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Rug Encyclopedia

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Variations in color on an area rug caused by irregular dyeing; generally appears as horizontal stripes.

Man-made fiber with wool-like appearance. Does not dye, as well as nylon and is less durable.

Carpet specially treated to reduce the effects of static electricity.

Axminster Weaving

One of the basic weaves that originated in the 1700's in the town of Axminster, England. The pile tufts are anchored by stiff weft shots of jute, kraftcord, or synthetic fibers running across the width of the area rug or carpet. The surface yarns are usually cut and of one height. They are woven in geometric and floral patterns in combinations of colors and patterns.

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A term that originally referred to the traditional handweaving of North African tribespeople who used handspun yarns made from the undyed wool of local sheep. This homespun, natural colored look has been developed on a commercial basis by carpet manufacturers.

A carpet containing a mixture of two or more fibers.

A heavily textured loop pile.

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A fabric with a deep fuzzy pile often used for bedspreads and rugs.

Chrome Dyes
Synthetic dyes that use potassium bichromate to form a permanent bond between yarn and the dye. More widely used than vegetable dyes because they are colorfast.

Non-traditional style category. The designs range from tailored architectural geometrics to free-form asymmetrical styles.

A product of the cotton plant. The fibers form within the cotton boll, or the seedpod. Over several months, the cotton boll grows to about the size of a ping pong ball. Inside, the moist cotton fibers are formed around the cottonseeds. Once processed and spun, cotton fibers are soft and lightweight. They also suck up moisture and dry quickly. Cotton is commonly used as a binding thread to help form the backing and fringes found in many rugs.

A unique weaving technique on Wilton looms in which an area rug is woven "sideways" rather than from top to bottom, fringe to fringe. This technique allows for the use of up to 24 shades of color. Creating ultra fine detail and a beautiful abrash effect.

Crystal-Point Finish
The tip of the yarn is finished with a crystal-like point, not cut "straight across" as in ordinary rugs. This adds greater definition to the design and a shimmer-like finish to the entire rug.

Cut-Pile is a smooth classic finish often known as "velour" or "velvet" pile, ideal for bringing a luxurious and sensual feel to rooms. The tops of the loops of wool are cut and the yarn is twisted and set to produce tufts of yarn that stand upright and produce a smooth, even surface.

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System for expressing linear density, equal to the mass in grams per 9,000 meters of yarn, filament, fiber or other textile strand. Denier is a direct numbering system - the higher the denier, the larger the yarn or fiber.

Refers to the amount of pile yarn in the carpet and the closeness of the tufts. The denser or more tightly packed the yarn, the better.

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A process of carving around a design or symbol to enhance the look of the rug. Commonly done in some Chinese and Tibetan rugs.

Central part of a rug design generally surrounded by a border.

Flat Weave
Weaving in which no knots are used. The weft strands are simply passed through the warp strands. Dhurries are flat woven rugs that originated in India and are usually made of cotton or wool. Kilims are generally finer, tapestry-like flat weaves.

Most carpet styles and textures can show some effect from pile flattening or a change in pile lay due to frequent walking or other forms of traffic. This change of pile lay is often more noticeable in plain, cut-pile carpets due to the difference in the visual appearance of the side and top of the tuft. Vacuuming and pile lifting will revive the pile temporarily, as will wet or dry methods of cleaning. After a period, however, the effect will again be evident.

Racks which hold spools of yarn on a Wilton loom. Each frame holds a separate color creel. Thus an eight-frame Wilton weaves an eight color rug.

Also called hard twist, this carpet pile uses highly twisted yarn for a more textured cut pile effect.

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The number of ends of pile yarn per unit length cut across the width of the carpet.

Background color which sets off the principle design motif of the rug. HAND Tactile qualities of a fabric including softness, stiffness, rough, scratchy, etc.

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Tactile qualities of a fabric including softness, stiffness, rough, scratchy, etc.

Hand-Hooked/Hand Tufted
Hand-Hooked --In creating a hooked area rug, a canvas cloth is first attached to a frame. Using a hooking instrument or device and following the pattern, the weaver punches the yarn up through the canvas, creating a looped pile. Next the rug is taken off the frame and a layer of latex glue is spread over the back of the area rug. This is necessary to hold the yarns in place, as they have not been knotted or tied into the foundation of the area rug. It is important to note that the long ends of wool that often appear on the surface of the hooked rug (called sprouts) must not be pulled for this very reason. If they are pulled, versus cutting them even with the pile, it will result in a section of missing wool and will damage the area rug.

