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Carpet-making

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To make a Tibetan carpet, typically Tibetan wool – from sheep bred for their unusually long, high-tensile wool – is blended with foreign processed wool. Once it is spun into yarn, much of the spinning is still done by hand, producing a distinctive, slightly irregular look. It is then dyed and rolled into balls. Tibetan-style carpets are produced by the cut-loop method, which bears little relation to the process employed by Middle Eastern and Chinese artisans. Rather than tying thousands of individual knots, the weaver loops the yarn in and out of the vertical warp threads and around a horizontally placed rod; when the row is finished, the weaver draws a knife across the loops, freeing the rod. Once the weaving is finished, the carpets are trimmed to give an even finish, in some cases embossed and then washed (an industrial process which pollutes local streams with chemicals linked with birth defects). Most carpets are made-to-order for the export market, with distribution controlled by a small collection of traders. Prices vary widely: at the bottom end expect to pay around $50 per square metre; top-of-the-range carpets can be three times this, or even more. (Many Nepali producers also produce Afghan, Middle Eastern and Kashmiri-style carpets, though these are rarely as fine as the originals.)

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