Hand Tufted Rugs vs Hand Knotted: Know the Difference
One of the most common points of confusion among customers and even some rug professionals is the misuse of the terms hand knotted and hand tufted. In truth, these two terms are not even related when it comes to construction methods for creating a carpet. To make a hand knotted rug, each knot is tied individually by a weaver on a warp. On the other hand, hand tufted rugs are made by punching strands of wool onto a stretched canvas. Let’s explore hand tufted and machine made rugs a little more closely so that you will know the difference when you see one.
How to Make A Hand Tufted Rug
Both hand knotted and hand tufted rugs are, naturally, made by hand. However, the production processes are quite different. First off, hand tufted rugs do not begin with a warp on a loom. It begins with a piece of coarse cloth that is stretched tightly over a frame. The hand tufting process involves taking a piece of wool or other yarn and punching it through the cloth with a tool. The design is typically drawn onto the fabric, and the artist simply fills in the design with an appropriate color, similar to coloring in a coloring book, only using the tufting tool. This is quite different from the process used when creating a hand-knotted rug where the weaver follows a chart.
The process of hand tufting began as a form of rug hooking. Rug hooking is a traditional American art that began in the 1800’s. This craft involves using a pointed hook to draw yarn or thin strips of fabric through a coarse cloth. Eventually a punch needle was used instead of a hook for the process. This allows the creation of longer pile rugs. With hand knotting, each knot is cut to the proper length as it is tied individually. In hand tufting, the loops are left in place, and it can either be left as a loop pile, or all of them can be trimmed at once to create the required pile length.
Now, hand tufting is done using a hand tufting tool, or a powered hand tufting gun. With both of these methods, the process is the same as using a punch needle. The yarn is poked through the cloth and then later cut to length. A tufting gun can do it at a much quicker rate than using a hand tool. The only difference in the technique is speed, and the results produced are visually the same. It may be noted that hand tufting is worked on the back of the carpet, and the result is only seen once the carpet is turned over. The yarns are poked from the back of the cloth through the front.
In a hand knotted rug, once the knotting is completed, the carpet is finished, except for washing and perhaps a little bit of trimming. With a hand tufted rug, once all of the design has been completed, there are a few more steps that must be done. Because the yarn is not tied to anything, it is easy for it to slip out and unravel. For this reason, most hand tufted carpets are glued on the back to keep the yarns in place. After this is done, a backing cloth is stitched to the carpet to hide the glue and to add further stability to the pile.
How to Tell the Difference Between Hand Tufted Rugs and Hand Knotted Rugs
The quickest and easiest way to tell if a carpet is hand knotted or hand tufted is to look at the back. On the back of the hand knotted carpet, you will be able to see where each individual knot was tied to the warp. It will have little bumps that form the same pattern as on the front of the carpet. A hand tufted carpet will often have a backing and binding on the edges. You will not be able to see any knots or loops on the back. If the carpet has a backing applied to it, it is more than likely a hand tufted carpet.
Now, let’s talk a bit about machine made carpets. With a machine made carpet, the yarn and pile is actually stitched to a backing cloth. It may or may not have a backing and glue applied. One thing is for certain, if it has a rubber backing applied to it, it is not a hand knotted rug. It is a modern, machine made rug.
With a machine made rug, no human hands created the pile, except for filling and tending to the machine. Modern rug machines can run at exceptionally high rates of speed. It may be noted that industrial machines are available that do hand tufting to produce a pile carpet. High speed carpet machines and hand-tufting machines can produce up to a foot a minute. A hand knotted carpet can take several years to complete.
Another way to tell a hand knotted carpet from a hand tufted or machine made one is too look at the threads. Most modern rugs are created using synthetic dyes, which will fade where they are exposed to the sun. With a hand knotted carpet, the yarn is dyed before the carpet is made, but with a machine-made one, the dyes are applied after the carpet is made, and sometimes there will be mistakes, such as overlapping colors. This is not possible with a hand knotted carpet.
Another difference is with the materials. In areas where the hand tufting is still done using a hand driven tool, wools and silks are still used, in some cases. However, machine made carpets are almost always synthetic materials such as nylon, acrylic, and polyester. These have a completely different feel than natural materials. They also have a completely different visual characteristic too. It is easy to tell synthetics from natural wool, even without extensive experience. A synthetic material will never be as soft as a natural wool.
Most Important Tufted Rug Considerations
People often ask why hand knotted rugs are so expensive when compared to hand tufted rugs or machine made rugs. This is an easy question to answer. First off, the hand knotted rug was created from shearing the sheep to the final finishing by human hands using techniques and traditions that have been around for thousands of years. It is a piece of art and an expression of the life and feelings of the weaver. This is something a machine can never do, no matter how advanced artificial intelligence becomes.
A hand knotted carpet takes dedication to produce. From start to finish, some of the larger, finer knot count rugs can take several years to complete. Hand tufted rugs created with a hand tool or tufting gun are only one step up from that process. The hand tufting process is still much faster than hand knotting, and there is a bit more artistry involved. Machine made carpets are cheap and fast to produce. There is no human soul in them, and sometimes the designs are entirely computer generated. The more mechanized the process, the less artistry is involved.
Now, you know the difference between a fine piece of textile art that is hand knotted and a cheaper, hand tufted carpet. Feel free to browse our beautiful pieces of hand knotted art carpets. You will be able to see and feel the difference in your home or office.