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Area Rug Types

Today, there are of course many machine-made, inexpensive “throw” rugs or areas rugs made of various synthetics available at most department or home stores.  They are serviceable, but if you’re using an area rug as part of your décor, you’ll be happier with something of quality made from natural materials.  Generally speaking, these rugs fall into one of the following categories:

Hand Hooked
Typically, these are constructed by pushing various colored yarn through a canvas base to create a design on one side. Then a protective backing is applied over the back side of the rug.
Originally woven on looms by hand, flat-weave rugs like Dhurries, Kilims and Spanish berbers today are often woven by machine. Unlike other area rugs, flat-woven rugs are usually reversible.
Originating sometime around the 5th century in Greece, real flokati area rugs are hand woven and sewn with pure wool, and graded according to the weight of the wool pile.. The rugs were (and are) immersed in running water for many hours; the water running over the rugs straightens and softens the pile, then the rug is hung to dry, producing a very luxurious finish.  There are also now "fake" flokati rugs which are made of synthetic fibers like polypropylene.
Chances are pretty good your great-grandmother or grandmother had several of these around the house.  A uniquely “new world” technique developed in the American colonies, the first braided rugs were made of strips snipped from leftover fabric, worn-out blankets, seed bags, canvas, just about any material that could be braided and then sewn together.  The results were often quite colorful with mixed textures.  They were not only made for floors, but also braided in miniature to create trivets and other protective coverings for tables, dressers and such.
Bamboo and Sisal
These natural-fiber area rugs are wonderfully durable, making them excellent choices for high-traffic areas. Bamboo is ubiquitous and fast-growing, making it one of the world's most renewable resources, so it's good for the environment as well.  Bamboo rugs are naturally stain-resistant and can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.
Sisal rugs are woven from natural plant fibers with properties of durability and resilience that many artificial materials can't provide. Sisal rugs are strong and beautiful, made of fibers that come from a cactus plant called Agave sisalana that grows in Africa and Brazil. The fibrous stalks are cut, dried, and treated to produce tan-colored lengths. A popular destination for this twine is to be woven into sisal rugs for the floor.
Persian and Oriental Rugs
These are the top end products in area rugs, and worth learning about in depth. Authentic Oriental rugs are hand-made/hand-knotted, most often from wool, sometimes from silk or a blend of silk and wool.  The designs incorporated into traditional rugs were often thematic or symbolic, and the region or country of origin influenced these designs.  Today, authentic rugs are still made by hand, but “transitional” designs are sometimes used to accommodate contemporary tastes.  With reasonable care, these rugs can last hundreds of years and often become family heirlooms, so learn as much as you can and consult reliable sources before “invest.”
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