Rug making is having a modern revival - and it's all down to the power of social media.

TikTok and Instagram Reels have boosted the popularity of traditional crafts in recent months, as artists and novices alike get to grips with new creative hobbies during months of COVID-19 quarantine.

DIY design has come to the forefront during the pandemic, with people trying their hand at everything from painting and furniture restoration to pottery and candle making. For many, the extra time spent at home was a prime opportunity to take up a craft, and many rug makers are adding a contemporary twist on traditional design.

Because we're all craving cosiness, rug tufting – the process of creating a handmade pattern on a rug – has proven popular as we spend more time honing our personal spaces at home. As well as this, there's a cohort of young, innovative designers who are sharing contemporary, youthful and unorthodox rug motifs online – introducing the craft to a new audience.

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TikTok has bolstered the trend massively, with videos of rug tufting going viral regularly. Tufting creates soft, fluffy rugs and can be done by hand, but the method really hitting it off with young people is the mechanised gun method.

Tufting guns allow artists to seamlessly thread yarn onto their fabric, making it look as though they are almost painting the motif into the rug. The hypnotic process of the rugs being woven in this way has proven to be ideal content for the short form video platform, as viewers can watch the process in a soothing time lapse, the design taking shape before their eyes. What starts as a blank swathe of multi-use netting is transformed into an intricate piece of textured, colourful textile art in a mere 15 seconds.

Searches on TikTok for the term "rugtiktok" provide over 152 million results. One of the highest ranking videos in the genre – showcasing the creation of a rug shaped like The Grinch – has amassed a whopping 19.7 million views. The creator, a user named Euphoric Julian, has over 1.2 million followers on the app, and teaches viewers how to pick up the craft themselves.

Rug tufting is by no means a new hobby, either. The development of mechanised tufting guns dates back to the 1930s, but 2020 saw a huge surge in the demand for the tool as social media promotes the art. Orlagh O’Neill, an Irish-based textile artist, got into making her own rugs as a way to make her on-paper illustrations come to life in a new way. She shares her bespoke designs on Instagram at @ruglagh.

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"I loved the idea of translating my illustrations and ideas into a functional hand-crafted rug – blurring the line between art and craft and bringing my own personal interests into it, like making rugs inspired by my claddagh and sovereign rings," she tells RTÉ Lifestyle.

"I have seen through Instagram some of the tufting videos blowing up. I think it's always a positive when people are made aware of the process that's involved in a craft – it’s great for sparking a young demographic's interest," she explains.

Social media is changing the public’s perception of the craft, an industry that, to the uninitiated, conjures up an image of massive machines churning out beige floral floor coverings. The emerging community of young creatives who are making rug creation cool again are leveraging platforms like TikTok and Instagram to make sales and draw attention to their art.

"Like fast fashion, we have come to expect generic, mass produced, cheap rugs made by a machine in bulk," Orlagh says. "What people don't see is the many steps that are involved in making a rug by hand, or how long it takes to hone the craft.

"I think when people are shown a process video, they gain a greater understanding. The tufting videos are definitely a trending thing of the moment, but craft is transcendent and the tradition is always passed down - whether that be through generations or social media. Over the last year there has been a surge in rug makers which is great to see, and TikTok definitely played a part in that."

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Historically, rug making was a hand-made craft. While the exact origins are unknown, one of the oldest examples of a decorative rug – the Pazyryk Rug – dates back to around the 5th century B.C. It was only in the mid-1800s that the craft became industrialised and rugs could be mass produced on a grand scale and quickly adapted to interior design trends.

"Rugtiktok" may be a passing fad, but its popularity is proving beneficial for the textile art collective, who can promote their work for free on social media, but also make their work from home in small bespoke batches.

It’s a triumph for the handmade crafts community that the machines which industrialised the production of rugs have now developed to the point where the power to create can be placed back in the hands of individual artists – and the technology that consumes so much of our day-to-day attention can create a demand for the fruits of their creative labour.