How To Tell The Difference Of Hand Made Vs Machine Made Rugs

One of the most common questions that rug buyers often get asked is, “How can you tell the difference between a handmade rug and a machine made rug?” 

Growing up in the rug business, I’ve always been amazed by the skill of rug experts like my father. The ability to instantly identify a rug’s origin, age, and other details makes it feel like a superpower.

In this post, I’ll share simple tactics to help you distinguish between machine-made and hand-knotted rugs. Whether you’re a homeowner or business owner in the rug industry, these tips will be invaluable.

We’ll cover rug appearance, knot quality, and fringe inspection. Read on to acquire your rug identification superpower.

Table of Contents

Machine-Made Rug vs Hand-Knotted Rug

How To Tell The Difference

While it may not be easy to distinguish between the two with just a casual glance, especially to an untrained eye, a closer look will reveal a few very prominent differences between the two.

Look at the appearance of the rug from the front

When looking at the appearance of a rug from the front, there are several critical differences between machine-made and hand-knotted rugs.

Machines-Made Rug Appearance

Machine-made rugs are known for their perfect, symmetrical designs and patterns.

The spacing of the medallions and other design elements are consistent throughout the rug, and the overall look and feel of the rug can be fuzzy and less sharp.

This is due to the lower knot density and the limitations of the machine in handling the nuances of the patterns and colors compared to an expert weaver.

Machine-made Rugs Have Symmetrical Designs and Patterns

Hand-Knotted Rug Appearance

Conversely, hand-knotted rugs are characterized by their harmonious but not always perfectly symmetrical designs and patterns. The level of symmetry will vary depending on whether the rug was made in a workshop or by tribal or village weavers.

City rug weavers who work in workshops typically follow a blueprint, and their designs are the most experienced and closest to perfect.

Tribal or village rug weavers, on the other hand, do not follow a blueprint and instead rely on their memory, resulting in more apparent imperfections in the designs.

However, even the most experienced weavers can make small mistakes. These mistakes can result from changing the pressure to tie knots or beat down on the pile as they weave. While these small mistakes may be noticeable to a trained eye, they can be difficult for an untrained eye to detect.

By understanding these differences in the appearance of machine-made and hand-knotted rugs, you can develop your eye for identifying the construction of a rug.

Hand-Knotted Rugs Have Harmonious But Not Perfectly Symmetrical Designs and Patterns

Inspecting the Straightness of a Rug

One of the biggest giveaways to know whether a rug is machine-made or hand-knotted is to inspect the rug for straightness.

How to Measure Straightness

To check the straightness of a rug, start by looking at the four edges of the rug. A trained eye can tell with a glance how straight a rug is, but for more precise measurement, use a tape measure to measure the distance from each corner of the rug. For example, measure the distance from the top left and top right corners, and do the same for the bottom left and bottom right corners. Compare the measurements to see how much difference there is.

Machine-made Rugs: Perfectly Straight with Little Difference

Machine-made rugs are known for their perfectly straight edges with almost no difference in measurement. These rugs are produced using advanced machinery that ensures precise measurements and even weaving.

Machine-made Rugs Have Straight Edges with Almost No Difference in Measurement

Hand-knotted Rugs: Slight Differences in Straightness Are Normal

On the other hand, hand-knotted rugs may have slight differences in straightness, especially those made by tribal or village weavers. A couple of inches of difference is normal, but depending on the size of the rug, it shouldn’t be much more than 3 or 4 inches.

Hand-knotted Rugs Have Slight Differences in Straightness

The Role of Looms and Knot Tightness in Rug Straightness

The straightness of a hand-knotted rug is determined by several factors, including the loom used to make the rug. Wooden looms are known for expanding and contracting, which can impact the straightness of the rug.
Additionally, the tightness of the knots in different areas of the rug can also impact its straightness. Also, wool foundations are known for expanding and shrinking over time which can lead to distortions in the rug.

Feeling the Back of a Rug

When it comes to identifying the authenticity of Persian rugs, one method is to check the back of the rug. By feeling the back, you can determine whether a rug is machine-made or hand-knotted by feeling the back.

Machine-made Rugs: Hard and Stiff Backs Indicate Synthetic Material

The back of a machine-made rug will feel hard and almost stiff when you run your fingernails along it. This is because the material used in the back of these rugs is often synthetic, such as polypropylene, nylon, or polyester.

The Back of Machine-made Rug Feels Hard and Stiff

Hand-knotted Rugs: Soft Backs with Natural Materials

On the other hand, the back of a hand-knotted rug feels relatively soft when you run your fingernails along it. This is because you feel the natural materials used in the rug’s foundation and pile. Hand-knotted rugs are made of natural fibers such as cotton, wool, or sometimes silk and are woven together by skilled weavers using traditional techniques.

Hand-knotted Rugs Feel Softer

Identifying the Foundation of Hand-knotted Rugs by Feeling the Back

Feeling the back of a hand-knotted rug can also reveal the quality of its foundation, which consists of the warp and weft threads onto which the knots are tied. The back can assess by feeling the softness of the natural fibers used, such as cotton, wool, or silk, and the precision of the weaving. Thus, feeling the back of the rug can provide valuable information about its authenticity and quality.

