A Designer’s Rough Guide to Rugs & Carpets

All you need to know about Rug Terminology!

Recently, we were really very fortunate to have the lovely Jennifer Manners and Naomi Graham join us at our Metier Brunch Event back in May. So much was shared about the manufacturing process and there were all sorts of words and terms flying around.  If you were looking to design a rug for your client for the first time, there is a good chance you might have felt somewhat out of your depth.


Therefore, in the spirit of Professional Development for Interior Designers, in conjunction with Jennifer Manners, we’ve put together our “Rough Guide to Rugs & Carpets” . We hope that this will help you when you are next liaising with your Rug Designer …. or even your client!


Rug & Carpet Glossary

Abrashes –

…are more commonly known as a variation or more typically striation, in the various dyes of Oriental rugs as they age. Another term for Abrashes would be “mottled”. Several factors are known to cause Abrashes. One factor is the natural vegetable dyes used by nomadic weavers being mixed in smaller quantities. The wool is then spun and woven, sometimes months apart. This can allow for these variations in the spinning and dying processes. Abrashes should not be considered a flaw, merely a character of the art form of the hand-woven rug. In fact, this can be viewed as a “sign” that the rug is authentically hand-made, rather than machine-made.



Antique –

As a general rule, Antique rugs produced before 1925 are to be considered Antique. However, really the term is about more than simple age. In reality, a great many changes in rug production worldwide happened around 1925, affecting many key facets including quality of design, techniques, materials, and even cultural authenticity. Genuine antique rugs are a finite commodity as no more can produced, so prices for the genuine article will be high and they will hold their value.


Antique Rug | Living Room by Casey & Fox
Antique Rug | Living Room by Casey & Fox

Bamboo Silk

This is a hand-knotted finish, using fibre from the bamboo plant. This has a luxurious finish which is similar in appearance to silk, however is far more cost-effective. What you might not know – Bamboo silk is very Eco-Friendly as the bamboo trees grow far faster and do not require the labour (and death) of the silk worm. Bamboo silk is also far better suited to high-traffic areas than real silk. It also copes better under heavy furniture and will not mat or wear down. With proper care and maintenance, Bamboo silk can last 50+ years.



Banana silk

As you might guess, is made from the banana plant. In fact, it’s derived from the wood pulp, therefore Banana silk is considered a recovered fibre. The trunk of the banana plant is harvested and the fibres are extracted and put through a softening process. Later they are bleached and dried. Spinning these fibres results in a yarn which is very similar to traditional Silk. The Banana Silk fibres are very strong and the rugs are known for their lustrous and luminous pile. These are also quite light-weight. Last, but not least, Banana Silk is also considered to be Eco-Friendly. The fibre is bio-degradable and does not affect the natural environment.


(It is worth noting that the both Bamboo and Banana Silk Rugs fall under the same umbrella as Viscose (see below) when it comes to water resistance. Therefore, we strongly recommend that these types of rugs are treated with Microseal or similar. )




Coir is the resilient hard fibre found between the husk and outer shell of a coconut. Being coarse, makes for ideal flooring in high-traffic areas due to resistance to wear and tear. However, perhaps it isn’t ideal where under-foot comfort is a key factor. It is 100% bio-degradable, so ticks the Eco-Friendly box.




A loom is a traditional device used for centuries to weave cloth, tapestries and rugs. In a nutshell, the loom holds the warp (longitudinal) threads in place under tension to enable and facilitate the interweaving of the weft (horizontal) threads. Sizes and shapes of Looms have changed over the years, however the function remains the same.

Hand-weaving a Jennifer Manners Rug on a Loom

Faux Silk

…is another term for artificial silk or viscose.




Often known as kilims, flatweave rugs are woven on a pit loom and have no pile. Geometric patterns are best suited to this weaving style as the edges of the pattern are notably crisp.

Flatweave Rug | Kasbah by Jennifer Manners



A Goodweave certification that means that no child, forced or bonded labour was used in the making of a certified product. The workplace conditions are documented, verifiable and regularly inspected. Licenced producers are also audited in regards their performance against principles including discrimination, environmental impacts and collective bargaining.




