My Rug Isn’t Square!

by Lynn Tall,

Have you ever noticed that the sides of your rug aren’t quite straight? Maybe you’ve wondered if one end is wider than the other. Is this a trick of the eye or is something else going on?

Rug Loom DiagramWhile the weaver is stringing the loom, if tension in the warps begins to get lax, one side of the rug will be longer than the other, which creates ripples or bumps when the rug is laid out on the floor. The warps are the foundation yarns that make up the fringes at one end, run all the way lengthwise through the rug, and come out at the other end.

Every knot in your rug is tied onto a warp yarn. In between those rows of knots are the weft yarns. The weft yarns are the horizontal foundation yarns inside your rug (they run weft to right!) that lock each row of knots in place. If the weaver is right handed, he or she may pull tighter to the right, creating differential tension in the body of your rug. This may cause your rug to bow slightly to the right.

Sometimes this has more to do with the materials being used than the actual weaving process. For example, in some pieces, you may see that one end is inches wider than the opposite end, creating an almost trapezoidal shape. This can often be attributed to a different type of yarn being used to complete a piece. If the weaver has used a wool weft throughout the rug but runs out near the end, and only has cotton left on his or her shelf, the cotton will be used to complete the rug. Cotton and wool have very different tension and shrink quite differently.

What can be done about this common issue? Nothing really needs to be done, but to some, the aesthetic is unpleasant. Some rugs can be gently stretched, or BLOCKED, back into a more rectangular shape, although sometimes the curve or ripple is so strong, that no real improvement can be achieved. If you decide to block your rug, please know that cleaning or extreme humidity will undo the blocking. Having a good rug pad underneath your rug might help it keep its shape longer after blocking.

It’s interesting to note that this phenomenon shows up better in runners and smaller rugs than in room-sized rugs, even though almost ALL hand-knotted rugs have the same misshapen quality. This is because runners and smaller-sized rugs can be seen all at once in a single glance. The sides are close together and can be compared to one another. In room-sized rugs, the distance between the ends and the sides is much greater, and really can’t be seen and compared all at once.

This is one of the unique qualities of a true hand-knotted rug. Each one is different from the next, and they are all special!