Wool: One of the Best Fibers for Rugs

Handmade Wool Rugs - Wool and Silk Rugs

Wool Rugs - Handmade Wool Rugs | Shahbanu Rugs


We believe in the importance of natural materials for all of the hand-knotted and hand loomed rugs we sell. Natural materials are sustainable because their source can be replenished and the product itself can be recycled. Machine-made rugs are often (but not always) made with synthetic fibers which can dramatically lower the price point but at what cost to the environment and human health? We believe it’s a false economy to buy cheap mass-produced rugs which are often treated as short-life, “fast fashion” to quickly become one more example of our unsustainable throwaway economy. This blog champions quality, long-lasting handmade artisan rugs made from wool.

Rug Foundations: Cotton

Did you know that many 100% wool rugs usually include cotton? This isn’t deceptive advertising. “Pure” wool fiber rugs are described as “pure” and “100%” because the fiber that you see and walk on is the “pure” element, but beneath it is a cotton foundation.

There are exceptions of course (some makers do use wool fiber foundations) as there are historically hundreds of traditional local, regional and tribal techniques to weave a rug, but in general for the new hand-knotted rugs we sell, the warp and the weft foundation is made from dyed or undyed cotton fibers. This cotton matrix is the base for thousands of intricate knots created with the “face fiber” (e.g. wool, silk). The “face fiber” creates the visible field and pattern. These face knots hide the cotton matrix although experts can spot “dots” within the rug pattern which reveal where cotton strands were knotted after a break or where the length of a warp or weft was increased. There is no way to predict how many or how few cotton knots may appear in any rug, but it is both a sign and a signature of a truly handmade artisan rug.


Wool and Silk Persian Rugs - Hand Knotted Wool Rugs | Shahbanu Rugs



Our wool rugs are made with sheep wool rather than from the fleece of other animals like goats whose fleece can be spun into a wool-type product. Wool is not a monoculture, which means that all wool is not created equal. There are hundreds of breeds of sheep although sheep that produce wool for rugs fall into fewer breeds. Even within these breeds wool quality is determined by many factors which include country of origin, habitat and diet. Wool takes dye easily, but so too undyed wool comes in a variety of natural colors which can be woven into striking, natural rug patterns.

Good quality wool is hard-wearing, naturally anti-bacterial and anti-microbial and inherently flame resistant. It’s easy to clean too. Nevertheless it’s a good idea to reduce wear to the pile by using one of our dual-sided natural rubber pads underneath to reduce foot friction and to keep the rug safely in place. Regular vacuuming is also recommended to keep dirt from embedding in the pile.

While many experts insist that wool rugs must be professionally cleaned (which is never a bad idea), did you know that Nordic countries are known to recommend cleaning wool rugs with snow? Finnish textile company LapuanKankurit reported in 2019 that when snow blankets the country, Finns gather up their wool rugs and wool blankets and take them outside on a cold, clear winter day to clean them with snow. This is an especially good way to clean wool rugs as over-use of water can encourage mold growth. Snow is dusted over rugs and brushes, brooms, or mittened hands “scrub” the surface after which rugs are laid on a non-snow covered surface to dry. We realise this may not be an option for everyone, but if you live in a snowy environment, why not give it a try!


Hand Knotted Silk Rugs - Handmade Persian Silk Rugs - Pure Wool Fiber Rugs


Oxidized Wool and Silk

While a pure wool rug is the most popular fiber choice for our consumers, the tactile, textured “high and low” pile artisan “oxidized” wool and silk rugs we make are increasingly popular. Oxidized rugs provide the best of two worlds as they can look simultaneously vintage and contemporary due to oxidation, color palette, and fiber mix.

Natural oxidation occurs when a rug is exposed to daylight over a long period of time. Mother Nature naturally lightens and alters the rug’s dyes and the pile to create the vintage look so many of us love. Our artificial oxidation accelerates the look provided by Mother Nature. We carefully wash hand-knotted wool and silk rugs with a proprietary solution that reduces the wool pile while retaining the full height of the silk pattern to create a subtle 3D relief surface with a contemporary vintage look.


Wool: the Final Word

The history of humanity is tied to wool. Wool is a sustainable yet irreplaceable resource that we should love and respect for its ability to keep us warm and happy. Handmade wool rugs tread lightly on the land and produce a lower carbon footprint than most competing fibers. We love wool and we hope you do too.

Antique, Vintage, and New Rugs: Which Category is Right for You?


