What’s New With Rugs?

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Two hot items at retail these days are Tibetan and hand-loomed rugs from India. Rugs woven with a Tibetan knot have been very popular for over 20 years, but the hand-loomed rugs from India are new to the market.

Tibetan Rugs

Mostly, these rugs are woven in Nepal by Tibetan refugees and are referred to as “Tibetan” due to the unique knotting method used. Thirty-plus years ago, Tibetan rugs used traditional Tibetan motifs, such as dragons, and the main colors were bright, such as red and green. Today, these rugs come in a variety of contemporary designs and colors and can be expensive. Some rugs have small to large areas of the pile that are silk, rayon-viscous with wool as the main fiber (Image 1).

The distinctive knotting technique used has a rod placed in front of the warp and a continuous yarn is looped around two warps and then once around the rod. When a row is completed, the rod is removed and the loops are cut to form the pile. (Image 2 and 3)

So what’s new in Tibetan weaving? A few years ago, a new technique was developed for the Tibetan weave that cut time and cost. The method does not tie the knots as noted above, but just loops through the foundation. The warps, when exposed by removing the pile, appear to “float” or are “un-crossed” (Image 4). The traditional foundation is woven over and under (Image 5). 

The new method looks neater and finer on the back, but short of removing the face pile, it is not possible to know you are cleaning a rug with this new technique. This new product will not endure like the traditional weaving and will be difficult, if not impossible, to repair.

Although weaving labor has decreased by 20%, the retail price has remained the same. This is unfortunate for the consumer who is getting an inferior, but expensive, product.

Indo Hand-Loomed Rugs

The new style that is coming in for cleaning today is hand-loomed rugs from India. Pottery Barn and others are selling them. From a distance, it appears they are hand-knotted (Image 6), but on closer inspection it is clear some other method is being used. 

Grin the pile and you can see the weaving technique (Image 7) and pull the rug side-to-side looking at the back (Image 8). The foundation is not the same as a hand-knotted rug.

These rugs are woven on a loom that seems like a primitive Wilton loom (Image 9). It uses a rod like a Wire Wilton loom to give pile height and create cut or loop pile. A blade at the end of the wire cuts the pile as it is removed. A wire without the blade would result in a looped pile rug.

In terms of cleaning concerns, dyes are pH sensitive (cleaning or spotting products can cause color change) and the rug doesn’t have good dimensional stability.  When it gets wet, it’s even more susceptible to being stretched during handling or possibly splitting. Some fringes are glued on so look for this during the pre-cleaning inspection. Rolling a desk chair across it will cause the “rows” to separate. This rug must be carefully groomed, as the tufts will pull out pretty easily.

The dyes used on Tibetan rugs are also pH sensitive and the cheaper construction makes cut downs (reducing in size) and re-weaves more difficult. 

Look for these new rugs and have a conversation about them with your customers. A little story about their rug goes a long way in building a relationship.

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