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Everything you needed to know about tufting rugs

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Rugs are a fantastic addition to any space with contributions beyond simply adding warmth to your home. They can effortlessly transform any room and offer real added benefits including noise and pollution reduction.  

Rug makers have long held the secrets of their craft close to their chests and have safe-guarded them for countless generations. Little by little, these techniques have been uncovered and shared, shining light on this specialised craft, and now that the veil has been lifted, pretty much anyone can try their hand at making rugs. 

With a few tools, some yarn and an easily constructed frame, you too can create your very own custom rug at home in less time than you’d think.

The real challenge is getting your supplies in order

What you will need:

  1. Your design: Some styles work better than others for transfering to rugs. High contrast images are favourable although this will be determined to a degree by your choice of technique.  
  2. A rug making tool You’ll need to use something to make your rug
  3. A tufting frame These are relatively easy to construct using timber with carpet tacking strips. There are many frame plans and user created instructional videos available online. 
  4. Fabric (Primary Tufting Fabric is the industry standard) 
  5. Yarn (Wool or Acrylic are most commonly used although Cotton and Bamboo are good alternatives )
  6. Glue 
  7. Yarn snips (for loop pile guns)

Additional supplies: (Not totally necessary)

  1. A Projector(to transfer your image)
  2. Fabric (Secondary Tufting Fabric or secondary mesh)
  3. Rug edging
  4. Shearer
  5. Carving tools
  6. Scissors
  7. Manual tufting tools for adding small details
  8. Spray glue

Cut pile VS Loop pile - What is the difference?

Once a design has been planned out and you are ready to transfer it to a rug, you can either hand sketch your design (keep in mind the final design will be in reverse) or transfer it somehow. The most popular approach is to use a projector and many new projector models include a button to flip the image). 

After you have traced your design to your stretched fabric, you have the option of creating it in either loop-pile or cut-pile.  These are specific stylistic factors that will literally influence the overall look and feel of your creation; not only in terms of aesthetics but also in comfort.

So which style should you go with?

First we need to understand how the rug or carpet is constructed.

Loop pile is a technique where the yarn is looped as a needle directs it through the primary fabric before returning it to the gun. Loop pile rugs are quite durable and are a good choice for areas of high foot traffic but aren't quite as soft as cut-pile floor pieces. If you plan on creating wall pieces then this isn't really an issue though. 

Cut pile indicates that the ends of the loops have been trimmed.

They are typically softer and are easier to clean. Cut pile also is softer underfoot. A huge advantage is that cut pile can be further cut, trimmed, carved and/or sheared using other tools. 

Which style is better?

It is really a matter of preference and you wont be disadvantaged by starting with either technique. Determining your own personal preference can be a good indicator but keep in mind that it could be influenced by the kind of work you plan on doing.

Take some time out to take in some tufted work online.

A quick glance at Instagram brought up a few interesting Loop-pile examples.

Here's a great Letterman piece by @rugsbynaya

 

The following loop-pile rug by @maxcurtisart is a great showcase of the range of the medium. Creating a piece with solid colours is made a lot easier with loop pile guns. While the loops create a nice effect, you can see how they would make a much rougher pillowcase or rug to crash out on.

Here is a classic logo piece created by @visionary.rugs. The Playboy bunny shape has been nicely defined using a combination of cut pile and further trimming.  Hopefully you can start to see the possibilities with this style of rug-making and envision how you would apply them to your work. 

Check out the detail in this custom cut pile piece created by @keurugs. Certain designs lend themselves to rug making better than others so keep this in mind when planning. 

This floor-piece by @steffieelshoutt demonstrates the power of simplicity both with her line and colour choices.

This following cut-pile by Benjamin Reeve was created by sketching directly onto the backing fabric before hand tufting the piece. It was then further shaped and trimmed using scissors. You can see how cut-pile allows for a variety of blending techniques. 

 Hand Tufted Loop Pile by Benjamin Reeve

Some tufters choose to work utilising a combination of techniques within each piece.  Cut pile and loop pile work wonders in combination. If you do decide down the road to see how your work translates to another technique, all is gained and nothing is lost by investing in another tufting gun.  

Once you become accustomed to using your machine there are other factors that can be introduced to further experiment with your work. Here are a few suggestions worth consideration:

    • pile height- this is the length of the rug pile. An AK-1 has a pile range from 7 - 20mm. More dramatic lengths can be easily produced using a pneumatic gun which utilises propelled air to advance the yarn.  
    • yarn type – There are a few options here of varying properties and a trip to your local yarn supplier is a great place to start. Tufting guns can handle a lot of the options available.  If yarn is too slippery it can be quite frustrating as it slips out of the gun every minute or two so stay away from anything too slippery.  Any yarn labeled as 'soft' should be avoided as they tend to blunt scissors and scissor replacement can be quite complicated depending on your machine. Our Rug Yarn is created specifically for tufting and will keep you enjoying the process for a long time. Some popular yarn varieties include acrylic, wool, cotton and bamboo yarns.
    • colour – Always ensure you have more than enough yarn. It isn’t unusual to find variations in yarn colour from different dye batches of the same yarn (even commercial yarn). Running out of your favourite colour part way through a project could be a real dilemma if your supplier's yarn colour has shifted slightly during production. 
    • primary backings- This is the initial backing that yarn is transferred into via tufting tool. 100% polyester, 100% cotton (eco), combination primary tufting fabrics, jute, hessian. These come in varying grades and colour combinations. 
    • secondary backings- Once you have completed the piece you can spray glue this to the back to finish the work.
    • mesh- It is one of the most used types of carpet backings and is fitted to the back at the time of glueing.
    •  felt - When used as a backing it improves heat and noise insulation and wear-resistance of your rug. 
    •  foam - foam is a synthetic material with improved acoustic and heat insulation characteristics. 
    •  gel foam - Gel foam is a solid and flexible material. It is waterproof and anti-slip when used as rug backing. 
    • glues- There are several glues available for rugs however depending on your location, not all are easy to come by. Anything containing an adhesive will work although not all are favourable due to factors such as smell, dry time and adhesion levels. People have had levels of success with latex paint, matte mediums, Elmer’s glue and PVA. We tend to prefer specific carpet adhesives and synthetic latex glues for rugs due to their durability and PVA for wall pieces or garments. 

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