One of the most common questions we get at NW Rugs & Furniture is, “What is the difference between hand-knotted, hand-tufted, and machine-made rugs?” Customers want to know if there’s any difference in quality, durability, and price between the three. We believe you have a right to know exactly what you’re getting when you invest in a rug, so today, we’re going to address this question.
In a previous post, we described how the most common types of rugs are actually made. If you haven’t read it already, I recommend you do before reading this post any further. It will give you a better understanding of how each of the different rug types is crafted and will serve as a good introduction to the topic we’ll discuss today.
Once you’re familiar with the different styles of rugs, read ahead to see exactly how the differences can influence your buying decision.
FIRST...WE NEED TO CLARIFY SOMETHING
Many shoppers assume that because hand-knotted and hand-tufted rugs are both ‘handmade’ rugs that they’re essentially the same. I’m here to tell you -- they’re absolutely not the same. There are several major differences you need to know.
Artisans construct hand-knotted rugs completely by hand, using only individual strands of fabric. They can take up to an entire year to complete depending on the design, size, and skill of the artisan. They truly are ‘handmade’ rugs.
Hand-tufted rugs are made by using a tufting gun to trace a design onto a canvas. The entire process can take as little as a day to complete.
When you shop for a rug, you may have some trouble distinguishing between a hand-knotted and hand-tufted rug. A few telltale signs to look for include:
- The Fringe - In hand-knotted rugs, the fabric is knotted within the fringe, giving the rug a rich, handmade appearance. In tufted rugs, the fringe is often stitched or glued to the back of the rug.
- The Design - In hand-knotted rugs, the design on the back of the rug will mirror the design on the front. In hand-tufted rugs, the back will just be blank.
DIFFERENCES IN MATERIAL
The materials used to make a rug is the first major difference that you’ll find between the three types of rugs. The material can play a huge role in not only determining price and durability but also in creating your ideal design. Since that’s the case, it’s important that you understand what materials you’ll most likely have to work with when you buy one of these types of rugs.
Craftsmen, in general, use natural materials like cotton, silk, wool, jute, and even bamboo to produce hand-knotted rugs. By far, wool is the most popular material used in making hand-knotted rugs. Though it’s uncommon, some artisans choose to combine different materials into a single hand-knotted rug.
Hand-tufted rugs also make heavy use of natural materials, particularly wool. However, since hand-tufted rugs are far less labor-intensive than hand-knotted rugs, artisans are more willing to use different fabrics to construct the rug.
Machine-made rugs predominantly use synthetic materials, such as polyester, nylon, and polypropylene. Every now and then, wool, silk, cotton will be used to produce a machine-made rug, but this doesn’t happen as frequently.
DIFFERENCES IN APPEARANCE
While there are some differences in appearance between the three types of rugs, all of them have the potential to perfectly complement any home design. Our Magnolia Home Collection, as an example, uses all three techniques to form the collection. Most of the differences in appearance are subtle and will only matter to you if you’re an ardent rug collector. For the purpose of making a home beautiful, all three can work wonderfully.
Hand-knotted rugs have, by far, the most ‘handmade’ and organic appearance. These rugs also contain tiny imperfections that tell you they were made completely from scratch. These might include slight variations throughout the design or different knot sizes on the fringe.
In many cases, hand-tufted rugs are all but indistinguishable from their hand-knotted cousins when seen from the front, though there aren’t as many imperfections. As I mentioned above, you often have to check the back of the rug and the fringe to catch the difference.
Since they’re made with calibrated and programmed machines, every machine-made rug is perfectly uniform. You won’t find any rough angles, imperfections in the design, or unbalanced stitching. While this gives them an exacting beauty, it also means that machine-made rugs will never replicate the beauty nor reflect the brilliance that a handmade touch brings to a rug.
You can spot a machine-made rug by checking the back. There will be a grid system laid over the design, and if there’s a fringe, it will be sewn or glued on.
DIFFERENCES IN TEXTURE
Texture results from the material more than the weaving technique used. Despite that fact, there are some subtle variations you can detect in the different techniques. In particular, hand-knotted and hand-tufted tend to be thicker and more coarse to the touch. If you squeeze the front and back of the rug, both types should offer a fairly high degree of resistance to compression.
Conversely, machine-made rugs are universally smooth, especially when made using synthetic materials. When you squeeze a machine-made rug, the fibers should compress very easily.
DIFFERENCES IN DURABILITY
This is where we really start to see the three different rugs distinguish themselves from each other. Regardless of the material used, there’s going to be a clear distinction in how well these rugs hold up over time, especially in high-traffic areas. Keep in mind, though, that the amount of time your rug holds up also depends largely on how well you care for it.
When you’re trying to gauge the durability of a rug, start with the knot density. Knot density refers to how many knots you’ll find in one square inch. The count can vary greatly, but in general, you want a rug with at least 90 to 100 knots per square inch, depending on the material. Counting it yourself could take a long time, so ask for the information before you make your purchase.
Hand-knotted rugs are far and away from the most durable rugs you can get. In the hands of a master craftsman, a hand-knotted rug has the potential to last for centuries.
Machine-made rugs can’t hold up against hand-knotted rugs, but they still hold up remarkably well. With proper care, the average amount of time that a machine-made rug will endure is around 20 years, though they can last much longer.
Hand-tufted rugs are admittedly some of the least durable rugs available. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t hold up well. If you maintain a hand-tufted rug well, it can last for at least 10 years, and potentially up to 20 years.
DIFFERENCES IN COST
While the biggest difference between these three rugs styles is the quality, the price reflects the difference. Rugs are like any other major purchase - the higher the cost, the higher the quality you’re likely to find. At NW Rugs, we stand behind each of our rugs. No matter which type you prefer, know that you're making a sound investment because the right rug can give your space the comfort, elegance, and beauty your home deserves.
With that being said, your budget is going to play a key role in determining which type of rug works best for you. In addition to the weaving technique, the size and materials used will also be a factor in determining the price.
Because of their remarkable durability, and the fact that no two are exactly alike, hand-knotted rugs cost the most by far. Since they can be considered works of art, they are often highly sought-after by collectors and their value continues to increase. Hand-knotted rugs typically range anywhere from $1,000 up to $25,000+. However, they can go much higher. The most expensive rug purchase ever made was for a 17th century, hand-knotted Persian rug that was sold by Sotheby’s of New York for $33.7 million in 2013.
The price of a hand-tufted rug can vary greatly based on size, material, and design. Though the designs are automated, meaning they have no value for collectors, the fact that some human interaction is needed means that they tend to be priced at the mid-range level. Hand-tufted rugs can range anywhere from $100 to $3,500.
Machine-made rugs are typically the most affordable and offer a good balance between value and expense. They can range anywhere from $50 up to about $2,500. Because they are made by machine and can be mass-produced, collectors aren’t interested in them, and they tend to not retain their original value.