How do you tell the difference between machine-made rug and a hand-woven rug? I think that's a big question that everybody seems to ask, and they’re not really sure about what's right and which one is which. I have to say I made that my first mistake as well. The first rug I ever bought, I thought I bought a handmade rug - I ended up buying a Karastan rug and later found out that it was a machine-made rug. It is very confusing in today's world, the way we can make so many different things look like something else. They're doing quite an amazing job with machine-made rugs today, and it really is difficult sometimes to tell the difference unless you know some basic things about it.
Another question I always say is, "Is a handmade rug better than a machine-made rug?" Not in all cases. I think a lot of people believe that always, a handmade rug is better than a machine-made rug. It really has more to do with the quality of the wool they're using, how tightly they're weaving and how they're spinning it, and how it's going to perform, because a low-grade wool is not going to perform. It's going to shed, it's going to break down. Whereas a good quality wool, machine-made, could last a lifetime, whereas a poor quality, hand-made, could last maybe four or five years.
Everything has a difference to it, and there are some slight subtle differences between the machine-made and handmade, when you really look hard enough, that you'll pick up. One is the fringe. Usually on a hand-knotted rug, the fringe is actually the warps upon which they weave. But not every handmade rug has the fringe on it. It's sometimes turned under or sewn to the back, so you can't always judge by that. But I would say 90% of the time you can usually just look at the fringe of the rug and tell a lot.
I always say, look at the back of the rug. I think the back is the real telling part of what I'm talking about far as what’s the difference between machine-made and handmade. The difference is that when you use warps, they are the fringes of the rugs, and then what holds the rug together sideways is what we call wefts. So when you look at the back of a hand-knotted rug, you will see the lines going east to west, are what we call the wefts, which is a little play on words there, and basically you can tell from that angle that that's probably a handmade rug, and the fringes are extruding out the ends.
On machine-made rugs, a lot of times the fringe is actually sewn on. It's not actually part of the foundation upon which they're weaving. The rug is usually woven upon the wefts and held together by the warps. So when you see the lines, it's 90 degrees the other way when you see a machine-made woven compared to a handmade. There are cases where that is not always true, but for the Masses, that's usually very true and you can find the differences.
These two rugs will show you the difference between machine-made and handmade and it's pretty obvious when you look at the back of the rug. Here on this handmade rug, you're going to see that the fringe is actually extruded through the back. Here on the machine-made rug, you see that it's sewn on, and you can actually see it's flipped around the edge there in order to it put the fringe on it.
Again, it's not true in every case, but in most cases the machine fringes are usually added on. Also, when you look at the back of the rug, that thing I talked about going east to west are the wefts, these white lines that are running through the rug sideways. Here's the fringe coming through the rug. Here's what's holding it together sideways. That's a good determination in the irregularity of those wefts, because those knots are beaten down by hand, so they vary on tightness as far as how often, how hard they hit it, and the time of day and how long they've been weaving, depends on the spaces. You'll see little irregularities on several rugs just because of its handmade, and you see those lines appearing at different angles. The dark spots in here, the gray, is actually the pile. The little white things going across here are actually those weft fibers.
Here's a Karastan rug. Again, you can see the fringe on it, but you can kind of see, here's the wool. It's being woven on the weft, going across, and what's holding it together are these warp lines, which are basically what holds the rug together on that machine-made. So those are two big distinctions. Just from looking at the back and the fringe of a rug, you can tell what it is by that a lot of times.