After applying the glue, a cloth is attached to further protect the back of the area rug. Lastly, the edges of the canvas are turned under and stitched. The quality and durability of hooked area rugs vary, but it is mostly based on the point size; the smaller the loop the better. Gross Point is the largest loop size and is used for a more detailed design. Micro-Hooked (Used in Kensington and Nantucket) is the finest weave, and gives both the most detail and the best durability in hooked area rugs.

Hand-Tufted--Hand-tufted area rugs are created in a very similar fashion to hand-hooked area rugs. The major difference is that after the loop pile is created, it is usually sheared to produce a flat pile surface. As the name implies, this type of area rug is produced by craftsmen who draw the design on the canvas which will become the area rug anchor backing. These craftsmen then tuft the area rug using a "tufting gun" to insert various colored yarns into a backing. Area rugs manufactured in this manner may be either "cut" or "loop" finish, and varying pile heights may be used within the area rug to achieve a textured effect. Hand-tufted area rugs are among the most sumtuous types of area rugs made, offering infinite design opportunities and variations.

Area rugs that are made by hand are entirely hand-knotted or hand-loomed.

Hard Twist (Cut-Pile)
This style of carpet, also called Frieze cut-pile, features yarn twisted to a high degree and then set. The hardwearing texture minimizes tracking (footprints), shading (irregular light and dark areas in the pile) and shedding, making it a popular, practical carpet.

Twisted yarns are treated with heat to retain their "permanent wave" for better performance and appearance retention.

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You are probably familiar with the brown woven cloth used for burlap sacks. Burlap is woven jute cloth. Most jute is grown and harvested in the moist heat of Bangladesh, India and China. Processing involves wetting the long jute plants and then stripping the fibers from the stalks. Once separated into fibers, jute can be spun into yarn, woven or made into rope. Although jute is of relatively poor quality, it is plentiful and inexpensive, in fact there is more jute processed than any other natural fiber except cotton.

The basic structural unit of the pile rug, knots vary according to local and tribal weaving traditions, with the two main types being symmetrical (Turkish) and asymmetrical (Persian) varieties.

Knot Count
The number of knots in a square inch of a rug. Handmade Chinese rugs are often described in terms of "line". A 65 line rug would have 65 knots per foot of length, and 29 knots per square inch.

Knots Per Square Inch (KPI)

Number of knots per square inch rates the knot quality.

Knotted Pile

A type of weaving in which tufts or wool forming the pile are wrapped around one or more (usually two) warps to project at right angles to the plane of the weaving. They are "tied" individually, a transverse row at a time, and are held in place by ground wefts. The process is to be distinguished from the making of hooked rugs in which tufts of wool are poked into a pre-existing loosely woven fabric. In carpet weaving, knots can only be inserted as weaving proceeds and not afterwards. The "knots" are not true knots though they do encircle one or more of the wefts to form a highly durable fabric. The pile "knots" cannot be pulled out as they can when the tufts of pile are simply looped around the warps.

There are two basic types of knot: the Persian, Senneh, open or asymmetrical knot; the Turkish, Ghiordes, closed or symmetrical knot. The Persian knot is well suited to fine, detailed work and is found in all court rugs, almost all urban workshop rugs and some Persian village rugs; it is also used by some tribal groups in Persia and neighboring countries. The Turkish knot makes for a more durable fabric and is used throughout Turkey and the Caucasus, by most tribal weavers outside Persia, some Persian tribal weavers and in many villages in northern and western Persia.

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A water emulsion of a synthetic rubber or plastic obtained by polymerization and used especially in coatings and adhesives.

Structure that allows area rugs to be woven by holding the warp strands taut; looms can be either vertical or horizontal, fixed or mobile.

Loop Pile
Level loop pile is a hard wearing surface formed on continuous loops of yarn of uniform length, designed to minimize tracking.

Brightness or sheen of fibers, yarns.

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Multi-Level Loop Pile
Carpet with loops of yarn at different heights creating a sculptured effect.

