Hand-Knotted vs Hand-Tufted Rugs: What's the Difference

Learn what differentiates hand-knotted from hand-tufted rugs

Moroccan rug

earleliason / Getty Images

Even though both hand-knotted and hand-tufted rugs are made by hand, that is where the similarity ends. The process of creating both types of rugs is different not just in complexity, but also the time it takes to create one, and the skill level required in manufacturing it. 

As a result of an entirely different process, the products end up having a different look and feel. For these reasons, these different types of rugs can also differ in longevity and cost. Before making a purchase, learn the key differences between the rugs.

What Is a Hand-Knotted Rug?

Hand-knotting is an ancient art used to make rugs that are masterpieces of intricate designs. A hand-knotted rug is a one-of-a-kind rug that is woven completely by hand on a special loom. Popular types of hand-knotted rugs include Oriental and Persian rugs. These rugs are made from natural materials, such as wool, silk, and cotton. They have a flatter pile with less texture.

Weaving a hand-knotted rug requires a great deal of skill and often a lot of time to produce. The quality and very often the cost of a hand-knotted rug is determined by the number of knots per square inch. In this case, a higher density means better quality.

A complex pattern can require very dense knotting, and thus it can take a long time to produce. It can often take months to complete a hand-knotted rug. An average weaver can tie about 10,000 knots per day. So you can imagine how long it can take to complete one rug, especially if it happens to be a large one. The time involved in making it also accounts for hand-knotted rugs costing more on average than hand-tufted rugs.

One of the easiest ways to spot a hand-knotted rug is to flip it over. A hand-knotted rug will not have a backing on it. The design is the same on both sides. It will look like you could turn it over and use it on either side thanks to the exquisite amount of detail from the knotting. A hand-knotted rug will likely have fringe because there is no binding on the ends of the carpet.

What Is a Hand-Tufted Rug? 

A hand-tufted rug is made partially by hand and partially by a mechanized tool. This type of rug is made of wool. The process for creating a hand-tufted rug differs greatly from a hand-knotted rug. A hand-tufted rug is made by punching strands of wool into a canvas that is stretched on a frame with the help of a hand-operated tool. This process is not very time-intensive and does not require the same level of skill that hand-knotting does.

After piling with wool, the rug is removed from the frame. A hand-tufted rug will have some sort of a backing to hold the tufts in place. Often a scrim fabric is glued to the back. To complete the rug, a fringe is added by either sewing or gluing it on.

When to Choose a Hand-Knotted Rug Over a Hand-Tufted Rug

Hand-knotted rugs have superior value because they are original, not mass-produced. The high quality of the knots makes a hand-knotted rug outlast a hand-tufted one. The tufts of a hand-tufted rug tend to loosen up and come out over time. A hand-knotted rug can become a family heirloom and last for generations if it is used with care. A hand-tufted rug will not last as long in the same level of condition. 

If you want to buy a rug that has value beyond its use in your home decor today, look to well-made rug hand-knotted by expert artisans. A good-quality hand-knotted rug can become a collector's item, but this doesn't hold true for just any hand-knotted rug. There is a whole range of hand-knotted ones, from poorly made examples to exquisite ones. For example, some countries use poor-quality or highly processed wool for hand-knotted rugs. Other hand-knotted rugs may be handmade using a Jufti knot, also known as a false knot. This false knot is a way to cut corners and time from making the rug and it also lowers the quality of the carpet. It pays to learn about Persian and Turkish knots that are used to make the highest quality hand-knotted rugs.

However, if you prefer to spend less, opt for a hand-tufted rug. A hand-tufted rug costs less than a hand-knotted rug because it usually takes less time and skill to make and is thus less costly to produce. This lets the manufacturer pass those savings on to you.

Hand-tufted rugs never quite achieve heirloom status because they are not one of a kind. But they can still be beautiful to look at and make an appealing and interesting addition to your interior decor.

Hand-Knotted
  • Fully handmade

  • Heirloom quality

  • Months to make

  • Does not have a backing

Hand-Tufted
  • Partially handmade

  • Not heirloom quality

  • Short time to make

  • Has a backing