it probably is a machine made rug with exception to certain genres of carpets such as coarser quality Turkish pieces, and various Chinese carpets. For additional information, read on.
FOR IN HOME ASSESSMENT:
If your carpet features each of the four bold points below, it probably is a hand knotted "Oriental Rug." For further explanations, read and view all content at the bottom of the page.
- The design is the same on the front of the rug as it is on the back. Some "hand tufted" rugs have a canvas backing, although tufted rugs are hand made they are not hand knotted. A machine made carpet can have the same design on the front as the back... It may be an Oriental Rug.
- If the rug has fringe, the knots created to pull tassels together have minor inconsistencies in the manner they were created, it may be an Oriental Rug...
- The fringe goes into the rug, and is not affixed with precise [machined] stitches. A hand knotted carpet never has a machine fixed fringe. It may be an Oriental Rug.
- If the bound edging on either side of the rug (perpendicular to the fringe side) goes through the rug rather than "tacked" on with a precise [machined] stitch. In hand knotted rugs inconsistencies may be observable. It may be an Oriental Rug.
- If the rug has inconsistencies in knot height, and knot thickness which in turn show the lines horizontally or vertically are imperfect. Although some machine made manufacturers have perfected the art of imperfection, your rug may be an Oriental if it has minor imperfections.
- The rug is very malleable. This is one of the tougher tests to check, but accurate in 75% of cases (exception to rugs such as karastan and MasterCraft)... For rugs wider than 3 ft. wide, if you fold the rug from in half [from one corner] width wise and length wise, and it responds to your movement with a flop rather than as a rigid sheet, it may be an Oriental Rug.
If you passed the tests above in bold, check for these sometimes seen additional characteristics for further confirmation...
- Determine if the design is slightly off center: fold rug in half vertically to see if absolute center of medallion (or any other centered design element) lands on the fold, try the same horizontally. While the majority of oriental rugs will not have off-center medallions, if the medallion is slightly off-center, it's probably an Oriental Rug.
- Determine if the rug has imperfect squared angles in each corner: Either measure each side of the length and then each side of the width to check for discrepancies (only works if the rug is not a perfect trapezoid). For a better test, simply fold the rug again according to one line of the rug to follow such as the sides perpendicular to fringe and check for overlap or shortcomings anywhere around the rug. If the shape is slightly imperfect, it's probably an Oriental Rug.
- If the pile of the carpet is comprised of more than one type of fiber (e.g. wool and artificial silk), it is probably hand made. Although not all Oriental Rugs are made with multiple fibers in pile, usually the ones which are will either be hand knotted or hand tufted. These two are fairly easy to distinguish between, as a tufted rug will more often than not have a canvas backing. A machine made rug would use a blend rather than two different fibers in different locations of the carpet.
FOR INTERNET SHOPPERS:
Checking for Oriental rug authenticity over the Internet is not an easy thing to do as you must rely on the information presented to you. Always evaluate the reputation of the seller. Watch out for key terms with nondescript locations of origin. If a seller does not state where the carpet is from, proceed with caution! The advertising of a rug is not entirely unlike that of "Organic vs. Natural" at the food store.
TERMS USED IN SELLING
A true Oriental rug will almost always be referred to as: "hand knotted" or "hand woven".
A hand tufted rug (also made by hand) is often referred to as: "hand made" "tufted" "hand tufted" "hooked" or "hand hooked".
A machine made carpet is often referred to as: "man made" "power-loomed" sometimes stating composition is of "synthetic" fibers and of a "Persian design." Machine made rugs can also be made from wool!
Below is a list of many places imported hand knotted rugs have been / are being produced today...
Armenia, Afghanistan, Bulgaria, China, Egypt (also Machine made), Turkey, Iran, pakistan, India, Japan (until ~1970's), Nepal, Tibet, Romania, USSR, Morocco, Iraq, Portugal (Needle points)
All photographs in the following page are of the reverse side of the rugs with the length of the rug going from the top of the picture to the bottom, and the width of the rug going left to right.
Hand Knotted Rugs
Note the blue arrows in the above photograph which show inconsistencies in the binding of an Oriental rug (sides perpendicular to fringe). The green arrow is pointing to the inconsistencies of the knot height, which in a machine made rug, would appear far more even. At the bottom of the screen, you will see samples of machine made rugs.
Photographed above is a carpet which may appear to be machine made due in part by the lack of fringe. Not all handmade rugs have fringe! When you flip the rug upside down, you can see the truth to it's origin when assessing the knots and or design. Looking at the reverse side of the rug above (pictured below), you can see the knots are fairly even. However, you can also see a several very faint lines running horizontally across the rug towards the lower left hand corner of the photo. These are either the weft or the foundation which in some cases exist in machine made rugs, however in handmades, the appearance of such will be more sporadic with slight variances in amount showing. A machine made rug will more often than not show the equivalent of warp and weft extremely consistent throughout. When you see slight inconsistencies within the weave, more likely than not, the carpet has been made by hand. Also captured in the photograph below (as outlined by the blue rectangles) are coordinating areas in the boarder of this rug. One of the tell tale signs of a hand knotted rug are inconsistencies of weaving which include minor mistakes in symmetry. Note the difference between the pattern of black and white knots on the left hand rectangle as opposed to those in the right hand rectangle. Humans are not perfect!
