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The Most Important Area Rug Jargon – “Talk The Talk”

It's a very good idea to have a least a basic knowledge of some of the more popular terms you might encounter when you are doing your area rug research, so we have provided below a glossary of area rug terms for your benefit. We would encourage you to have a look through it so you are at least somewhat familiar with the lingo when it comes time to begin shopping. 

Area Rug Glossary

Acrylic - Acrylic is a synthetic fiber made from a polymer (polyacrylonitrile) and blended with other fibers to simulate the look of wool, but at a much lower cost. For a fiber to be called "acrylic" in the US, the polymer must contain at least 85% acrylonitrile.

Arts & Crafts - Arts and Crafts is a decorating style that emphasizes handiwork and craftsmanship. It began in the early 20th century.

Art Deco - Art deco is a decorating style that was popular during the latter 1920s and early 1930s. This style originated in Paris, France and is known for its geometric patterns, angular shapes and bold colors.

Art Nouveau - Originating in Paris, France, art nouveau is a decorating style that was popular during the 1920s. In French, art nouveau means "new art" and is defined by organic and flowing lines.

Antique Wash - An antique wash is a chemical wash that is used to make a rug look antique in appearance.

Aubusson - Aubusson rugs were originally flat-woven tapestries made in France. The designs are now mostly made in China and India and are hand-carved, creating an embossed look.

Axminster - An axminster rug has a stiff backing and a soft pile. Named after a village in England. Axminster rugs must be rolled length-wise.

Backing - The under side of the rug, which can be constructed from a variety of materials. A rug may have both a primary and secondary backing.

Bamboo - Bamboo is a natural, renewable material that can be harvested without killing the host plant.

BCF Fiber - BCF stands for Bulk Continuous Fiber. All synthetic fibers are BCF. the one natural fiber that is BCF is silk.

Binding - On the edge of the rug to finish the edge or add a decorative element.

Border - The border is the outermost part of the rug that surrounds the field.

Braided Rug - A braided rug is made using strips of fabric that are braided into ropes and sewn together, often reversible.

Coir - Coir is the fibers from the outer husk of the coconut used to make natural fiber rugs and door mats.

Colorfast - A rug made with colorfast yarn that has stable colors and will not run together when washed.

Color Wheel - A color wheel is a chart that shows the spectrum of colors and how they relate to one another.

Comb - A weaver uses a comb-like tool to straighten and align knots during the knotting process while weaving a hand knotted rug.

Complementary - Colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel are called complementary.

Contemporary - Contemporary is a decorating style that is "of the moment" or matching current design trends.

Cotton - Cotton is a plant-based fiber used for flat-woven rugs and reinforcement in pile rugs.

Cut Pile - When yarn is cut, the ends of the yarn form the rug's pile. Opposite of loop pile.

Density - The density of a rug can be measured by the number of knots per square inch in a hand knotted rug, or the number of points per square meter in a machine made rug.

Dhurrie - Originating in India, a flat-woven rug made primarily of wool and/or cotton.

Dye - A liquid coloring agent, either natural or synthetic, used to color yarn.

Fiber - Area rugs are made using either natural or synthetic fibers. Fibers are either staple fibers (see Staple fibers) or BCF fibers (see BCF fibers)

Field - As opposed to the border of the rug the field is the inner area.

Flat-woven - A flat-woven rug is made from natural fibers and has no pile.

Flokati - A flokati rug is a thick, shaggy, wool rug that is processed in a special manor. The authentic flokati rugs are made in Greece.

French Provencal - French Provencal is a country style of decorating from France that features bright colors, floral prints and painted wood furniture.

Fringe - On hand woven rugs, the fringe tassels (usually cotton) are the warps of the rug. These are the strands that wool (or silk) pile knots are twisted and tied around to create that rug. 

Hand Carving - Hand carving is a specialized skill that entails cutting the rug pile to various lengths to create a raised pattern. Often done with hand loom wool rugs.

Hand Knotted - The weaver ties thousands of knots by hand, to a series of warps running across a loom to create a rug.

Hand Tufted - A hand tufted rug is constructed by hand, using a tufting gun to insert various yarns through a canvas that has been marked with a design stencil. Then a backing scrim and latex are applied to hold the yarns in place.