The pile yarns or the surface of a rug or carpet.

A rug making technique made with wool yarns worked on canvas using the same method as a needlepoint pillow.

New Zealand Wool
Is a superb natural product produced in an environmentally responsible, energy-efficient and safe way. The well-known high quality of New Zealand wool is based on long-term investment in scientific sheep breeding, as well as agricultural land management techniques. This ensures that New Zealand wool is consistently of uniform quality, free from vegetable and chemical contaminants, and is the cleanest, whitest wool available, enabling the widest ranges of different yarn and rug styles to be produced.

Durable synthetic fiber which also has good dyeing characteristics. Nylon yarns can be solution dyed, skein dyed and/or space dyed.Durable synthetic fiber which also has good dyeing characteristics. Nylon yarns can be solution dyed, skein dyed and/or space dyed.

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Olefin /Polyproylene
Synthetic fiber used extensively in machine made rugs. This fiber is colored in the pellet phase of production. Performs best when heat-set and/or used in a dense construction.

The surface appearance of a rug usually mellows with age or use.

Persian Knot
This knot is also tied onto two adjacent warp threads, after the first few have been set aside at the side for the selvedge. But, unlike the Turkish knot, in the Persian knot only one of the warp threads is encircled by the strand of wool, which merely passes behind the other warp thread, so that the ends of the woolen strand appear separately: the first between the original two warp threads, and the second between the two subsequent ones. Each Persian knot is separated from its neighbor by a loop, which is cut after the passage of the weft. The Persian knot can be tied equally well from right to left or viceversa, which is why it is sometimes called the "two-handed" knot. When several knotters are working on the same area rug and using Persian knots, one begins his knotting from the right and one from the left.

The surface of the area rug, generally made of wool, formed by the cut ends of the knots. The length of the pile is usually evened off in two shearing operations, one during weaving and one on completion of the area rug.

Pile Height

The height of the pile, as measured in decimal parts of one inch, from the top surface of the back to the top surface of the pile. The higher the number, the higher the pile.

Pile Weight
The weight of pile yarn per square yard of carpet.

Small balls of fluff.

A cut-pile carpet in which the tuft ends all blend together.

The thickness of an area rug or carpet yarn. 3 ply means that each tuft of yarn consists of 3 yarns spun together to form the tuft.

One tuft of pile.

Synthetic fiber most often used in staple spun yarns.

Synthetic fiber used extensively in machine made rugs. This fiber is colored in the pellet phase of production. Performs best when heat-set and/or used in a dense construction.


A loom operated by mechanical or electronic power.

Primary Backing
In tufted carpet, this is the woven backing into which tufts are inserted by needles. Tufts are bonded into place with latex applied on the reverse side.

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Made in France, this is a hand-knotted pastel rug with a floral medallion set on an open field with broken borders. This rug is the model for many of today's Indian and Persian rugs.

A dense cut pile carpet made with heavy yarns treated so each tuft end can be easily seen. A shorter pile than shag pile and generally a closer construction.

Secondary Backing
In tufted carpet, an additional backing is bonded onto the primary backing with latex.

An extra step in wool processing that combs out shorter fibers resulting in durable and lustrous yarns.

A process used to set the twist in yarns when they are to be used in cut pile textures requiring good tuft definition.

A change in the appearance of an area rug due to localized distortions of the fibers, tufts or loops. Shading is not a change in color or hue, but a different reflection.

The process of losing loose fiber from the pile yarn of a new carpet. It is not harmful to the carpet. Also called fluffing.

Solution Dyed
A method of dyeing synthetic fiber in which pigment is added to the nylon or polypropylene chip before it is extruded as filament yarn.

Space Dyed
Yarn colored in sections of different colors before being tufted or woven into a rug. Abrash effects can be created with space dyed yarns. Space dyeing is frequently applied to nylon fibers.

When ends of backing material such as jute appear on the pile surface.

The build-up of an electric charge when a person walks over a carpet, which is subsequently discharged. It occurs on natural and synthetic fibers, and is dictated by humidity.

Sumac Weave
Sumacs are complex and reversible. An extra weft of dyed wool is added to create the pattern. These pattern wefts are wrapped around the warps in a regular sequence. They are cut and hang loose on the back of the rug. Sumacs are a brocade weave.

