What is the difference between Hand Tufted and Hand Knotted Rugs?

When youʼre looking for a new contemporary rug for your home, you may notice a number of different production techniques. Two of the most common terms youʼll come across when searching for rugs to buy are ‘hand-knotted rugsʼ and ‘hand-tufted rugsʼ. They may initially seem to be similar, but in fact there are a number of differences – so letʼs take a look at the differences between hand-knotted rugs and hand-tufted rugs.

What is Hand-Tufting?

These days hand-tufted rugs are more commonly seen on an everyday basis. Hand tufting is a newer technique, that has been developed to combine the ancient craft of weaving with modern day technology. The way hand-tufting works is that the weaver starts with a sheet of canvas or similar material and pulls wool strands through this using a tufting gun or tool.

This canvas backing has the design of the rug drawn up on its back and as the weavers weave the rug they fill in the design with yarn working from the back. The yarn strands are brought in and out of the canvas base so the rug pile is built up over time. The hand-tufted quality offers unlimited possibilities and is ideal for projects where precision, scale and time are of the essence.

Hand Tufting - Sonya Winner Studio
The process behind our Hand-Tufted Rugs

What is Hand-Knotting?

A Hand-knotted rug, also referred to as Oriental rug. It is a rug that is made entirely by hand on a vertical loom. Knotting is a highly specialised 2,000 year old craft  of weaving requiring remarkable precision, patience and craftsmanship.

The method itself requires the weaver to insert knots into the rug and tie each knot tightly by hand around the warp and weft of the rug. These rugs are composed of many thousands of individual knots.

Weaving a hand-knotted rug requires a great deal of skill and often a lot of time to produce. The quality and cost of a hand-knotted rug is determined by the number of knots per square inch.

Hand Knotted Rugs - Sonya Winner Studio
The process behind our Hand-Knotted Rugs

Differences Between Hand knotted and Hand Tufted Rugs.

Hand-tufted rugs require less time to be woven than the hand-knotted alternative, so cost less to produce. However, that doesn’t mean that hand-tufted rugs are low quality; far from it, these are still rugs created by hand with much care and attention – and are chosen for palaces and upmarket interiors worldwide.In contract machine made rugs dont have the hand made craft invoolved in weaving which does not give make them special – its rather like comparing a mug made in a factory and sold at Ikea to a mug handmade by a potter!

Hand-tufted rugs are durable and wear well if looked after well – they are most suited to domestic environments. They may not last forever, which can be a good thing if you like to change your interiors every 7- 10 years.

Hand-knotted rugs are considered to be Heirloom Quality. Because of their careful and hardwearing rug construction they can last a lifetime. However, a Hand Knotted rug is more costly than a hand-tufted rug – the cost depends on the number of knots used. Hand knotted rugs are great for commercial situations where there is higher footfall as they are more robust than a hand tufted rugs.

Tufted rugs are fantastic if you are on a budget and unable to invest in a hand knotted rug, or if you want to buy multiple rugs to keep up with trends or enjoy changing around your decor.

The cost of a knotted rug isnʼt the only deciding factor for the value. There are a wide range of hand knotted rugs- the higher the knot count the better the quality. Knot counts can be as low as 40 knots and as high as 200 knots (which is a tapestry liek quality). The higher the knot count the longer t takes to make the rug and the more costly it is to weave it.

Tufted rugs also come in a varitey of different qualities. At Sonya Winner Rug Studio our rugs are made from a superior quality New Zealand wool tufted rug with long wool fibres. Other rug sellers may use Nepalese or Tibetan wool in their rugs which is a less expensive alternative but does not give the Vibrant colours we are able to achieve using New Zealand wool and the Swizz Azo free dyes we specify. Natural dyes can not achieve these colours and will fade even if used on New Zealand wool.

Hand Tufted Rainbow Runner (Left) and Hand Knotted Rainbow Runner (Right)

Aesthetic Differences

So how can you tell the difference visually between a Hand-Knotted and Hand-Tufted rug? There are a few key things you will notice.

The most obvious would have to be the back of the rug. A hand-tufted rug will have a canvas backing glued to the back of the rug. Whilst the back of hand knotted rugs will be a translation of the front side of the rug in tapestry style stitches. You can see each individual knot on hand knotted rugs on the reverse side and be able to count the knots per square inch.

Hand Tufted or Hand Knotted Rugs - Sonya Winner Studio
Back of Hand Knotted Rug (Left) and Back of Hand Tufted Rug (Right)

The second thing to notice is the rug thickness. Tufted rugs are typically thicker and knotted rugs normally have a flatter pile. If a low pile height of the rug is important to you – for example if the rug is in a hallway and a door will have to open on top of it – be sure to measure the clearance in order to help you decide what type of rug will work best! A knotted runner can be made at a minimum of 4mm high whilst a tufted rug due to the layer of glue and canvas will not be made less than 10mm high.

Hand Tufted rugs or hand knotted rugs - Sonya Winner Studio
Pile Height Differences of Hand Knotted rugs (top) and Hand Tufted rugs (bottom)

In todayʼs world, people are buying rugs for design, not necessarily of the number of knots in them. Many high quality art rugs are tufted. Nowadays the value of a rug is within the design and aesthetics, just as much as in quality.

Which rug is right for me?

Whether you choose a hand-tufted or hand-knotted rug is a matter of personal taste when it is to be used in a domestic environment. There are differences which should help determine which type is more suitable for you. Price wise, handtufted is often more affordable. We recommend weighing up what is important to you about buying a contemporary rug. The design, thickness, production time, cost or durability. All of our designs are hand-tufted as standard, as we found that our clients often preferred this production method. However all of our designs can also be hand- knotted which is the perfect choice for some of our clients who want a thinner rug, or a rug for a higher footfall location or a rug to keep the rug in their family for generations!