A Fascinating Look Into How Hand-Knotted Rugs Are Made
Hand-knotted rugs are undeniably gorgeous. But the process behind them might be even more beautiful. The finished product is only one part of the story.
We’ll take you on a deep dive into how these rugs are made and what each step entails. This way, you’ll be able to see the true value of a hand-knotted rug—from the community to the quality of the materials and the effort involved.
Keep reading to learn why hand-knotted rugs are so highly regarded in the art world.
A Community Tradition
The history of hand-knotted rugs is deep and complex, especially when it comes to traditional Moroccan rugs. You might think each rug is made by one skilled artisan, but it is often a team effort.
The rug-making process carries traditions of community gathering, working together, and carrying art across generations. Many of the patterns you might see in a hand-knotted rug today are repetitions of the same patterns from an older era.
Signs of a Hand-Knotted Rug
There are some clear differences between a hand-knotted rug and a rug you might find at your local superstore. You’ll be able to tell by the pattern, density, and quality of the handiwork. There are some things a machine simply cannot beat.
The knot count of a hand-knotted rug is often higher than that of a manufactured rug. The materials, including the dye, will be specific to the region the rug was made in—even down to the animal the wool came from. And the design of the rug will draw from that region’s culture.
And for a quick way to tell the difference between a hand-knotted rug and one that was likely made partially by machine, look at the underside of the rug. A hand-knotted rug will look almost the same on both sides, with no backing.
Preparing the Materials
The first step to rug-making is getting the materials. But what this actually means can vary depending on the artisans involved.
They might search for the right source of high-quality spun wool. Or they might obtain raw wool and go through the process of carding and spinning it themselves. Carding is a process of cleaning and arranging the wool fibers, and spinning turns the wool fibers into yarn.
Either way, the wool will be from the sheep of Morocco’s mountains. We take pride in sourcing our wool from live sheep (which is not always the case for other rug sellers) in the area.
Getting the Colors Right
Depending on the tradition the rug-makers are following, they might dye the wool directly after spinning it in order to form different colors of yarn, or they might dye the rug after weaving it.
Either way, the dye itself will likely be a natural dye. This ensures the quality of the end product. It also gives the rug the typical, beautiful look of a traditional hand-knotted rug.
The Design Behind Hand-Knotted Rugs
In Moroccan rugs, the rug pattern will tell you about where it came from. For example, Beni Ourain rugs are known for their striking diamonds and other geometric patterns.
The pattern might also tell you something about the people who created it. Some artisans will use themes from their lives in their work. They might use certain shapes to signify elements of nature or protection against evil.
These designs are also often some of the most impressive parts of hand-knotted rugs. Though each artisan is just working on one knot at a time, they have to keep the big picture in mind at all times. This is what creates the stunning end design.
Because these rug-makers are not relying on machinery to do this for them, there will be irregularities and imperfections in the finished pattern. This is a marker of the beauty of the craft.
Putting It All Together
Here’s where the magic happens.
Hand-knotting is a large-scale, labor-intensive process. The artisans use a large loom strung with a basic layer of yarn. Then they create knots one by one on each of the yarn threads, making their way up the loom.
Multiple people can work on the same loom at once, and this process is done one line at a time. For a rug with a high knot count, you can imagine the gradual nature of this type of work. But for many rug-makers, this is a skill passed down from members of their own family, so they have been practicing for a long time.
Shearing and Finishing
After the rug is woven together, rug-makers will perfect the 3-dimensional aspect of the piece by trimming and shearing the top. This way, they can control how the light will hit the surface.
You might think this just means the artisans will make sure the top of the rug is completely even, but this is not always the case. Many artisans, especially those with more experience, will carve out strategic spots of the rug to showcase the design.
The finishing process also involves securing the edges of the rug.
Washing and Drying
The final step is to wash and dry the rug. This revives the wool, making the rugs fluffy and clean. As you might imagine, this can take quite a while due to the sheer size and density of each rug.
The pieces will often need to be dried outside in the sun, so the weather is a big factor in how long this part takes.
See For Yourself!
If all this knowledge about the craftsmanship behind hand-knotted rugs has made you curious to see what the finished product looks like, just take a look through our incredible selection. We carefully curate our collection of rugs to offer you only the best. And if you choose one (or more!) you like, you’ll even get to see one of these works of art up close. We’ve described the story behind them, but actually seeing these rugs in person is an experience you’ll have to try for yourself.