The Difference Between Hand-Knotted and Hand-Tufted Rugs

Through the ages, the hand-knotted rug ruled over the households of Central Asia, circulating in a time of great trade from the steppes down to the Persian Empire, Africa, and India.

The weaving method was so effective, and its result so enduring, that it never fell into obsolescence. Artisanal guilds grew around its purpose, and family members inherited it from generation to generation, enraptured by its textural intricacies.

It is an artistic behemoth spanning multiple cultures and geographies.

As an established company in the rug market, we have often told our target audience to opt for hand-knotted rugs over the modern variant of hand-tufted rugs.

Why do we have this opinion?

Here are 4 quick answers, which we will elaborate on later in this post:

  • Individuality: Hand-knotted rugs are creations of artisanal talent and graft applied over periods of 6 months and more. Not manufactured with mechanical devices, they avoid the trappings of factory line products and have an individualistic style. On the other hand, hand-tufted rugs are mass produced and will look “common,” like other rugs in the market.
  • Longevity: Their method of creation involves artisans knotting threads over the warp of the rug’s foundations. These knots can number in the thousands, with some of the bigger rugs even having a million knots of beautifully intricate designs. This ensures that the rug resists unravelling. Hand-tufted rugs are made of loosely punched threads glued to the backing, which lose integrity faster.
  • Washability: Hand-knotted rugs can withstand the process of washing and drying far more, on account of the sturdier latticework of their wefts and warps, strengthened by the knots. The hand-tufted method does not ensure easily washable rugs as its threads are not knotted and only glued together from the back.
  • Intrinsic Value: Hand-knotted rugs are found in palaces, chalets, museums, and other places of heritage, all over the world. The longevity of these antique rugs ensured their value for generations in royal and mercantile families of old, and, like them, your own hand-knotted rug can become a collector’s item in the time to come. Hand-tufted rugs do not last more than 5 years and soon become landfill, polluting the biosphere with their latex backing, dyes, and microplastics.

While hand-tufted rugs are commonly found in shops, malls, and in eCommerce stores, the cost and rarity of hand-knotted rugs can be prohibitive, keeping people largely unaware of their characteristics. Here are some common questions people ask about them.

Why are Hand-Knotted Rugs Expensive?

  • Labor Intensive: These rugs require skilled workers who are often third or fourth generation weavers in their families and guilds. A hand-knotted rug passes through at least 35-40 skilled hands before it finally is available for purchase by our customers.
  • Intricacy: A single rug can have knots ranging from between a few 1,00,000 to more than a 10,00,000 in some cases, entailing the effort that goes into it. Intricate designs with exceptional level of detailing can only be made by the process of hand knotting
  • Materiality: Throughout history, hand-knotted rugs were made with a broad variety of materials like wool, silk, cotton, and jute, and that has remained the same into the current era. At Cocoon, we use only the finest, natural materials. These include premium quality wool and pure silk, raising their value to the luxury pricing range.

Why do People Confuse Hand-Knotted Rugs with Hand-Tufted Rugs?

  • Marketing: Often, sellers categorize hand-tufted rugs as “handmade rugs,” but that is a partial misnomer customers fall prey to—it is marketing puffery to effectuate sales, with the truth being far from the case. Hand-tufted rugs are only partially handmade. These rugs are made through a mechanical gun which shoots out threads through the foundational substrate of the rug that is stretched over the loom.
  • Ubiquity: Hand-tufted rugs pervade the market to the point of oversaturation and have an excess of mindshare in the target audience. The method of “hand-tufting” grew in the past several decades, and a significant subset of distributors prefer to sell hand-tufted rugs to the target audiences in cities and towns. This led many people to normalize them over other types of rugs.

How Can You Differ Between the Two Rugs?

  • Fringe: In a hand-knotted rug, the fringe is the collection of extreme ends of the warp threads on the rug’s foundation. Unravelling the fringe can damage the whole rug, given that the warp threads act as a “skeleton” for the whole rug. In a hand-tufted rug, the fringe is a skeuomorph i.e. ornamental and not necessary to the stability of the rug.
  • Backing: Hand-knotted rugs are masterpieces of thorough craftsmanship. If you flip a hand-knotted rug over, you will find a mirror of the design on the backside. The backing of a hand-tufted rug, on the other hand, is usually blank, made of fabric (like canvas) or latex, which is glued onto the rug’s substrate.
  • Pile: The pile, or the top layer of the rug, is denser, softer, uneven, and more knotted on a hand-knotted rug. Each knot is tied over 2 warps, and number in the thousands, with some rugs having 100+ Knots Per Square Inch (KPSI). The pile on a hand-tufted knot is more even and thinner, having been made by a mechanical device.

Which Type of Rug Should We Choose for our Home?

The ultimate choice comes down to budget, material, size, and use.

For buyers interested in rugs that are placed in areas of large footfall, cheaper rugs are a sensible option. Of budgets between ₹5,000 to ₹50,000, nonwovens, handwovens and hand-tufted rugs are viable. Come the 21st Century, cheaper and accelerated methods of manufacturing proliferated, setting off a boom in fast designs, much like the fast fashion apparel of today. These are easy to find for a customer, but do not have the longevity of hand-knotted rugs. They are also environmentally dangerous on account of generating more waste in landfills.

For buyers interested in their house interiors exuding a luxurious tone, hand-knotted rugs, which range from ₹1,00,000 to ₹3,50,000, are a courageous investment. Due to their largely organic creation process, they are sustainable for the environment, and, like the hand-knotted Pazyryk carpet woven in the 5th century BCE, these rugs can endure the test of time. If buyers are still sitting on the fence as to their purchase, the washability of these rugs will surely bring them over.

Cocoon Rugs ALWAYS recommends hand-knotted rugs! They are one of the most impressive art forms, heightening the aesthetics of any space. Turn your home into a cultural leviathan with these masterpieces!