The Beauty and Style of Flat-Woven Rugs

Use flat woven rugs in a variety of ways.

Flat-woven rugs are popular, durable, affordable, and colorful … and a must-have for many rug collectors. While they seem to belong to another era, flat-woven rugs are in fact undergoing a revival. Young, upwardly mobile couples to retirees have fallen for the soothing, natural environment these rugs offer.

Typically made from wool, cotton, or jute, flat-woven rugs don’t show traffic patterns like other rugs. They are so thin they work well in a hallway by the door. Since this ancient flooring technique has no pile, you can shuffle across flat-weaves for years with little wear. Furthermore, they are often reversible, so you get twice the life out of them. And they’re so affordable. You can get a 3×5-foot flat-woven rug for as low as $89 and a large 10×13 for around $2,000.

Many flat-weaves contain native patterns that can accentuate a Southwestern or mountain theme. You’ll likely find a variety of colors hand-woven into the rugs, ranging from orange and red to warm chocolate-brown and yellow. Hand-woven flat rugs are nothing if not warm.

Flat-weaves are ideal for a casual or rustic setting in a family room or office.  However, the emergence of contemporary and transitional patterns lends these rugs to work

Contemporary patterns in flat woven rugs have further increased their popularity.

well in any room and with any decor. They work marvelously in a dining room since they’ll last for years, even with the chairs constantly moving back and forth. You can also hang them on the wall, drape them over a chair or sofa, or wrap them around a pillow.

You can find flat-woven rugs in many sizes and styles. The most popular types are kilim, sumac, and dhurrie:

  • Kilim rugs have been made since at least 1000 BC. Long admired for their practical applications as much as for their beauty, kilim rugs are created by tightly interweaving strands of wool. The ends of the strands create fringe, which are knotted to prevent pulling. You’ll find kilims in plain, single-color patterns as well as brightly ornamental designs filled with symbols and ancient characters. The word kilim originated in Turkey, but the flat-weaving process is also practiced in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia, and China.
  • Sumac rugs were first made in the Turkish town of Shemakja. These flat-woven wool rugs tend toward geometric designs with tribal overtones. The woven embroidery appears on both sides, making these rugs reversible. Europeans have long valued Sumacs for their durability in high-traffic areas and for their designs that fit any kind of decor, from traditional to rustic to contemporary. Sumac rugs tend to be the heaviest of the flat-weaves, yet they remain reasonably priced.
  • Dhurrie rugs are usually made of versatile, durable cotton. They have been the rug of choice for many centuries in India. Because they are so thin and flexible, various sized dhurries are used for everything from coasters under vases to floor coverings popular in mediation rooms. Dhurries commonly have traditional touches of oriental and contemporary designs, making them ideal for a wide range of casual decors.

Many people consider the different types of these rugs incidental, preferring instead to focus on the patterns and colors. For collectors, however, dhurrie, sumac, and kilim rugs fill special places in the home and are considered sacrosanct.

All the flat-weaves are light; they fold easily for storage and travel. While we suggest professional cleaning, you can immerse these all-natural rugs in water if you wish to clean them yourself. Vacuuming and spot cleaning are usually all the rugs need to maintain their beauty and last a long time.

Short Rug Weaving Demonstration

Ever wonder how rug weavers create the intricate designs in hand-knotted rugs?  Our friend and supplier, Jaipur Rugs, has put together this short video that shows how their weavers use songs to convey the proper colors and design sequence to be used while hand knotting these beautiful masterpieces!

The Whats of Weave

Handmade Rugs 101 Series
The Whats of Weave  

Skilled weavers create handmade rugs, not machines. And, as we mentioned in earlier articles, it’s a complicated process. With this post, we wanted to give you a peek at the weavers’ loom lives and try to briefly explain the different ways a rug can be woven.  

But before we dive into the topic, there are a few bits of rug lingo you may need to know:  

Pile: The visible surface of a rug. It’s also known as the “face” or “nap.”  

Tuft: The projections of yarn that create the pile of a “tufted” rug.  

Warp and weft: Warp refers to the parallel yarn strands that run vertically on a loom. Warp threads that extend beyond the edge of a rug create stylistic fringe. Weft refers to the yarns that are woven horizontally through the warps to form the face of the rug.  

We’ve pasted some handy diagrams below to help better explain, too.  