Checking the Knots on the Back of a Rug

Another way to tell the difference between machine-made and hand-knotted rugs is by inspecting the appearance of the knots on the back of the rug. By looking closely at the back of the rug and inspecting the knots, you can identify whether a rug is machine-made or hand-knotted.

 If the weaving and the knots are not perfectly uniform, you know it is a handmade rug. In addition, you can actually distinguish the individual knots when you look at the back of the rug.

This is because, in making handmade rugs, weavers manually insert the knots into the foundation of the rug and tie each knot by hand. Not surprisingly, because it is a fully manual process, this results in the unevenness that you can see on the underside of the rug.

Machine made rugs, on the other hand, are manufactured by large, heavy-duty power looms and because the process is entirely automated the resultant rug will have a smooth and even underside. In a machine made rug, the back of the rug will typically be very uniform and perfectly even.

You cannot see individual knots at the back of a machine made rug because there aren’t any. The pile is held together by an overstitch construction and this smooth over stitch pattern is what you can see on the entire back of a machine made rug.

Machine-made Rugs: Uniform Knots with Perfect Symmetry

Since machine-made rugs are produced by machines, the knots on the back of the rug will appear uniform and very symmetrical. The spacing between the knots and the overall structure will look perfectly aligned, almost like a perfect honeycomb structure. The rug pile is not visible from the back, and the design and colors are unclear.

The Knots Appear Uniform and Symmetrical

Hand-knotted Rugs: Uniqueness in Knots with Clearer Patterns

Conversely, the knots on the back of a hand-knotted rug will not look perfectly symmetrical and aligned since they are knotted by hand. Instead, you’ll notice more uniqueness in the rug patterns instead of a honeycomb structure. You can see the rug pile clearly as if it’s been cut very short. This means you can easily determine what the rug will look like in the front, including the design and colors.

The Knots Are Not Aligned and Not Symmetrical

Visible Pile on Hand-knotted Rugs

By checking the knots on the back of a hand-knotted rug, you can identify the design and colors of the rug. The visible pile on the back of the rug can give you a clear idea of what the rug will look like in the front. The knots in different areas of the rug may also vary in size and shape, which is a sign of the rug’s authenticity and the skill of the weaver. When inspecting the back of a rug, pay attention to these details to differentiate between machine-made and hand-knotted rugs.

Checking the Fringes

Another way to differentiate between machine-made and hand-knotted rugs is by examining the fringes.

Fringes are the strands that hang off the ends of a rug, and they can provide valuable information about the rug’s construction.

In authentic Persian rugs, the fringe is part of the body of the rug itself. It is formed during the weaving process and looks like an extension of the rug body.

Handmade rug vs machine made rug
The Fringe is Formed During The Weaving Process

Machine-made Rugs: Synthetic Fringes with Uniform Appearance

Sometimes, machine-made rugs do not have any fringes. If they have fringes, they are usually attached to the rug after it’s made, and they’re made of synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester, or polypropylene. It is in fact rather sewn onto the rug after the rug is completed. The fringes on machine-made rugs have a simple and uniform appearance.

Take a closer look at the part where the fringe is attached to the body of the rug. If you can see that is has been sewn to the rug then you know the rug is NOT genuine.

Fringes are Sewn onto the Rug

Hand-knotted Rugs: Natural Material Fringes with Unique Characteristics

In contrast, the fringes on a hand-knotted rug are part of the rug’s foundation, and if you look closely, you can see how they are an extension of the foundation. They are usually made of natural materials such as cotton, wool, or sometimes silk. Hand-knotted fringes are less uniform than those on machine-made rugs and can vary in length or thickness. Sometimes, they are braided or decorated, especially in tribal or village rugs, which add character and unique features to the rug.

Fringes are Part of the Rug's Foundation

Fringe Variations in Tribal or Village Hand-knotted Rugs

Tribal or village weavers may also intentionally create variations in the fringes to add character to their rugs. For example, they may make the fringes on one end of the rug shorter than the fringes on the other end, or they may add decorative touches to the fringes, such as tassels or knots. By examining the fringes of a rug, you can identify its construction and get a sense of its unique features and characteristics.

Look for Color Variations

Handmade Persian rugs are more likely to have slight variations in color. This is because the process is entirely manual including the dyeing process.

Using wool that has been dyed in different batches will often result in slight color variations. With machine-made rugs, the materials used are typically dyed in a single batch and the colors will be uniform throughout.

In conclusion, identifying the construction of a rug can seem daunting, but with these simple tactics, you can quickly tell the difference between machine-made and hand-knotted rugs. By inspecting the rug’s appearance, knot quality, fringes, and straightness, you can develop your own eye for rug identification.

Remember, machine-made rugs have a perfect appearance, uniform knots, and synthetic fringes. In contrast, hand-knotted rugs have unique patterns and imperfections, natural materials in the knots and fringes, and slight differences in straightness.

If you’re looking for an authentic hand-knotted rug, check out our inventory of over 3,000 rugs to find the perfect one.

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2 thoughts on “How To Tell The Difference Of Hand Made Vs Machine Made Rugs

  1. If I send you of a beautiful rug that o am curious about (I’m a weaver and am simply baffled) would you be willing to tell me how it was made?
    I think machine but NO loose ends anywhere in the multiple pattern changes.
    Could be made on a tapestry loom but way too perfect.
    A binding was hand sewn all along the bottom edges.

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