The image below is the reverse side of a hand knotted carpet. Note the green arrows which point to inconsistent knotting of the fringe.
Machine Made Rugs
Machine made rugs have been around since the mid 1920's. Power looms were created to produce more consistent products in both price and looks. Affordability is key in the mass production of machine made rugs. They should never be referred to as "Oriental rugs," but rather rugs with an Oriental design.
Many machine made rugs such as the one below often use a "Seurat" type of technique which employs the seemingly arbitrary/alternating placement of single knots. Although not all machine made rugs use this style, design elements in the ones which do are often filled with "solo knots," which do not fall into one continuous line or solid fill-in creating a speckled appearance. There are rare occasions where a hand knotted rug feature a similar technique: those of which include Kurdish rugs, Nichols art deco rugs from the 1920's-30's and select 90 line Chinese carpets. These fade-ins, when used in Oriental Rugs, most often are created with a technique of twisting two colored yarns to create one staple of yarn rather than alternating single colored knots and rarely is ever executed in large areas, but used rather sparingly in outlines.
Compare the above machine made carpet with the hand knotted rug photographed below. As you can see, the placement of knots in the hand knotted rug below are much more intentional, with outlines being strong and no use of fade-ins within a design element with single knots.
The image below is the reverse side of a contemporary machine made rug which has the backing not dissimilar to that of a wall to wall carpet. Although somewhat unusual to see this wall-to-wall rug with a contemporary design, you may come across them every so often. Note the black edge on the left hand side of the rug. This black material comes in a tape form usually about the width about 3/4" long. The tape is folded in half approximately on the edge of rug, and machine sewn with a binding machine. The green arrow is pointing to the stitching used to fix the binding tape to the edge. Notice how the thread is a sort of nylon or synthetic material, not unlike that of fishing line.
Shown below is a more common form of a machine made rug. Notice you can in fact see the design on the back of the rug. One fairly accurate way to distinguish a machine made rug from a hand knotted one is the binding on the side. As often seen in machine made rugs, this particular binding (as shown with the green arrow) has a continuous yarn of thread that does not go through the rug, simply wraps around to both back and front side, and is stapled into place with stitches.
Below is again a completely different rug with the same stitching technique where the binding does not actually penetrate the rug itself.
If you look very carefully, you can see vertical white lines running from top to the bottom of the image as demonstrated with the yellow arrow. The carpet is photographed with the top of the rug (lengthwise) running from top to bottom. The width is from left to right. The white lines which you see are actually the equal to a hand knotted rugs warp, which is not seen on the other side of the rug. Although, in a hand knotted rug, these lines would be going horizontally rather than vertically. From power-loom to power-loom, everyone has a different setup. In a machine made rug, the objective is to keep costs as low as possible. Machine made carpets are often made opposite that of hand knotted carpets in order to make less vertical movement. Say the rug being woven is a 8x10. If they were to weave the rug from bottom to top going left to right 8 feet, and work 10 feet in height, they would be be making 25% more adjustments in height. The object of the game is to keep the machine working in a straight line, the more movement taken to rise, the more time in production is lost. Furthermore, the color changes are less when weaving the 10 ft left to right rather than up and down. This is mainly due to the long continuous colors in the border. Total production time can be significantly reduced by power-looming a rug from working the longer length left to right.
Although very difficult to see, also shown above by the yellow arrow is a continuous white cord which travels the length of the carpet. In a hand made rug, this would be horizontal, and be called the weft. In a hand made carpet, you will almost never see a warp constructed out of synthetic fiber the way this rug has been.
Hand Tufted Rugs
Hand tufted rugs have been around since the 1960's. Often constructed large color coded canvas, hand-tufted rugs are made using a tufting gun, which penetrates the canvas punching the wool through to the opposite side and clipping it at a predetermined height. The back of the rug is then glued, and a second layer of canvas added. These rugs are not meant to last a long time, as the process is far less labor intensive than that of a conventional hand knotted rug. Although handmade, this type of rug should never be considered as an Oriental rug. A hand tufted rug may have a Oriental rug design, however is not an Oriental rug by definition. The popularity of these rugs really caught on in the mid-80's when glues became lighter in weight, therefore reducing transportation costs, and making the rugs more widely importable from overseas. The green arrow shown below points out excess glue which has been used to attach the belt running around the perimeter of the rug. Unlike Oriental rugs where a belt is applied to keep the rug flat, in hand tufted rugs, this is often done to create a cleaner more "finished" appearance.
Below again is another type of hand tufted rug which is seen less often. This type of hand tufted could be either machine made or hand done, sometimes it is very difficult to distinguish between the two. However, in this particular case, the rug is in fact hand tufted. Note the green arrow which identifies the grid on the back. All white seen is actually latex, which in this particular rug serves dual purpose of construction reinforcement as well as non-skid to keep the rug in place on your floor.
This third hand tufted rug is notable as the binding on the edge actually is sewn through the rug itself, not unlike how an Oriental rug would be finished. Again, not the canvas backing as well as inconsistencies of the edging width. Another tell tale sign of hand crafting is the orientation of the yarn. As seen on the left hand side, the yarn is not disorganized, however it is not perfectly placed as a machine would set it.