… are the long strips of wood which contain several sharp pins or tacks. Grippers are generally installed at the outer edges of a room to help stretch and hold the carpet in place.



Knot –

… refers to the Number of hand-woven knots per square inch. Similarly compared to pixels in a digital image, the higher the number, the finer the quality.




… rugs and carpets which have been hand-knotted only in Asia. Some of the largest rug exporters include Iran, China, India, Turkey, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal and Russia.




… rugs specifically from Iran, previously known as Persia.



Persian Knot – 

A technique that uses individually formed double knots. This style is most often used for intricate, traditional designs

Persian Knot | image courtesy of www.cityrugs.com



… is the depth or height of a rug or carpet. Typically measured in mm.




… is the most commonly used material for synthetic rugs and carpets. It has a low abrasion tolerance and therefore will flatten quickly over 2-5 years. Typically installed by landlords due to the low cost and the understanding that the carpet is likely to be stained and need replacing within a decade. Not good for high-traffic areas and particularly susceptible to oil stains. They might feel soft to touch initially, however will become rough with time. One positive element is that because the material is man-made and therefore not porous, these rugs are not prone to holding odours.

Sorry to say it, however, this option isn’t Eco-friendly, as VOC’s are released into the air when the material is being made in the factory. Lastly, the glue that is used to bond the synthetic pile may contain latex. Therefore you would need to check with your client for allergies prior to specifying.


Tibetan Knot

A form of knot whereby the yarn is simultaneously tied around a horizontal metal rod and the cotton warp and weft, with every new knot a continuation of the previous. The knots are then sliced on the rod to create a pile or left looped for added texture. This style is very well suited to contemporary design.

Tibetan Knot | image courtesy of www.verdehomeinc.com


Underlay –

… is not just for carpets, however is a good idea for rugs as well and consists of cushioning material such as rubber, foam or felt. Laid beneath the rug, this provides additional comfort, reduce wear, and provide insulation against sound, moisture and heat. Like a duvet, underlay is available in different tog ratings which is especially relevant if there is underfloor-heating so be sure to check with the client or architect as to the type of underfloor heating being installed.




… is also known as Rayon, Modal, Tencel, faux silk, art (short for artificial) silk, however most commonly as viscose rayon. Viscose is a semi-synthetic fibre which is derived by taking a natural material such as cotton or wood pulp or even bamboo and putting it through a chemical process. Viscose rugs do not suffer from static buildup and really good insulators. They tend to have a thick pile, making them feel soft and luxurious. These can be really appealing to your client as they look good, feel good and tend to be very cost effective.

Nonetheless, Viscose is somewhat delicate and while it can be stain-guarded, it does not stand up well against bleach or moisture. In fact Viscose loses 50% of its strength when it gets wet. It will need to be cleaned either with a dry-cleaning solvent or ideally by a professional. Hence, it not the ideal carpet to have in areas where spills are more likely or kiddies/pets are likely to have accidents. Most importantly, it should be communicated to your client, that a rug made entirely out of Viscose, should be viewed as being disposable with a life span of 3-5 years.


For our Eco-warrior Designers, Viscose is also not the most Eco-friendly due to the production process of the Viscose as well as the disposal of certain chemicals such as sulphuric acid. However, not all Viscose’s are made the same and if your client is really keen, then ask your supplier for more information on the manufacturing and chemical waste disposal process.

Viscose Rug | Delano by The Rug Shop



Wool –

… are the most common types of rugs and carpets available. However the prices can range dramatically. A good wool rug will be hand-woven with natural sheep wool and will last for at least 50 years. As well as being flame-resistant, they also have acoustic properties and they are also very easy to clean. Nepal and India are well known for manufacturing and exporting beautiful Contemporary wool rugs. Depending on the intricacy of the pattern, these rugs can take from 3 – 6 months to weave. Truly an investment piece as well as an art form!


Depending on the breed, sheep are only sheared 1-2 times per year. This activity therefore making wool a definite renewable resource.


Lastly, here are our Top 3 Cleaning & General Maintenance Tips :


  1. Vacuum in both directions
  2. Pat or dab the stain with a white clean cloth or towel. Never ever rub!
  3. When purchasing a new rug or carpet, consider investing in a stain guard treatment.


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