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A Brief Guide to Rug Materials

At Bazaar Velvet we like to combine the best aspects of both traditional and contemporary rugs. We feel that modern technology is great- it helps us to design our stunning luxury rugs, but when constructing the rugs themselves, you can't beat the traditional method of hand knotting. For centuries master weavers have been weaving some of the most beautiful rugs that the world has ever seen, and doing so by hand, from natural materials such as wool. Every rug was created individually, and was therefore a unique one-off piece. Today, many businesses are forgetting the value the  craftsmanship involved in creating a handmade rug, placing cost over quality. Most high-street rugs are made by machine in batches each one identical to the last. These rugs will almost always be made of cheap synthetic materials, many of which compromise quality. Here we have compared and summerised a few different types of rug materials.. Hopefully this explains why we prefer to keep to wool in our luxury contemporary rugs.

Click here for our full comprehensive guide to rug materials and constructions 

spinning wool for handmade rug

Copyright – U. Roberto Romano, image courtesy of GoodWeave USA

Wool Rugs

When we think of wool we tend to picture sheered sheep fleeces, but wool can in fact come from a variety of different animals. Cashmere, for example, is harvested from goats in India, and alpaca wool, comes from the extracted hair of camels in Turkey. Wool is the most traditional material used for building rugs, with wool rugs being found in many different ancient cultures all over the world. This material has many benefits including being naturally flame resilient, insulating, comfortable and robust underfoot.

Bikaner and Himalayan wools are generally considered the highest quality options for contemporary rugs as they are naturally greasy, making them good at resisting stains and soft to the touch. The amount of grease, or lanolin, in a type of wool usually depends on the environment of the sheep. This is because the natural grease in the wool keeps the sheep warm in cool temperatures. Therefore, wool from sheep in warmer climates, for example New Zealand, tends to be dryer than Himalayan Wool of example, where the sheep live at high altitudes in the Atlas mountains. The problem with dry wools is that they soak up stains far more, making them more difficult to clean.

However, any wool rug is a good investment as it is much less prone to wear than most other rug materials. This is because it has a high tensile strength and spring. A wool rug will generally cost a little more than one made from an artificial material, but is still very cost effective. Wool rugs are commonly found in the middle and higher end of the market and are often found in designs that also feature a silk highlight. A good wool rug that is cared for well can last for tens, if not hundreds of years.

Polyester Rugs

Polyester is a strong, slinky and durable material that is able to resist creasing, as well as all sorts of spillages. The synthetic fiber of polyester provides a soft surface area and is very smooth too the touch. It has an almost slippery feel which in some peoples opinion, is quite unpleasant and feels very artificial. Polyester rugs are also very susceptible to wear and tear.  There pile is very prone to crushing so a polyester rug is likely to look tired and worn after a short period of time, especially if placed in a high traffic area.

Polyester is one of the cheapest rug materials available and is commonly found in the poor quality machine made rugs stocked by bargain home-wear stores. A polyester rug can provide a quick fix rug solution but is certainly not a piece for the long term.

Viscose and Rayon Rugs

Rayon (or viscose) is a manufactured material that gives a similar appearance to silk. As the material is easy to dye, rayon rugs often come in an array of vibrant colours. This ‘artificial silk’ is reasonably strong and soft and is much cheaper than natural materials including real silk or even sometimes a high quality wool. However, with this material, a spillage can spell the end of your rug as stains are extremely difficult to remove. Any liquid will leave watermarks and it is not recommended you attempt to clean your rug at home. Any spillages or generally grubbiness should be treated by a professional.

Viscose is also not the most robust of materials as it is prone to crushing, so over time there will be visible wear in the areas that are most walked on. However, some manufactures have got around this problem by either blending the material with wool, of just using viscose for small sections of the design. The wool fibers support the viscose making the overall rug less delicate. Many consumers like the appearance of viscose in a rug as it can lift a design and create a more interesting, more luxurious texture without the price tag of real silk. 


Silk Rugs

Silk is a traditional rug making material that has been used for hundreds of years, and it goes without saying, a silk rug is the ultimate luxury. This fiber is one of the finest known to man and has many attractive features. It is irresistible soft to the touch and has stunning reflective quality, giving any design a beautiful sheen. Another selling point is its interesting thermal properties, keeping a floor warm in cool temperatures, and cool in warm temperatures.

This material is derived from the cocoon of a silk worm or moth caterpillar. It is therefore a natural protein fibre. Although it is a relatively delicate material compared to wool for example, it is much easier to clean than an artificial product and far superior to artificial silk such as viscose or bamboo silk. However, if washed, it must be dried in the correct conditions or this can produce watermarks. Genuine Imperial Chinese Silk is one of the finest and most expensive rug materials, but can produce exquisite results and a product that can be used and enjoyed for many years.

To find out more about rug materials and constructions read our Definative Guide to rug quality

If you have any questions about the handmade rugs we offer at Bazaar Velvet, please don't hesitate to contact us


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Further Reading:

wool spinning handmade rug

Copyright – U. Roberto Romano, image courtesy of GoodWeave USA

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