What Is The Difference between Commercial Carpets and Good Quality Rugs?
Buying rugs is a big decision. Unlike coarse commercial carpets that you expect to replace at least once every ten years, hand-made carpets, especially the good quality rugs, are meant to last for at least several decades. It is not uncommon to find carpets that have been around for over 100 years or more. By comparison, machine made rugs are expected to have a maximum useful life of 20 years or less. When you purchase a hand knotted pile carpet, it is a commitment, so you want to make sure you are looking at quality rugs.
A fine, hand-knotted carpet will last a lifetime if cared for properly. Not to mention, you can expect to pay more than for a mass-manufactured carpet too. If you are considering adding a hand-knotted carpet to your home or office, it is important to understand what you are getting. Let’s talk a bit about when the term “fine” carpet means and how coarse and commercial carpets compare.
When you begin your research into the type of carpet that you wish to purchase, you will probably hear the word “fine” mentioned frequently. If you have ever shopped for commercial carpets, the salesperson probably used the term fine. In the world of commercial carpets and the world of hand-knotted carpets, this term means something different.
In the commercial carpet world, the term “fine” typically refers to quality, texture, or beauty. It is just a word that is used to make the carpet sound more appealing. When describing a hand-knotted carpet, the word means something different entirely. When someone talks about a fine hand-knotted carpet, they are talking about knot count or knot density.
Knot density is the number of knots in a specified unit of measure. Many people assume that a carpet with a high knot count is automatically higher quality than one with a low knot count. The assumption is that when a carpet has a high knot count, it is automatically the more valuable carpet. When this is a good general rule, it is not true in every case. Regional differences in weaving techniques and the materials available, as well as the design, affect the final knot count of the carpet. Let’s take a look at how these factors are treated in different types of hand-knotted carpets.
Knot Density and Quality Rugs
Knot density is found by counting the number of knots per square inch, square centimeter, or other unit depending on the country and preferred unit of measure. For this article, we will use knots per square inch, or kpsi. When talking about a fine weave versus a coarse weave carpet, the one with the higher knot count will be considered a fine weave, and the one with a lower knot count will be viewed as a coarse weave.
Although some general guidelines apply to all carpets in terms of whether a weave is fine or coarse, it is important to know whether the person is talking about carpets in general or carpets from a specific locality or region. Carpets produced in different areas of the world have typical knot counts for their location. Many of the finer good quality rugs are produced in the weaving centers of the world, such as the Persian rug weaving cities of Tabriz and Sultanabad. These cities have been the home of formal carpet weaving schools since the 16th century.
Weavers in the carpet production centers are trained to produce fine carpets with a high knot count and delicate design. For instance, a carpet from Tabriz with a knot density of 400 kpsi would be considered average. It is not uncommon for carpets from this city to reach knot counts into the 1000s. By comparison, a tribal carpet may range between 50 and 80 kpsi. A tribal carpet with a kpsi of over 80 would be considered fine for that area, but coarse when talking about carpets in general.
When talking about knot count, you have to be clear whether it is referring to carpets in general or carpets from a specific area. Comparing carpets woven in the weaving centers of the cities to those rugs created in villages is like comparing apples and oranges. They are two different worlds and must be judged against carpets that are similar to them.
Knot count does have to do with quality, but not in the way many think that it does. If one were to take two carpets produced in the same area with a similar design, and all other qualities being the same, the one with the higher knot count would be considered to be the better carpet. A knot count of 200 kpsi in one area may be an example of fine weaving, but in a different area of the world, it would not even be acceptable as a beginning student’s work. When talking about knot count and whether a carpet is coarse or fine, this conversation has to take into account the context and average knot count of carpets from that local area.
Good Quality Rugs vs Coarse Weave Carpets
In general, knot count ranges from 25 to over 1,000 kpsi. Anything below 80 kpsi is considered to be coarse and of low quality. Knot counts between 80 and 120 are acceptable. Those with a knot count of 120- 330 kpsi are considered medium to good, and those above 330 kpsi are generally considered to be good quality rugs. However, knot count is not the only determining factor of the quality of a carpet; it is only one of many.
Carpets with a higher knot count can include a more intricate design. A higher knot count is more suitable for delicate curves and shading. The coarse tribal rugs often use geometric shapes with straight lines. They seldom use round and curvy lines because the knot density is too low to allow for this. This gives the carpet a more rustic and tribal look.
Finer carpets take longer to weave. A carpet that measures 9-foot by 12-foot and has a knot count of 500 kpsi takes about 14 months to complete with four or five rug weavers working six hours a day for six days a week. The average weaver can tie between 4,000 and 8,000 knots in a day. This is one of the reasons for the higher price of finer rugs, but color and design also play an important role in determining the price.
Just for the record, it is believed that the highest knot count rug ever made was a small 12-inch by 24-inch silk rug from China. It has a knot count of close to 5,000 kpsi. Among larger carpets, there are several that claim to have the highest not counts in the world. Currently, it is thought that a Hereke prayer rug housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art holds the record with a knot count of 4,360 kpsi. The carpet took over 14 years to produce.
How Do Commercial Carpets Measure Up?
Now that you understand a little bit about how quality rugs and handmade carpets compare to each other, let’s take a look at some commercial carpets. By commercial carpets, we are referring to those that are made entirely by high-speed machines. Commercial carpets are measured using the face weight, also known as the pile weight. This measurement reflects the ounces of yarn is used to make a square yard of carpet. Typical commercial carpets range between 16 and 40 oz per yard.
Commercial carpets usually have a short pile and high-density. This allows them to last longer under heavy foot traffic. They are often made of synthetic fibers such as nylon, acrylic, polyester, and olefin. There is stiff competition to increase quality. There are some carpets now available that have up to 100 ounces per square yard. In general, the higher the face weight, the longer the carpet will last.
When it comes to choosing between a good quality rugs that are handmade and commercial coarse carpets, the choice is clear. Hand-knotted carpets are more expensive because of the labor involved, but commercial carpets can never match their appeal. Even though it is possible to achieve incredibly high densities with commercial carpets, they will never be as soft as a hand-knotted Persian carpet in a fine weave. Regardless of how dense the commercial carpet is, it will always have a scratchy or feel underfoot. Wool or silk feels soft and plush in a way that commercial carpets can never achieve.
Now you understand a little bit about knot density and how it plays a role in the quality of the carpet. In general, when talking about hand-knotted carpets, the higher the knot density, the longer the carpet can be expected to last. With commercial carpets, the same is true, but when it comes to the feel under feet, commercial carpets can never compete with a hand-knotted carpet.
We at Nazmiyal Antique Rugs have a large selection of hand-knotted carpets in our collection in a range of knot densities. However, we encourage you to look beyond the knot density when it comes to evaluating the carpet that is right for you. The most important factor is that you fall in love with it because you will have to live with it for many years to come, in the most likely circumstance. Finding the perfect rug for your space and that appeals to you is always the best criteria for choosing the right carpet for you.