About Rug Fibers and Techniques
Area rugs are available in the widest range of styles, materials, and quality ever!
Historically, the best rugs were made in Persia with second best from the surrounding countries, until finally synthetic knock offs were machine made in the U.S.
Now, rugs lead the textile industry in style setting. American designers are leading the way with fresh interpretations of historical patterns such as damask and floral, especially in large scale. Modern looks are most likely to draw from Art Deco and the Jazz age. Graphic manipulation of imagery provides layers of pattern and interesting cropping. Borderless styles enhance small rooms. Random or subtly center focused patterns provide a backdrop for any furniture arrangement.
These are the most common fibers in use today:
polypropylene: best for stain release, good imitator of soft wool, crushes more easily than natural fibers (heat setting improves wear)
wool: the preferred fiber of rug makers for centuries. Durable, has a natural subtle sheen. Most people agree that the best wool is New Zealand wool for itís very light color and acceptance to colorants. Quality can vary greatly within the wool category. Rugs that smell like a barnyard are most likely made of wool that has had less processing.
seagrass: The earth loverís new friend. durable, but stiff. Loose dirt is easily removed. Stains are challenging. Most better rugs tend to have enough colorant to inhibit staining.
sisal: A tried and true natural grass also durable and a bit stiff. Most commonly used in itís natural state. Loose dirt is easily removed. Stains tend to be permanent in natural sisal, if dyed, stains may be more easily camouflaged.
silk: The most expensive of fibers provides extraordinary color subtlety and pleasant sheen. The most delicate of fibers is usually blended with wool for durability
cotton: Affordable with little sheen, cooperates well with coloring process. Tends to mat easily. Most quality rugs will use a looping or twisting technique to improve the wear of cotton fiber.
goat hair: Felted in to Bohemian rugs. Moderately durable, but may shed. Does not accept coloring well.
faux silk: A processed polyester or polypropylene where sheen is desired. Synthetic silk typically has more sheen than natural silk.
leather: Previously used only for bordering. Leather is now available in knotted shag rugs. Quality ranges as any leather product. The best leather is moderately soft with no difference in coloring seen throughout the thickness of the leather. (Avoid leathers with obvious top coat of coloring or finish. It will crack)
Machine and Hand Knotting: Actual knots are worked into the backing with cut ends making the fiber. Both machine and hand work are durable. Hand work provides less consistent effect and is preferred by collectors. However, the best hand work is the most consistent in the size, positioning, and technique of the knot. In fine rugs, quality is measured in knots per inch. The more knots, the more durable the rug. Even if the nap is totally worn away, the remaining knot provides pattern to the rug after decades and sometimes centuries of wear. Moderately priced rugs such as ours online have medium high knot count with thicker yarns to provide density to the pile.
Tufting: A gun forces the fiber into the backing. An adhesive holds the fiber to a second backing. A third layer protects the floor. This process can be done by machine or hand which requires a great deal of craftsmanship in creating a rug of quality. Tufted rugs are rarely the choice of collectors as adhesives will not withstand decades of use, and repair is complicated. Tufted rugs of the same density as knotted should be less costly unless they are an exclusive designer rug.
Needlepoint: An embroidery technique through a woven backing providing a flat surface with no nap. This technique was typically used in Europe to imitate Persian rugs or to make French and English designs. Detail amount depends on the thread count of the underlying mesh. Typically expensive and not very durable, the needlepoint rug is desired for an image of wealth. Look for starting and stopping places of the yarns to find raveling or loose threads. The best rugs will have fine detail and no loose ends.
Kelim: A simple flat weave where yarns go over and under the warp threads. This is very much like a thick fabric. Gorgeous for wall hangings and appropriate for extravagant pattern. If made of wool, a Kelim will withstand wear of one or two familyís lifetimes.
Soumak: A weaving technique by Caucasians which includes looping over a couple warp threads while weaving across. The process is slower than the Kelim and provides more density.
Brocade: Flat weaving takes place over and under a foundation of both warp and weft yarns. Yarn is changed to change colors. Look for raveling at the change. Sturdiness comes from the underlying foundation. (Tapestry is a weaving of color across only warp yarns).