What is the difference between hand spun and machine spun wool?

Before the machine age, weavers spun wool by hand to create yarn that makes up the pile of Oriental rugs. But industrialization meant that by 1940 nearly all wool used in carpets was spun by machines. In a renaissance of traditional techniques begun in 1980, a small but appreciable number of weavers are again spinning wool by hand. Although some people prefer the uniformity and formal appearance that machine spun wool imparts to carpets, most connoisseurs value the effect produced by hand spun wool. When spun by hand, yarn absorbs more dye where it is loosely spun and less dye where it is spun tightly, thus producing pleasant variegation (know as “Abrash“) in the colors of a rug. Hand spun wool naturally requires more labor and thus rugs woven with handspun wool are more costly. But, the hand spinning process is less abrasive to the wool; more of the natural oils (lanolin) are retained and less fibers are broken. This produces a wool that is more resilient and carpets made with such wool will last long and wear better. Check out our glossary entry on handspun wool here.