Rug professionals say a new rug becomes vintage when it is twenty years old, and a vintage rug becomes antique in 80 to 100 years (the exact timeline differs from dealer to dealer). Does this mean every new rug has the potential to become a vintage rug and antique rug? No. Not every new rug becomes vintage, and even fewer become antique. Here’s why.

Many rug dealers have restrictions on what type of vintage rugs enter their stock and which eventually becomes an antique. The baseline criteria for vintage and antique is they must be handmade, either hand-knotted or hand-woven. A high Kpsi – knots per square inch – is often a standard criteria for awarding the antique label. Fewer knots per square inch may mean the rug is still beautiful and valuable but it remains in the more affordable vintage category. Rarity of colors and pattern can also boost a vintage rug into antique. Antique rugs are usually expensive.

Although we do stock a selection of antique rugs, our post focuses on the virtues and affordability of the wide range of new and vintage hand-woven and hand-knotted rugs we stock at Shahbanu Rugs.

Antique Persian Pure Wool Hand Knotted Rugs - Handmade Shahbahu Rugs, NJ


Hand-woven and hand-knotted new rugs versus machine-made new rugs:

At Shahbanu Rugs we stock only hand-woven and hand knotted rugs. Handmade rugs are the rugs that change categories from new to vintage to antique. We design our new rugs based on classic and new patterns with colorways that reflect contemporary tastes. Because Shahbanu Rugs new rugs are always knotted or woven by hand in environmentally-friendly materials like wool and silk, our rugs age beautifully and allow you to pass them on to the next generation as vintage and beloved family heirlooms.

Persian Tabriz Wool And Silk Hand-Knotted - Hand Woven Shahbanu Rugs

Machine-made rugs are often made of environmentally unfriendly materials. Their quality is poor and their lifespan is short. We believe in the value of handmade and being an environmentally-friendly rug company. We support our values by stocking only handmade rugs made from natural fibers. The irony of machine-loomed rugs is that quite often a beautiful vintage rug is less expensive per square foot than an equivalently sized machine-loomed rug.

Persian Nahavand Hand Knotted Rugs - Shahbanu Rugs

A few facts will help you decide between choosing a new or vintage rug:

Don’t let anyone convince you that once a new rug becomes vintage it becomes unaffordable. Or that new rugs are better than vintage or vice versa. Each category has its virtues. Often vintage rugs will be less expensive than a similar new rug. It sounds confusing, but once you know a few facts you will be able to decide which one is right for your home.

Vintage Tribal Persian Azari Hand-Knotted Oriental Village Rug


  1. Quality of materials, handmade techniques, plus pattern and color are all used to determine the price of a rug whether new or vintage.
  2. How many rugs exist of a particular type also determines price. For example, “design-art” rugs are woven in limited editions and are often designed by a famous artist or designer. Their quality and scarcity drives up the price. We don’t stock limited edition new rugs at Shahbanu Rugs, so if you find the new rug of your dreams on our website but it’s sold, chances are we can reweave it for you and even change the colorway.
  3. While vintage rugs are a finite resource, this doesn’t mean scarcity is a factor in their price. So many rugs have been woven during the last century that the supply of vintage rugs seems almost inexhaustible.
  4. We advise you to be guided by color and pattern. Our new rug collections are modelled on traditional Persian rugs, the ever-popular Arts and Crafts movement, and contemporary abstract collections and more. The colorways of each collection are carefully attuned to contemporary tastes and trends.
  5. We keep a close eye on design trends and use these trends to guide our vintage rug purchases. Sometimes we decide that particularly busy and colorful traditional patterned rugs (as opposed to tribal and geometric rugs which are popular in their original state particularly for those who love maximalism and jungalow trends) are too overpowering for contemporary interiors. To save these good quality handmade rug from landfill, we overdye the rugs using monochrome colors that produce a vibrant, saturated rug where the pattern recedes and the color takes center stage. These color-rich monochrome rugs are perfect for minimalist interiors.
  6. Another myth to bash is that size is directly equivalent with price. While this maxim is usually true for new handmade rugs, it isn’t necessarily true for vintage rugs where a large vintage rug is not necessarily more expensive than a smaller rug.

The bottom line? If you are buying from Shahbanu Rugs inventory of more than 10,000 handmade rugs, you don’t need to worry about quality because handmade quality is evident in each and every one of our rugs. We recommend you base your decision on price point, color and design.