RUGS 101

Click on the image below for a great video ( Courtesy of: Amara Rugs) on the making of hand knotted rugs.

Photo Courtesy of Amara Rugs

Hand Knotted:

Hand-knotting rugs is an intense labor of love whereby each tuft in a rug is created by literally tying a knot around a warp thread. This ancient and time-honored technique of weaving is extremely intricate, time-consuming, and demands ability that most weavers can only achieve after years of training. Larger rugs often employ as many as a dozen skilled artisans working on a single rug at the same time. This process may take as few as three months and as long as one year to yield a single rug. The finer the knot, that is to say the higher the knot count, the more intricate and valuable the rug can be. Hand Knotted rugs will remain as beautiful as the day they were purchased for twenty or more years even in high traffic areas when properly cared for. Online hand knotted collections:  Indo-Persian, Contemporary-Knotted, Kazak, Vintage and Antique, Bradford's one of a kindsTibetan


Above: Kashee's Manufacturing Facility in Pakistan

Hand Tufted:

Tufting a rug is a manner of rug construction whereby a pattern is sketched on canvas and tufts of thread are punched through a canvas cloth that is attached to a frame. The lack of knots, though, requires that an additional backing be applied to the canvas, the primary backing is latex over which a secondary backing of canvas is glued. The surface pile is then sheered to produce a flat surface. Due to their affordability, Rugs of this craft are the emerging trend in home furnishing design. The resulting tuft is in every regard the same as a traditional hand-knotted tuft in both composition and function, but involves a fraction of the time and expense. Tufted rugs have a life expectancy of about 10 years when used in high traffic areas. Online hand tufted collections:  Transitional/Contemporary, Traditional

Hand Hooked:

Hooked rugs are constructed in the same manner as tufted rugs with one distinct difference, the yarn is punched through a canvas creating a looped pile. The life expectancy is slightly shorter than tufted rugs because they tend to be less dense leaving the fibers more venerable to wear.  Online hand hooked collections:  Americana, Hand Hooked, Cotton Hooked

Hand Woven:

A simple but durable rug, flat-woven rugs and tapestries are among the most basic and beautiful of all hand-loomed floor coverings. A product of rustic settings with basic lines and colors, flat woven rugs have made their way from rural areas around the world into areas of high concentration and trade. The underlying art of flat-woven rugs is their ability to be reversed, and their suitability in nearly any setting, from the rustic to the cosmopolitan. Flat-woven rugs are built for the speed of life. Hand woven or flat woven rugs are known for their durability and have a life expectancy just slightly shorter than hand knotted rugs.  Online Hand Woven Collections:  Soumak, Dhurries- Flat WeaveKnot & Co.

How do I clean my handmade rugs? See our Blog Post:   "Oops, Spills Happen"

The natural characteristics of wool make it the most durable, resilient, anti static and flame retardant natural fiber known. To help prolong the life of your rug, vacuum it regularly to remove loose dirt and soil. Vacuuming an area rug with a good machine will go a long way towards prolonging the appearance and life of your carpet and is the primary defense against dry soils that can quickly build on area rugs.   We encourage a "less is more" philosophy on spot cleaning, starting with a dry towel to blot up spills, then using water on a clean towel to blot up surface spills.  If spots remain use a bit of white vinegar mixed with water, if the spills contained oils, a dab of clear dish soap on a clean towel is recommended.  For open backed rugs (knotted or woven) place a dry towel underneath the affected area to protect the floor underneath from moisture.  Once the spills have been lifted, apply fresh water to flush out any detergents followed by applying pressure to the front and back side with dry towels until the towels no longer soak in liquids, this may take several towels.  If the affected area is large and required the use of both detergents and water, lift the area of the rug off the floor and point a fan at the area to help the drying process. IF THE RUG HAS A BACKING (tufted or hooked) greater caution must be used when applying liquids, keep in mind that anything you put into the rug will likely soak through the surface and be difficult to remove once there. SISAL AND GRASS fibers will absorb liquids and should be cleaned with a dry solvent only.  Professional cleaning is also recommended every 2-5 years depending on wear, Bradford's offer both hand washing and machine washing services. Cleaning of BAMBOO OR VISCOSE fibers is best left to the professionals, after a spill, blot or scoop with a dry towel, do not rub !  


Wool fiber has characteristics that make it ideal for rug construction. Wool contains lanolin, making it inherently repellent of moisture and water. The natural properties of wool make it stain resistant and thereby easy to clean and maintain. Many types of wool are used in rug construction and the main difference between them is the strength of the fiber. Sheep that are raised at higher altitudes withstand severe weather conditions and therefore create a stronger, more durable wool. Himalayan wool for example is derived from sheep raised in the extreme conditions found in the Himalayan Mountains and produce fibers used in most Tibetan rugs. This wool is extremely dense, strong and soft. Ghazni Wool is used in the Afghanistan Pakistan region and creates a silk like softness characteristic of rugs produced in these regions. New Zealand wool may be the most widely used and considered by some to be the most effective for area rugs.


