Rugs - Machine Versus Handmade

To the untrained eye it may be tough to tell handmade and machine-made rugs apart, especially through pictures alone, as the differences are in the detail. Why are handmade rugs much more expensive and so highly sought after?


Here is a list of the top 10 key differences between a genuine handmade rug and a machine-made version:


 1) Production looms

Machine-made rugs are produced using large, heavy duty power looms that are electrically powered and automated. Handmade rugs, however, are crafted using specially designed looms. The size of the loom will determine the size of the rug. The knots are inserted into the base and then tied by hand, from bottom to top, to form the rug pile.


Specially designed loom for hand making rugs

Handmade rugs are produced on specially designed looms

 2) Production time

Machine-made rugs are generally mass produced and take a couple of hours to complete from start to finish. Hand-made rugs, in contrast, are very manually produced and it is a lengthy process taking anywhere from a month to 18 months depending on the size and style of the rug.

 3) Skill levels

Machine-made rugs are made in factories with little to no need for human input. Hand-made rugs, on the other hand, are made by artisans who have more often than not dedicated their entire lives to their craft. Passed down from one generation to the next, handmade rugs are crafted using ancient weaving and knotting techniques and take a high level of skill and finesse to complete.

Berber women hand making a rug on a specially designed loom

Handmade rugs are crafted using age old weaving techniques that have been passed through the generations

 4) Materials used

Handmade rugs are made using wool and other natural materials such as cotton and jute and are naturally dyed. Machine-made rugs will often use wool too but you are also much more likely to find synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon and polypropylene. An age-old test to determine that a handmade rug is genuine is to apply a lighter directly to the material as a naturally made rug will smoulder the fire where as a synthetically made rug will catch alight.

 5) Size and Shape

A handmade rug will display slightly variations and imprecisions as the edges are hand overcast. Machine made rugs, however, will be perfectly straight and many versions of the same design will be made with the exact same dimensions.

 6) Designs and Colours

In the same way, handmade rugs will often display variations in colour as even the dyeing process is entirely manual. While you are likely to see some similar version of the same design each piece will be completely unique with the footprint of the person who made it. Machine-made rugs, however, are mass produced and automated using the same settings to look identical.

Berber women using a selection of natural dyes to colour the rug

In the production of handmade rugs natural dyes derived from boiled vegetables, plant roots and insects are used to colour the wool

 7) Fringes

In the handmade version the fringes are a natural extension of the carpet foundations. The fringes in the machine-made counterpart will be sewn on after the fact.

 8) Knotting

Handmade rugs will not display an even distribution and density of knots as every knot is manually tied by hand (generally a higher knot count indicates a higher quality rug). Machine-made rugs, however, will display a perfectly even and uniform arrangement of knots.

 9) Durability

The natural fibers of a hand-made rug are very durable and will last a lifetime with the right preventative care. Machine-made rugs will generally last between 10 and 20 years.

 10) Price

Machine-made rugs are significantly cheaper as a result of the quicker production methods and cheaper materials used.  


If you are looking for an area rug but are on a limited budget then a machine-made rug may well be the best option for you. It may also be the preferred alternative for using in areas that are subject to a lot of wear such as the kitchen or outdoor patio. If your budget stretches a little further and you would like a statement piece for your home, however, then the handmade rug will no doubt be the better choice. The level of precision and care that has gone into every detail of the rug by a highly skilled artisan makes each piece truly unique and with a story than no machine can match.


Visit our range of handmade rugs here

Authentic Beni Ourain Moroccan Rug by Harfi

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