Two ways to identify handmade rug
What to Look for:
The term “selvage” is a combination of the words “self-edge,” which describes the finished edge of any woven textile. Oriental handmade rugs generally have selvages on the long side, while Navajo rugs have selvages on all four edges. The function of a selvage is to keep the fabric of a rug from unraveling. These are the wrapped edges which run perpendicular to the fringed ends
Rugs often have a decorative overcasting of yarn covering the selvage that further protects the side of the rug from wear. Complex supplemental selvage structures are used in some rug weaving traditions to provide decoration and greater durability to the rug sides.
Selvages are usually made from the same material as the rug itself – they can be cotton, silk, wool or animal hair. Edges of rugs often receive heavy wear and selvage materials can become worn or damaged. Simple repair techniques can be used to protect or restore worn selvages.
A worn selvage can be re-overcast with yarn to cover wear. Damaged multi-cord selvage is more complicated to restore but can be recovered or re-woven easily if original warps are still in place. And Navajo side cords can be replaced when worn.
Not all rugs have true selvages. Original selvages are often cut off when rugs come from the loom, then new selvage wraps or other treatments are applied. This is common in Indian and Pakistani rugs. This is not common with rugs from Iran and it’s rare in Turkish and Chinese rugs. This cutting of the rug is done to straighten edges that may have come from the loom crooked. The cut edges are not structurally durable as the original woven selvages, but this “straight” look is what is perceived to be desirable for their export markets.
Oriental rugs are wrapped in yarn along the sides, also known as selvage, to protect the rug from wear and raveling. As the rug is walked on the selvage wrapping wears away and the foundation of the rug is vulnerable to wear and damage.
Just as the rug can unravel on the ends, it can unravel from the sides. Rewrapping the worn selvage yarn is an important step to keeping the rug in good condition, extending the life of the rug
It is important to examine selvages when receiving rugs to identify worn or unstable areas to avoid further damage in cleaning and offer side repair options to your customer. The detached side cord on Pakistani rugs can be sewn back on with a simple repair stitch if the damage is not too severe.
What to look for: Fringe
These are the strands that wool (or silk) pile knots are twisted and tied around to create that rug. The fringe on hand knotted rugs is a continuation of the warp yarns of the rug. On hand-woven rugs, the fringe tassels are the WARPS of the rug.
The fringe is part of the Oriental rug skeleton.
Then we have the kilim between the tassels of the fringe and the main body of the rug. This flat weave portion of the ends of the rug help lock in the knots and give a decorative end to the rug. The fringe is made up of warp yarns and may or may not have a kilim in front of them.
The knots in the fringe hold help hold the rug together. If the kilim or fringe starts fraying or coming apart on your rug it is important to have it repaired as soon as possible to prevent additional more costly damage from occurring.
Fringes can be damaged by vacuums, pets, and general foot-traffic. They can also be permanently damaged by over-zealous rug and carpet cleaners who attempt to whiten them by using harsh bleaches.