Finding a beautiful hand-woven rug that is perfect for you and your home is exciting and heart-warming…but can also be overwhelming and anxious. How do I know if this rug is going to last, how do I know if it is worth what the seller is asking or if it is as valuable as it appears? These are very good questions and finding the answer to these questions can determine if your rug is truly a generational treasure, or…not.
Determining the true value of a rug would take a book, or two, to fully understand, but I can provide you with a few quick tips to help you determine if your rug is going to stand the test of time. There are three elements in the construction of a rug that help determine the strength and durability. These three elements are the wool, the weave, and the dyes. If these three elements are well-made and executed properly then your rug should have no problem standing up to even the busiest environments.
A rug woven with good, well-treated wool is incredibly durable and can last, and look good, for decades. A good wool should feel dense and thick on the rug and should be able to be pulled out easily. Watch out for a rug with a really soft, or silky feel to the wool. This wool has been chemically treated to add extra luster which can weaken the fibers. These super soft wool rugs have a tendency to wear out faster than a wool without as much treatment. That does not mean these rugs should never be purchased, they are just not great for a high traffic area. The pile or height of the wool strands should be even and uniform across the rug. Some hand-woven rugs are made using a machine spun wool which can be over tightened and will loosen up over time. This will cause little pulls to start popping up in your rug. This is not wool that is falling out, but extra wool that needs to be clipped. A few strands are normal, but if your rug is covered in them than this means the twist on the wool was uneven. High-quality wool woven in rugs is found all-over the middle-east and even often imported from New Zealand for newer woven rugs.
The weave of a rug is how the pile is knotted into the interwoven warp and weft threads that make the foundation. Tightly tied knots and/or smaller strands of wool can create smaller knots. A lot of people correlate the quality of a rug with the tightness of the weave determined by the number of knots in a rug. These knots are counted per square inch. A rug with smaller knots is considered finely woven and can have a very intricate design. But this does not necessarily mean the weave is done well, or tightly. There are rugs, like a Turkish
, with very big knots, but the knots are tied very tightly into the rug to make it incredibly tight and durable. Other rugs, like some of the older Pakistani pieces, are woven with smaller knots, but the knots are still tied loosely so the rug will wear out faster and is not very durable. One way to determine the tightness of the knots in a rug is to pick up the rug and feel it. If the rug is easy to manipulate, bunch and curl then it is most likely woven loosely. I rug with a tight weave will have a firmer handle and be more difficult to manipulate.
A rug with good dyes will not fade or run easily, a rug with bad dyes will. There is a fairly simple test to determine the quality of a rug dye. Dampen a white cloth and gently rub onto the rug. If the color from the rug comes off onto the cloth than those are weak dyes. A good dye will not rub off onto the cloth but stay in place in the wool.
Strong wool, tight weave, and quality dyes create the foundation to a really good, well-made rug.