Have you ever wondered how to identify the difference between a handmade carpet and a machine made one?
A handmade (or handknotted) carpet is made with the use of a specially designed loom and knotted manually by hand. In contrast, those made by machine use something called a power loom which is automated and these days mostly controlled by a computer. This enables the carpets to be manufactured at a much quicker pace than one made by hand, which can take up to years to produce. The use of synthetic materials is also much more common in machine made carpets, whereas wool is the most prevalent material in handmade carpets.
Below are some basic features you should look for when trying to distinguish a genuine handmade carpet from one made by machine.
1. Fringes - On a handmade or handknotted carpet, the fringes are an extension of the carpet’s foundation (warp) and would not be sewn or affixed onto the carpet afterwards – as is common in machine made carpets.
2. Selvedge - This is the outer, long side of the carpet. It is formed by turning the outer edges of the weft threads, which are then wrapped and held together. The selvedge can often be used to identify the origin of a carpet, since different weaving regions have various styles and ways of finishing the edges. On a machine made carpet the selvedge is usually very fine and precise in the finish. In a handmade carpet the edges are stitched by hand, thereby often making the carpet’s edges somewhat uneven and not completely straight.
3. Pattern and Design – The pattern on a machine made carpet is generally very precise and the design is normally mirrored from one side to the other. There are rarely any inconsistencies found in the machine made carpet’s design, which are commonplace in those made by hand. Often the weaver or person knotting the carpet doesn’t even use a design, but rather improvises and goes by memory – the result is a charming asymmetry.
4. Backside - One of the most tell-tale ways to see the difference between a machine and handmade carpet is by examining the backside of the carpet. The knots and weaves on the backside of a machine made carpet are nearly always perfect and uniform - sometimes you may see very distinctive white lines (which is the warp thread). In the majority of handmade carpets the knots on the backside are not perfectly alined, moreover, when you calculate the knot density you will notice that it is not consistent throughout the carpet.
5. Size and Shape – The shape of machine made carpets is typically precise and exact, whereas in handmade carpets there can be some slight variation and this is due to the fact that everything is done by hand.
At the end of the day there are alot of fakes out there and even for the trained eye it can be hard to tell them apart. If in doubt or when you decide to buy a carpet, always consult a reputable carpet shop or dealer.
Picture 1. Handmade carpets and machine-knotted rugs
Picture 2. Drawing a pattern to a carpet is extensive and demanding work.