Pile Weave

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Understanding Dyes

Handmade Rugs 101 Series
Understanding Dyes

Both natural and synthetic dyes can be used in the creation of a handmade rug. Here’s a brief breakdown:


Natural dyes have been used for centuries to create beautiful and striking colors. Historically, they’ve come from plant sources, and they typically still do today. For example, reds are often created from dried madder root, blues of indigo extracted from a variety of plants, and yellows from the Mediterranean herb weld. Secondary colors then come from mixing these primary colors. Shades of brown can also be created naturally, from items like walnut husks.

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What is Knot Density?

Handmade Rugs 101 Series
What is Knot Density?

Knot density refers to the number of knots per square inch, or square decimeter, of rug. (A decimeter is 10 centimeters, or roughly 4 inches.)

Handmade rugs with high knot density can take even a highly trained weaver months or longer to create alone. A skilled rug maker can tie a knot in about 10 seconds, which translates to an average of 360 knots per hour. Imagine that an experienced weaver needs to create a 9’x12’ rug with a density of 150 knots per inch. He or she is looking at a 6,480-hour endeavor! (Rugs of this size are normally completed by two or more weavers.) Handmade rugs can have a knot density upwards of 1,000 knots per inch, although these are rare. Talk about a labor of love!

Should knot density influence my rug search?

It’s always a good idea to inquire about the knot density of a rug you’re considering purchasing, as it can give you a feel for that rug’s journey. But remember that while knot density can be an indicator of quality or durability in many handmade rugs, it’s not definitively the case. It is, however, a big factor in regard to rug pattern, specifically an intricate pattern like a floral design. A patterned rug with a low knot density tends to look “pixilated.” In other words, the curves of the pattern look choppy, not smooth. If you’re shopping for a rug with a simple pattern or none at all, knot density need not be as much of a concern during your selection process.

This post is part of our “Handmade Rugs 101” series. To see all posts in the series, CLICK HERE.

Caring for Your Handmade Rug: Part 2

Handmade Rugs 101 Series
Caring for Your Handmade Rug: Part 2

We talked about several things you can do to keep your rug looking its best in Caring for Your Handmade Rug: Part 1. What else can you do to be sure your investment lasts a lifetime?

Keep Moths and Other Pests Away

Moths are pesky creatures. They love nothing more than to dine on the most costly fabric investment in a home. Fortunately, periodic sweeping or vacuuming of your rug can easily keep them at bay. Moths hate to be disturbed and will generally infest a rug that is in storage or areas of your rug that are under furniture. Just as rotating helps ensure consistent wear and tear, it also sends a clear message to pests: keep out!

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Caring for Your Handmade Rug: Part 1

Handmade Rugs 101 Series
Caring for Your Handmade Rug: Part 1

You may have noticed that handmade rugs typically cost more than machine-made rugs. But don’t let the cost deter you, as they’re a great investment. With proper care, handmade rugs can easily last for hundreds of years thanks to the high quality fibers, dyes, and techniques used to create them. We’ll go into more detail on the process in other posts in this series, but for now, let’s focus on just what proper care entails.

Clean Regularly

Regular cleaning plays an important role in extending the life of your rug. While heavy-duty cleanings are best left to the professionals and should be preformed on a semi-regular basis, there’s plenty you can do to keep your rug looking its best, too. Here are some tips:

  • Sweep or vacuum daily/weekly. We know that there aren’t enough hours in the day. If you can’t sweep or vacuum daily, do try to make at least a weekly routine of caring for your rug. If vacuuming, you’ll want to choose a machine without beater bars—those rotating plastic brushes found on the undersides of almost all standard vacuum cleaners. They’re not gentle enough for handmade rugs and can tug at the fibers. You may be able to turn off the beater bar on your vacuum. But, if not, make the broom your friend!
  • Spill? Act quickly. For a liquid spill, blot immediately with a paper towel or clean white rag to soak up as much liquid as possible. For a solid spill, quickly blot with a paper towel or clean white rag, then gently scrape any remaining debris away with the dull edge of a knife or spoon. Still there? You may be able to use products you already have at home—like vinegar and wax paper—to help remove the spill. Or, you may need to use a cleaning product specifically made for rugs. Rug & Home recommends Capture products by Milliken ( Their cleaners contain no bleach, solvents, or harsh chemicals and are easy to use. All you need is a vacuum! For a list of possible spills and how to clean them, CLICK HERE. It’s also possible that a professional cleaning may be needed to properly remove the spill or stain. Please call Rug & Home for our recommendations on the best professional cleaners in your area.

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