Rugs and Carpets for Your Home: An introduction to synthetic and natural fibre carpets and rugs

When shopping for soft floor coverings, it is handy to know a bit about rugs and carpets: the different types, how they are made and what materials are used to make them.

Rugs and carpets are fabrics used mainly as floor coverings: Rugs come in pieces and cover only part of the floor, whereas carpets are usually fitted; covering the entire floor, and are fixed down by nailing, tacking, or by adhesives.

Hand-woven and Machine-made Carpets and Rugs

Most commercial rugs and carpets nowadays are mass produced on machines, and are thus cheaper and affordable. Some rugs are hand-woven on looms and these tend to be expensive. like the beautiful rugs on Machine-made carpets and rugs have pile that is fixed on the backing and can be easily pulled out by tweezers. Handwoven rugs have pile that is knotted firmly, and pulling at it only makes it tighter. The pile of hand-woven rugs usually lies at an angle, according to the direction of the loom and weaver.

How Carpets and Rugs are Made

Apart from weaving, which is relatively expensive; carpets and rugs are machine produced by tufting, where needles insert pile through the primary backing, and a layer of synthetic latex is applied to the backing, to set the tufts in place. A secondary backing of jute, synthetic material, or just plastic foam, is then applied.

What are Carpets and Rugs Made From?

The synthetic yarns most commonly used in mass production are polyester, olefin, nylon and acrylic. Natural fibres include silk, wool, cotton, jute, sisal and coir. Synthetics are generally more resilient, need less maintenance, are moisture resistant and colour fast; however, the artificial look is very clearly distinguishable and not often desired.

Wool is still considered by most to be the best material, as it produces rugs that are beautiful, soft, durable, and live long, while maintaining their original colour and texture. Natural fibres, as is the case with the famous Oriental Carpets, are perishable materials that will inevitably suffer some kind of deterioration over time, no matter how well maintained. Oriental rugs are the most expensive, because they are hand-woven, have unique designs and textures, and are made of the finest natural fibres. They are basically purely ornamental pieces, and are usually hung on walls, or laid on areas with low traffic.

General Classification of Carpets and Rugs According to Pile:

Level loop: have smooth, tight texture, with low pile, all cut at the same level.
Multi-level loop: have different height pile, giving a textured pattern.
Plush pile: have thick, short, loosely twisted pile, that is usually cut, and gives a lush and wavy appearance.
Saxony (Wilton): are very durable, do not show foot prints; they resemble plush pile except that each individual yarn stands straight, and is clearly distinguishable, whereas plush pile yarns tend to merge together.
Frieze pile: have cut pile that is rough and curled.
Cut & looped pile: have yarns that are of different heights, and combine cut and looped pile, to give a texture and pattern.

Whatever your taste in pile or colour; rugs and carpets give a warm and cosy finish to any room.


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