Hand-made vs. Machine-made Rugs: What’s the Difference?

You’ve probably realized that we carry more than just furniture here at Fairhaven Furniture. Our goal is to be your one-stop-shop for beautiful rooms – which includes lighting, accessories and, of course, rugs!

When we work with our customers, we’ve noticed it’s pretty common to be confused by the different types of rugs that are available. Hand-knotted, hand-tufted, power-loomed – what do these terms mean, and why do they matter? In today’s post, we’ll talk about some of the most common types of rugs, and what you can expect from each in terms of price and quality.

Hand-Knotted Rugs

Hand-knotted rugs are crafted by skilled artisans who tie thousands – even millions! – of individual knots to a foundation to create the rug’s design. The number of knots per square inch (KPSI) varies – a higher KPSI means a better-quality rug.

Hand-knotted rugs are made from top-quality wool or silk; only quality fiber has the durability and length needed to create the pile of these rugs. Once a rug is complete, the pile is shaved down to highlight the intricate detail of the design. Hand-knotted rugs never have a backing – you’ll see the same design on the underside of the rug, just without the characteristic short pile of the knots.

Hand-knotted rugs are works of art – no two are the same, and a single rug of average size takes months to complete. The production time and the quality of the materials make these rugs more expensive than other types, but they are also truly heirloom quality. A well-cared-for hand-knotted rug can be passed down for generations, and it will only increase in value as it ages.

One-of-a-kind hand-knotted rugs
Hand-Tufted Rugs

Hand-tufted rugs are created using a specialized tool to punch strands of fiber through cloth canvas. Usually made from wool, other fibers may be blended in to achieve a particular aesthetic – for instance, bamboo rayon to add softness and sheen, or metallic threads to add a hint of sparkle.

Hand-tufted rugs have a deeper pile, giving them a plush feel underfoot – sometimes the pile is cut to differing depths for a textured look. A latex and cotton backing locks the tufted fibers in place. Hand-tufted rugs will shed a bit initially, but with regular vacuuming (no beater bar, please!) the shedding will stop over time.

Hand-tufted rugs are available in a vast array of colors, patterns and textures, and the fabrication process is much faster than hand-knotting – an average size rug might take only a day or two to complete. This makes hand-tufted rugs a more affordable choice, while still providing a beautiful, designer-quality accent for your room.

A hand-tufted rug with varying heights of pile
Hand-Woven (Flatweave) Rugs

A hand-woven rug may also be called a flatweave rug, Kilim or Dhurrie, depending on where it was made. These rugs are crafted on a loom by interweaving warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) threads. Hand-woven rugs are still fully handmade, but the weaving process is less time-intensive than knotting, making a flatweave rug a more affordable choice than a hand-knotted rug.

Usually woven in geometric designs, hand-woven rugs may be 100% wool, or they might use a wool weft with a cotton warp. Flatweave rugs have no pile – which is why we call them flat! – and are therefore reversible. They’re also quite easy to clean, so they’re great for high-traffic areas like an entryway or a kitchen. They are comparatively thin, so a good-quality rug pad is essential to hold them in place.

A hand-woven kilim
Machine-Woven Rugs

Machine-woven – or power-loomed – rugs are made using an electronically controlled loom and finished with a bound, or serged, edge. They are much faster to produce than handmade rugs, which makes them lower in cost.

Machine-woven rugs are not 100% wool – pure wool can’t stand up to the stress of the power-loom process. Instead, machine-woven rugs are made from wool/synthetic blends or are fully synthetic. Because the fiber is lower quality, machine-woven rugs are not as durable as pure wool rugs, but they are available in a huge array of patterns and colors and can be an excellent, budget-friendly choice.

So, What’s Our Advice?

We’ll be honest with you: handmade rugs in 100% wool or high-quality wool blends are our top choice. With proper care, they’ll stay beautiful for a very long time, making them a terrific investment.

But machine-woven rugs have their place, as well. Maybe you need a rug for a kid’s bedroom or a family room, where it will get a lot of wear and tear. Or maybe you’re refreshing a room on a budget, and you want a stylish area rug at a lower price point. That’s why Fairhaven Furniture always carries a curated collection of machine-woven rugs, too. (And if you’re really hunting for a bargain, we’ve been known to offer some pretty sweet discounts on rug floor models from time to time!)

Ready to start shopping for the rug of your dreams? Browse a selection of rugs on our website, or come by the store to see many more options.