History Lesson: A Brief Discussion of Carpets

Carpets provide warmth and comfort, a place to sit and a place to play. They define a space, adding beauty and personal style. With so many types of carpets to choose from, it can be confusing to determine which is best for your needs.

There are two main types of carpet production: woven and tufted.

Woven carpets are produced on a loom, resulting in plush or berber pile. Plush carpet has a cut pile and berber has a loop pile. Combining cut and loop pile results in a variation of texture. Generally, any color and pattern can be woven on a loom.  Woven carpets are usually the most expensive due to the laborious manufacturing process.

Tufted carpets have their pile inserted into a man-made backing material. This is then bonded to a secondary backing for stability. The pile surface can be cut or loop. The tufted carpet is the most common method of manufacturing and generally the most affordable.

Other types of carpet include needlefelt (felting individual fibers resulting in high durability- good for areas of high traffic), knotted (weft threads alternate with a supplementary weft that rises at right angles to the surface of the weave, such as in oriental carpets), and flatweave (interlocking warp and weft threads so there is no pile, such as kilim and damask carpets, as well as tapestry).

When looking at carpet, it is important to consider the fiber content. Fiber is chosen for durability, appearance, and cost. Wool and silk are luxuries, and can be expensive. Wool has excellent durability qualities and can be dyed easily. Look for a wool blend (usually 80% wool/20% synthetic) for a more affordable alternative.

Hand-knotted silk from Fort Street Studio

West Elm’s wool Souk Rug

“Hey Jack” from Flor’s spring 2012 collection, 100% recycled Nylon

Nylon is the most common material used for carpet production. It can be dyed or printed easily, and has good wear characteristics. Acrylic carpeting has improved over the years. It is washable and colorfast, and can have the appearance and hand of wool. Polyester is used for low- to mid-priced carpets. It is inherently stain resistant, but mats down easily. Polypropylene, or olefin, is a good choice for small loop berber carpets, commonly used for commercial installation.

(Images via Fort Street Studio, cococozy, West Elm, Flor)

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