How to Tell Whether a Rug is Handmade or Machine-Made?

When it comes to buying rugs, understanding the difference between handmade and machine-made ones is crucial. Let's explore some key factors that can help you identify if a rug is handmade or not.

How can you tell if a rug is handmade?

The most reliable way to tell if a rug is handmade is to flip it over and look at the back. If you can see the same intricate pattern that's on the front, chances are, it's handmade. Some machine-made rugs, particularly cross-woven machine-made rugs can also have the appearance of handmade rugs on the back so do be cautious. Other signs include irregularities in the knots and the slight variations in the rug's design.

Machine-made rugs 'knots' will have bumps that run from top to bottom. Hand-knotted rugs on the other hand have these knots that run across with width of the rug from side to side. Cross-woven means that these nodes or bumps also appear horizontally which makes them harder to spot compared to a standard machine-made. 

A giveaway sign that a rug is machine-made is a professional label attached to a corner. Unless the retailer adds the label themselves, handmade rugs do not have glue-bonded labels that you would find on a typical rug. They may have a stapled or sewn on label but sticking a manufactured label to a knotted rug would be highly unusual. 

How can you tell if a rug is natural or synthetic?

Natural rugs often have a soft and warm feel underfoot, while synthetic rugs might feel hard and plastic-like. Additionally, natural fibres such as wool have a distinct smell when wet, unlike synthetic fibres. Lastly, check the rug's label - natural rugs usually have a "100% Wool" or similar tag.

Identifying Cross-Woven Machine-Made Rugs vs. Hand-Knotted Rugs

Some machine-made rugs, particularly cross-woven ones, can sometimes be mistaken for handmade rugs due to their high quality and hand-finished fringes. However, there are still ways to distinguish them from authentic hand-knotted rugs.

Examine the Knots and Fringes

The knots in hand-knotted rugs are actually part of the rug's structure, whereas in machine-made rugs, even those with hand-finished fringes, the fringes are often added after the rug is woven. With top end cross-woven rugs it can be difficult to tell as they are sometimes woven from within the pile - but if a fringe is obviously stitched on it is a clear sign of being machine-made. In machine-made rugs, you might notice the fringes are sewn or glued onto the edges, whereas in handmade rugs, the fringes are an extension of the rug's foundation threads.

Check for Uniformity

Machine-made rugs, including cross-woven ones, tend to have a uniform and consistent pattern. On the other hand, hand-knotted rugs often show slight inconsistencies or irregularities in the design, reflecting their handmade nature.

Look at the Rug's Back

Although the back of a cross-woven machine-made rug can be quite detailed, you'll likely notice that the colours are less vibrant compared to the front. Hand-knotted rugs typically have equally vibrant colours on both sides.

Take Note of the Material

While this isn't always a definitive indicator, handmade rugs are typically made from natural materials like wool or silk. Some high-quality machine-made rugs may also use these materials, but many use synthetic fibres.

What does the back of a handmade rug look like?

The back of a handmade rug typically shows the same detailed pattern as seen on the front. The knots are visible, and there may be slight imperfections or variations due to the hand-knotting process. In contrast, the back of a machine-made rug often has a mesh or plastic covering.

What is the difference between machine-made and handmade rugs?

Handmade rugs are typically more durable due to the knotting process, while machine-made rugs may wear out faster. Handmade rugs also possess unique artistic value, with every piece being one-of-a-kind, whereas machine-made rugs are mass-produced and identical.

Hand-knotted rugs are able to be repaired, the tough foundations and structure of machine-made rugs do not allow for this so while areas of knotted rugs can be re-knotted or re-piled and even the foundations repaired from within the rug, this would not be possible (or worthwhile) for a machine-made counterpart. 

Are handmade rugs more expensive?

Yes, generally, handmade rugs tend to be more expensive than machine-made rugs. The higher cost reflects the time, skill, and artistry required to create each piece. However, they also typically have a longer lifespan and maintain their value better. The cost of good wool machine-made traditional rugs has increased in recent years to be approaching the level of an entry level hand-knotted rug.

Are handmade rugs worth it?

Handmade rugs are often considered a worthwhile investment. Their quality, durability, and the timeless beauty they add to a room make them a cherished addition to many homes. Though they may require a larger initial investment, their longevity often outweighs the cost over time.

Understanding the difference between handmade and machine-made rugs is essential when shopping for a new rug. While handmade rugs are generally more expensive, their durability, craftsmanship, and uniqueness make them a valuable addition to any home.