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There are a great many terms used in the area-rug industry. Anyone looking to buy or decorate with area rugs would be wise to become familiar with some of the more commonly used ones. Here is a list that you may find useful. It is certainly not comprehensive and complete. Your suggestions on what words or terms to add to a future list would be most appreciated.
Acrylic: A man-made fiber with wool-like appearance. It does not dye as well as nylon and is less durable, but very economical.
Aubusson (or Tapestry) Weave: A method of hand-weaving developed in France in which the stitches on the face look more linear, and the back may look stringy. This occurs when the weaver changes yarn colors.
Contemporary: A major classification of area rug types that are usually more colorful and with bolder designs that a classic Persian or Oriental rug. The opposite of a traditional rug. Synonymous with “modern.”
Field: The middle part of an area rug that is often surrounded by a border.
Flat Weave: A method of hand-weaving in which no knots are used. The weft strands are simply passed through the warp strands.
Ground: Another term for the background color of a rug.
Hand: A general term that can be used to describe certain subjective, tactile qualities of a rug including its softness, stiffness, roughness, scratchiness, etc.
Handmade: Any area rug that is made by hand, including those most often called heirloom or luxury quality. Rugs that are hand-knotted, hand-tufted, hand-hooked or hand-loomed are all handmade.
Hand Hooked: A way of making area rugs in which craftspeople insert yarn into a backing with a handheld single-needle tufting tool called a "gun." The rug's pattern is stenciled on backing material and, after the tufting is complete, a backing is attached to protect and anchor the stitches.
Hand-Tufted: A rug that has a cut pile surface or may combine cut and loop techniques. This type of rug can also be described as "full cut."
Hand Knotted: A rug made by craftspeople who knot pile yarns around the warp fibers that run the length of the rug. Generally, the more knots per square inch, the more valuable the rug.
Heatset: A technique in which twisted yarns are treated with heat to retain their shape and appearance permanently.
Knot Count (Knots per Inch): The measured number of knots in a square inch of a rug. A 65-line rug would have 65 knots per foot of width, 65 knots per foot of length, and 29 knots per square inch.
Machine Made: An area rug that is constructed on a machine, now usually controlled by a computer to create a very exacting design.
MachineTufting: A mass-production technology developed in the United States in which yarn is sewn in a manner similar to a sewing machine equipped with hundreds of needles.
Needlepoint: A method for making area rugs using the same technique as a needlepoint pillow.
Nylon: A durable synthetic fiber that also accepts dye well. Nylon yarns can be solution dyed, skein dyed and/or space dyed.
Pile: Cut or looped yarns that form the top surface of an area rug.
Point: One tuft of pile. The total points per inch or meter can be used as a measure of overall density quality.
Polyester: A synthetic fiber most often used in staple spun yarns.
Polypropylene/Olefin: A synthetic fiber used extensively in machine made rugs that resembles wool in feel and appearance. It performs best when heatset and used in a dense construction.
Tone-on-Tone: A rug in which two or more shades of the same hue are used for aesthetic effect. It can be achieved by using two different yarns of the same color.
Power Loomed: A term often interchanged with machine-made.
Tibetan Knot: A rug-weaving technique that originated in Tibet that produces a slightly ridged surface.
Traditional: A major classification of area rugs that refers to patterns originally developed in the Orient, ancient Persia or some of the classic European schools. Modern traditional designs are produced in colors that replicate antique rugs. The opposite of a contemporary rug.
Transitional: A broad classification of area rugs that falls between traditional and contemporary. It is frequently highly subjective to refer to an area rug as transitional. Many floral patterns are included in this category.
Warp: Vertical strands of fiber, which stretch from the top to the bottom of the rug. Knots are tied to the warp yarns to create face pile.
Weft: Horizontal strands of fiber that are woven through the warps. The weft anchors and secures the knots.
Wilton and Axminster: Two types of electronic looms used to weave area rugs in multi-colored patterns.
Wool: Considered by many to be the best fabric for use in area rugs, there are many grades available. Long staple wool from New Zealand is considered to be most desirable for rug manufacturing.
Worsted: An extra step in wool processing that combs out shorter fibers resulting in more durable and lustrous yarns.