Area Rugs | How It's 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 placement of different colors of yarn

Man made

  • 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


  • 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
  • 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 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, 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 inchor 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 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 fustic
  • 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 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