Rugs 101: An Introduction to Rug History

People walk all over rugs from a design standpoint, ignoring them or placing them as an afterthought. Rugs are an integral piece of your space.

Rugs have been made for the past 5,000 years, typically of wool and likely originating in West Asia around northern Iran and the region along the border of Europe and Asia, known as Caucasia. The oldest known rug, the Pazyryk Carpet, dates back to the fourth or fifth century B.C. While it was likely made in Armenia, the rug was discovered by Russian anthropologists in the Altai Mountains deep within Siberia in 1949.

While a bit tattered by age, the Pazyryk Carpet remains largely intact. We can observe the foundations of the ancient art of rug-making still practiced today such as intensive craftwork, stylized floral and animal life, geometric patterns and vibrant colors like crimson, indigo, gold and emerald. This rug’s sturdy construction likely saved it from the scourges of time. A hand-knotted rug, the Pazyryk Carpet features over 1,250,000 wool knots in its 6’ x 6’6” form — more than most modern rugs.

While many rugs are still made using some of the same techniques and materials, contemporary technologies allow us to manufacture durable rugs out of an 80-to-20 ratio of blended natural and synthetic fibers. Out of these fibers, modern rug makers like Surya, Loloi, Nourison and many others produce three main types of rugs: machine-made, hand-tufted and hand-knotted.

Machine-made rugs

Machine-made rugs are constructed on power looms. Production on computer-controlled machines adds up to less-expensive labor, faster turnout and precision in detail. Although you will find wool machine-made rugs, synthetic fibers are predominant.

Although machine-made rugs are generally not intended for long-term use, they provide style at a starting price point. Due to quick production, machine-made rugs are ideal for showcasing current trends and designs, and computerized precision makes them as gorgeous and intricate as any handmade rug. Depending on the style, aesthetic and feel, machined rugs may be placed anywhere in your home.

Hand-tufted rugs

Hand-tufting is the most common method for creating rugs. These rugs are crafted by hand using a technique known as fiber punching, wherein the material is punched through a backing using a tufting gun, creating the pile of the carpet — the strands of fabric forming surface of the rug. Latex is then used to apply a secondary backing, typically made of canvas.

In general, hand-tufted rugs are thick and plush, but they require a bit more maintenance. Similar to machine-made rugs, tufted rugs provide current trends and looks at a price that allows more frequent replacement once the rug is worn or the trend has passed.

Hand-knotted rugs

Hand-knotted rugs are the tried-and-true epitome of quality. Each hand-knotted carpet will have unique characteristics based on factors such as country of origin, the knot used and fiber type. Most hand-knotted carpets will be made of wool, though other fibers such as silk and jute can be found. To create a hand-knotted rug, strands of dyed wool yarn are literally woven into a crisscrossed backing called the warp and weft, often made of cotton and jute, then clipped to create the pile.

Hand-knotted carpets are often timeless in style and generally require very little maintenance. Wool hand-knotted carpets perform extremely well in high-traffic areas and when cared for properly, their build quality ensures heirloom potential for generations — or, in the case of the Pazyryk Carpet, thousands of years.

There’s a lot to know about rugs, but Furnitureland South will make your search for gorgeous rugs fun, informative and easy. Find a complimentary Design Consultant to help you navigate the rug world.

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