How the rugs are made
Tibetan rug making is an ancient art and craft dating back at least 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty. For centuries, Tibetans have been making and using rugs as bedding, saddle blankets and meditation mats in monasteries. The tibetan rug making process is unique in the sense that everything is done by hand.
Following the Chinese occupation of Tibet in early 1950, a large numbers of Tibetian refugees migrated to Nepal bringing with them the ancient art and knowledge of rug making. Today Nepal has a thriving community of Tibetans producing rugs for the local and international market.
The wool, particularly the length of the fibre and oil content, is the single most important factor in determining the quality and beauty of the finished rug. The Tibetan wool comes from the Himalayan mountain sheep which roam freely on the highest plateau in the world. Because of the extreme climate and altitude, their coats are strong, long and rich in lanolin, a natural protective oil. What is exceptional about the wool is that the dye permeates deep into the fibre, resulting in lustre that is resistant to fading and stains. This makes the Tibetan wool fibres one of the finest and hardwearing in the world for carpet making and makes the Tibetan rug unrivalled in texture and richness.
This is the first step in the creation of our rugs. It is a labour intensive process whereby the wool is gently combed through with toothed brushes. This process is traditionally used to separate the wool and prepare it for spinning. While a machine can comb the wool and align its fibres in the blink of an eye, it will break the fibres and make the resulting yarn too uniform. By comparison, hand carding preserves the precious fibres, and the resulting yarn is very natural and distinctively raw.
After hand carding, the wool is hand spun. In addition to been more time and labour intensive than machine spinning, hand spinning also uses more of the wool resulting in rugs with a richer texture.
Dye is used to bring life and variety to the wool. Our workshops use natural vegetable dyes and pigments from the specially crafted Swiss Complex Dyes for the more vibrant colours that vegetable dyes are unable to produce. Because the wool has still not been washed, it needs to stay longer in the dye resulting in better and durable colours. This is in contrast to wool that has been washed first before dyeing which only needs to stay for a shorter time in the dye and as a result produce less durable colours.
The rugs are woven in a rectangular, vertical loom using the traditional Tibetan knot, also called a “looped Senneh”. Each knot results in a single point of colour in the pile of the finished rug. Traditional Tibetan rugs come in 40 to 60 knots per square inch. Our rugs have a minimum of 100 knots per square inch. This higher knotting count which requires more labour and precision, allows us to achieve more articulate and refined designs as well as rugs of a finer quality.
Trimming & Washing
When the rug is complete, it is taken off the loom and put through a rigorous process whereby all the loose wool fibres are trimmed off by hand to bring uniformity to its surface. The master cutter trims the edges of the design for it to stand out. After trimming and inspecting, it is washed by hand to clean and soften the wool and enhance the sheen. The rug is then sun dried and stretched so that the edges are straight.