Machine made area rugs are by far the largest category in the area rug market, largely because manufacturers are able to offer an excellent variety of design and color, and a very good product, at a reasonable price.
These machines, called power looms, are electrically automated and controlled by computers. Machine made rugs can be made quickly and are manufactured with materials including wool and synthetic fibers such as polypropylene, nylon, polyester, acrylic and art silk, with the dominate fiber being Polypropylene. The edges are then generally finished with a tight machine surged border.
Advances in technology have made it possible for machine made rugs to produce intricate designs that were once reserved for their hand-made counterparts. Today, machine rug manufacturers are producing very high quality rugs that look strikingly similar to hand-made rugs. Even the backside of machine rugs has a similar look to a hand knotted rug, however, the backing is normally quite rough, and coarse, and should have a rug pad to protect the floor. A rug pad will also help keep your rug from sliding around.
Intricate rug designs, full of color, can be produced in a fraction of the time it takes to make a hand-made rug, especially a hand knotted rug. In some cases over 50 colors can be woven into a single rug design.
The density of synthetic machine rugs is measured in points per square meter. Some rugs can be as dense as 2.5 million points per square meter, however, my personal recommendation would be to not go much over 1 million. I feel that rugs that are denser than that tend to be too stiff and they feel artificial.
Other features might include: varying cut and loop pile, random tip shear, high and low pile, different textures and varying density. It is also possible to vary design, by altering the yarn. For example, yarn can be space dyed to give a mottled, variegated heather appearance, or the yarn can be twisted to produce a frieze yarn that has the look and feel of wool.
One of the limiting features of machine woven rugs might be size. If you are looking for a custom size, or you are looking for a very large rug, then machine made rugs may not work. These rugs are generally more of a “mass market” rug and are manufactured in preset sizes that are made to fit most room situations. And obviously the largest size is limited by the size of the power loom, which is not the case for hand tufted or hand knotted rugs.
Finally, machine made rugs should be given strong consideration in your quest for a new rug. They provide excellent value, are easy to maintain, and offer a vast selection of both traditional and contemporary designs and qualities. They may not be of heirloom status, like some hand knotted rugs, but the flip side could be that you can now afford to purchase more than one.