Some Unique Issues with Natural Rugs

We are so accustomed to conformity and consistency when buying items that the purchase of a natural area rug can require an adjustment in our thinking. While machine-made rugs are 100% consistent due to the use of man-made fibers and mechanization, natural rugs are constructed by actual humans using materials that are inherently inconsistent. No two sheep are the same, and even the wool from the same sheep differs; hence, the unique qualities of natural rugs.

There are two fairly common “irregularities,” specifically with wool area rugs that may become more apparent over time and especially after cleaning: “Abrash” and “White knots.” I have enclosed two short videos that illustrate both, but here is a quick summary.

“Abrash” is the term given to the natural variations in color and texture caused by differences in fiber textures and dyes. This can result in a striped appearance in areas on a rug that are the same color, and note, it is not a flaw! Rather, it is the natural result of the way the rug is woven. Abrash becomes more visible on the face of the rug with exposure to foot traffic and the elements. Interestingly, as the cleaning of the rug eliminates soils that may have masked the abrash, we have had situations where clients are taken aback by their different appearance, necessitating a walk-through of our estimate sheet that fully explains abrash and other irregularities!

Rugs marked “100% Wool” on the label often have a significant amount of cotton in them. While the face yarns are 100% wool, typically, the foundation of the rug is cotton. When the weaver comes to the end of their roll of cotton, or a yarn breaks in the production process, they will simply tie on a new one and continue. “White knots” or “foundation knots” are the names given to these connections, and they are found in every hand-woven rug. As a rug gets older and the face yarns wear down, the white knots become more visible. Similar to the abrash scenario, a cleaned rug will often cause the white knots to stand out. The video shows four ways to deal with white knots, but most people simply accept that this is part of the uniqueness of a natural rug.

Thanks for reading and please contact us if you have any questions!

Mike Holmes