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Textured Loop Pile
With loops of differing pile height, textured loop has a unique sculptured look. Like level loop pile, this hard wearing texture minimizes tracking.

Tibetan Knot
A distinctive rug-weaving technique now used in other regions, as well as in Tibet. A temporary rod, which establishes the length of pile, is put in front of the warp. A continuous yarn is looped around two warps and then once around the rod. When a row of loops is finished, then the loops are cut to create the pile. This method produces a slightly ridged surface.

These carpets have a unique patterned or textured appearance achieved by having some loops of yarn cut and some uncut. This luxurious finish minimizes footprints and gives your floor classic, fashionable comfort.

Two or more shades of the same hue achieved by combining two ends of different shades, two different yarns of the same color or cut-pile and looped pile of the same color.

Tracking is the effect of imprints on your carpet left by feet. It is more common on cut pile than loop pile surfaces but it is temporary and will disappear after vacuuming.

Styling designation that refers to long established patterns in the Oriental/Persian or classic European schools. In new rugs, traditional designs are produced either in modern colorations or in colors that replicate antique rugs.

A broad style category that falls between traditional and contemporary. Many floral patterns are included in this category.

A flat weave construction which incorporates the use of three frames rather than one frame, allowing for the possibility to use three different yarns (types of materials or different colors).

An area rug or carpet fabricated by pushing surface yarns through a previously constructed sheet of primary backing to which a secondary back usually is laminated. See also Hand-tufted.

Turkish Knot
As knotting begins, three or four lateral warp threads are left free; with the to-and-fro movement of the weft, they will form a very narrow but vital selvedge down the sides of the rug. The Turkish knot is tied around two adjacent warp threads, each of which are encircled by the strand of wool; the ends of the woolen strand reappear between these two warp threads. The process is then repeated. A loop of wool about 2 or 3 centimeters (0.8 or 1.2 in.) in length is left between each knot until the last warp thread of the row. With the aid of two shed-sticks to separate the warp threads, two shots of weft are then passed, forwards and backwards, across the whole breadth of the area rug, including the lateral threads that bear no knots. After each shot, the weft is compressed against the row of knots with a heavy metal comb. Finally, a new row of knots is begun following the same procedure, which is repeated until completion of the knotting. Then the loops of wool are cut to form tufts which, after clipping, constitute the pile of the area rug.

The winding of the yarn around itself. The twist should be neat and well defined. A tighter twist provides enhanced durability and in the case of patterned goods, a more delineated design.

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Vegetable Dyes
Dyes made from plants and bark. They produce unusual shades of blue, green and other colors. They contain no synthetic chemicals and, due to their natural ingredients, tend to fade faster than chrome dyes.

Cut-pile carpet with a uniform, velvet-like surface.

Viscose is basically synonymous with rayon. It is a synthetic fiber that is often used as a silk substitute. While not as fragile as silk, it is not as durable as wool. It is usually used to mimic the effects of silk and offers a sheen and softness to the rug.

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The yarn stretched vertically on a hand-knotted area rug. The knots forming the pile are tied on the warp threads.

A euphemism for the chemical treatment of woollen rugs which tones down the colors, dulls the whites, makes the pile glossy and gives them a soft and supple texture. The process in some respects imitates the effect of ageing and undoubtedly makes rugs more saleable, but the changes are irreversible and the process is not favored by purists who believe that rugs should be allowed to age naturally.

The yarn that the weaver passes across the width of the rug between warp threads. The weft threads maintain the knots of the pile in place.

Wilton Weave

The yarn that the weaver passes across the width of the rug between warp threads. The weft threads maintain the knots of the pile in place.

Wool Sisal

Wool sisal-look carpets are very popular. The fashionable raw, woven texture of sisal (coir and seagrass) is stylishly translated into the warmth, softness and durability of New Zealand wool.

Woven Carpets
Woven carpets are made on a weaving loom - the backing threads and pile are woven at the same time, so the tufts are anchored in place and a strong interwoven structure is created. Traditional methods originating in the 16th century, Axminster and Wilton are both well known woven carpets. Woven carpets can offer a wider range of patterns and are slower to make than tufted carpets.

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Portions of this rug encyclopedia were provided by Couristan.