Hand Hooked - Similar to "hand tufted" but the pile is not cut afterwards. It remains looped.

Heat Set - A process applied to synthetic yarns such as polypropylene that makes them soft, durable and color fast.

Outdoor Rugs - Synthetic rugs that can be used outdoors and can withstand wet summer weather.

Jufti - A jufti knot is a simplified knotting technique. The weaver ties a jufti knot over four warps, rather than two.

Jute - The jute plant is used to construct natural fiber rugs. Primarily cultivated in India and Bangladesh, in the delta of the Ganges River.

Kilim - A kilim is a flat-woven rug that is typically made of wool.

Knife or Hooked Knife - The weaver uses this tool in the construction of a hand knotted rug.

Knot Per Square Inch - The number of knots per square inch (KPSI) is one way of measuring the quality of a hand knotted rug. This ranges from 40 to 2000, but generally is 100 - 160 and is considered to be excellent.

Loom - The loom is the device/equipment that the weaver uses to construct a rug.

Machine Made - As the name implies, rugs that are constructed using a machine loom. 

Medallion - A medallion is a design motif, often round, found in the center of a rug. 

Motif - A symbol or design that is used once or many times in a rug design.

Modern - Is the basic design and decor of the modernist movement that began in the late 1800s.

Nap or Pile - The cut yarn of a rug makes up the nap/pile.

Natural Fiber Rugs - The opposite of synthetic fibers. Made up of natural fibers such as wool, sisial, jute, seagrass, coir, hemp, or bamboo.

Nylon - Nylon is a man-made synthetic fiber often used in machine made rugs.

Olefin - Olefin is also known as polypropylene and is a man-made synthetic fiber often used in machine made rugs.

Oriental Rug - Strictly defined, it is a hand knotted rug that has been constructed in Asia.

Patina - Patina is an aged or faded look.

Persian Rug - A classic hand knotted rug, normally thought to be made within the borders of Iran.

Pile Weight - The weight of just the pile of the rug, as opposed to total weight. 

Polyester - Polyester is a synthetic, man-made fiber.

Polypropylene - Also known as olefin, it is a synthetic, man-made fiber. It has many desirable characteristics for rug making and is inexpensive.

Rayon - Rayon is a synthetic, man-made fiber that is very soft and resembles silk.

Runner - A runner is a rug that is longer than it is wide and is used in hallways, bedrooms, or sometimes as a "bridge" to connect furniture groupings or rooms. 

Scrim - The scrim is the backing material of a hand tufted rug, which holds the yarn in place.

Seagrass - Seagrass is as the name implies a grass that can be used to construct a durable natural fiber rug.

Silk - Silk is a natural fiber made from silkworm cocoons. It is the only natural fiber that is a BCF fiber (Bulk Continuous Fiber). China is most noted for its silk production.

Sisal - Sisal is a member of the agave family, which are hardy plants of arid regions of Central America, Mexico and South West USA. In the past, several species of agave were used for fibre production, but now A. sisalana is the commercially grown species.

Sheen - The reflective surface, if any, on the surface of the rug.

Spandrels - Found in the four corners of the rug and typically used with a medallion rug.

Staple Fiber - All natural fibers with the exception of silk are staple fibers. Staple fibers are "spun" together either by hand or with machines to form yarn.

Synthetic - Fibers that are man-made.

Traditional - Sometimes called classic design, it is a design style that lends itself to the origins of rug design. For example a classic Persian rug.

Transitional - A broad category style meant to define the bridge between traditional and modern, or contemporary design.

Tufting Gun - An electronic or pneumatic tool that is used to push yarn back and forth through a backing to form a hand tufted rug.

Turkish Knot - A type of knot used to make a hand knotted rug. In a Turkish knot, the yarn is tied around two adjacent warp threads. Also known as a symmetrical knot or ghiordes knot.

Twist - Twist is the amount of yarn spirals: the tighter the twist, the tighter the yarn and durability.

Vegetable Dyes - Vegetable dyes are natural and are derived from insects and various plant materials.

Viscose - A semi-synthetic fiber that is manufactured from wood pulp, by using a special chemical process. Often referred to as artificial silk, or art silk. A synonym for rayon.