What is a tufted or hooked rug?Crate and Barrel describes their area rugs as "Artisan Made Wool Rugs," similar to terms used by other catalogue and box store retailers. "Persian Style," "Handcrafted," even "Handwoven," and other such labels are commonly used to refer to the inexpensive "tufted" or "hooked" rugs that are so commonplace now because of their low cost.
A tufted -- or hooked -- rug is made by pushing yarn through a mesh fabric, after which glue is applied to the back to hold the yarns in place. Then, a fabric backing is glued over that to cover the whole thing. After a fairly short time, these glues often break down, causing a tufted or hooked rug to delaminate. Another unfortunate quality of these rugs is that they exude a noticeable smell because of the off-gassing of the synthetic glues uses to manufacture them.
This process is fast and non-labor-intensive; hence, the cost of these mass market rugs is lower than the time-honored, long-lasting and valuable rugs that are made on a loom.
There are also many kilims and "dhurries" being shown in stores and catalogues (see diagram of the kilim weave below). These tend to be inexpensive because they're quick to make. While they can be attractive, their life expectancy on the floor can be short because they are a simple flat weave that is basically one thin layer of wool (The soumaks are much sturdier and thicker, being a warp-wrapping process that results in a dense and durable rug).
In contrast, the process for weaving a hand-knotted rug, which will hold up for generations, is a very labor-intensive process. Hand-knotted rugs are made entirely of natural fibers -- usually wool on a cotton warp (sometimes silk is used for the pile, or knotted part of the rug). These fibers are completely natural and nontoxic. The sturdy construction and small variations typical of handmade art gives a good handwoven rug much character and "lovability," as compared with the cookie-cutter tufted area rugs that are so common in the marketplace today.
Continue to the next section: Rug Care