Cotton is a natural fiber of great durability and strength. Each fiber is made up of twenty to thirty layers of cellulose coiled in a neat series of natural springs. When the cotton boll, or seed case is opened the fibers dry into flat, twisted, ribbon like shapes and become kinked together and interlocked. This interlocked form is ideal for spinning into fine yarn.

Art Silk:

False silk is usually a polyester fiber such as viscose or rayon. Mercerized cotton is also used as a faux silk. Synthetic silk is often found incorporated in a wool rug given the overall appearance a silky shine without the expense and delicacy associated with silk.

Bamboo Silk:

Bamboo Silk has much of the same look and feel as silk, but is a more sustainable and lower cost alternative. Since creating a high quality Bamboo Silk for our products we are now using it quite extensively.  Bamboo Silk is itself a type of viscose or Art Silk,  normal “viscose” was always made from wood cellulose while bamboo silk is made from bamboo cellulose.  In both cases the base material is treated so that it becomes a paste which is then combined with other ingredients, and extruded and dried to produce the fiber.  Because of this, they are both considered to be “viscose,” and the proper name of Bamboo Silk is “Bamboo Viscose.”  This name indicates both how the fiber is made and from what material it is derived. However although both are called Viscose, because of the different base material from which they are made, the two have different performance characteristics, and bamboo’s are quite superior.  Regarding cleaning of our Bamboo Silk, it is best to use a professional.  However there are times when a quick response is needed.  Gently blot the soiled area, using a clean cloth or paper towel to absorb liquids from spills.  You should air dry and heat drying should be avoided.  Do not scrub!

Hand Spun Wool:

Hand spinning is a much more expensive and time consuming process than machine spinning, but it has two distinct advantages. Hand spinning breaks down fewer fibers of wool, so the end result is a stronger fiber and longer wearing wool. Hand spun wool has an irregular diameter, which gives the rug a more interesting texture.

 Vegetable Dye Wool: 

Also phrased as, natural or vegetal has been used by Rugmakers in the Middle East and Asia for thousands of years.  Colors produced in this time honored tradition are saturated without being edgy or harsh, are chamingly variegated especially when done in conjunction with hand spinning.  The effect of the irregularity of color is a rug that is vibrabnt, giving an impression of character. 


Madder - Root of Madder Plant - (ranges from reds to orange and purple)


Produced from the female shield louse (Blue /red tone) India Kermes. From an insect which breeds on the Kermes oak.


Indigo plant (Dyers Wood)


Can be achieved by using a very dark blue or by use of a bath of tannic acid, acorn cups, pomegranate skin, oak galls, and then adding to a bath of Iron Sulfate to make the color fast. This can produce a weakness in the black wool which in carpets 50 to 100 years old can be seen as worn black areas where the remaining pile is still OK.


Many sources including; Dyers weed; Saffron; wild chamomile; tanners sumac; buckthorn; pomegranate tree; Isperek (a flowering larkspur)


Obtained from walnuts and olive leaves? Or by blending blue and yellow agents.


Can be natural un-dyed wool or by dying with fresh or dried pods of the walnut, oak gulls or acorn cups.


This color is derived from the most expensive botanical flowers known as Saffron.



Why is my new rug shedding?

 It is characteristic of your wool rug to shed at first. Traffic causes loose wool fibers to gather on top of the rug. Frequent vacuuming helps minimize this, and as the loose fibers are removed, the rug will gradually stop shedding.

Do I need an underlay or rug pad?

 We strongly recommend a rug pad under all rugs to protect your rug from abrasion, impact created by furniture and traffic as well as cleaning. A quality pad can add years to the life of your rug while providing additional safety and acoustic benefits. If you have radiant heated floors, make sure you get the correct type of padding to allow for maximum heat flow.  Bradford’s sells several types of rug pad that can be ordered and shipped to your home by contacting our gallery in Portland, Maine. Or online at:




My area rug just arrived and it appears to be creased?

During storage and shipping many area rugs develop creases or the pile gets compressed, this usually disappears within two weeks more quickly when vacuumed frequently.


What size rug do I need ?

While size is very important to the function of area rugs, personal tastes and budget are equally important factors.   Think about a range of size options to fit your space to allow some flexibility, use an old bed sheet or painters tape to "map out" the area.  Above all, BUY WHAT YOU LOVE.  The link below offers some visual tools -



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