Turning Raw Tibetan Sheep Wool into Colourful Strong Yarn
We use pure Tibetan sheep wool.
The natural climatic conditions of the Himalayan grazing grounds and the altitude of about 5,000 meters above sea level provide the perfect conditions for the native Tibetan sheep to grow long rich coats of wool with high lanolin content. The lanolin ensures long durability by repelling dirt and moisture from the carpet’s surface. The first step of our carpet manufacturing process is a rigorous quality check of the raw wool.
Once the wool arrives from Tibet, it is inspected for its share of coarse outer wool versus fine, soft inner wool as well as for its freshness and the length of the fibers. Only long fibers are used in order to ensure the optimal strength of the yarn. The outer wool is removed and the soft inner wool is handpicked for weaving.
A bale of wool naturally comes with a mix of white and darker wool shares. The darker shares need to be hand-sorted in order to ensure colour consistency during the dyeing process. Only in the case that a customer wishes the natural colour variety to be used for the carpet, the wool remains unsorted. The raw wool is washed in fresh water to remove excess lanolin, soil and stains. After washing, the wool is sun-dried for two to three days.
Lanolin-bound virgin wool needs gentle hand-carding to soften it before spinning it into yarn. It takes about three days to hand-card the wool for one square meter of carpet. Carding by machines would take a few minutes and reduce production costs significantly. However, it damages the natural structure of the fiber which in turn weakens the strength of the thread and eventually shortens the life span of the carpet.
Spinning the wool by hand is a gentle procedure that retains the original texture of the fiber. Traditionally, hand-spinning was done using spindles. Nowadays, spindles have been replaced by Charkhas: hand-run spinning wheels. It takes about two days to hand-spin the wool for one square meter of carpet. Looping the yarn is required for preparing the dyeing process.
We prefer the manual dyeing procedure as it was practiced for centuries in Tibet. The wool is dyed in a copper pot which gives the Dye Master the freedom for versatility and control over the character and quality of the colour. If however strict colour consistency is prioritized, machine dyeing is applied. Depending on the customers’ preference, we use vegetable dyes or synthetic dyes from Switzerland. We offer several hundreds of distinct colour shades developed by our Dye Master. The freshly dyed yarn is sun- dried for a few days.
Finally, balling the yarn facilitates easy use of the yarn for weaving.
The Art of Tibetan Carpet Weaving
Based on the size of the carpet, the looms are set with the warp threads mounted over the loom.
The warp thread used is a pure cotton thread chosen for its strength and structural consistency.
In Tibetan carpet manufacturing, there are two crucial steps which not only significantly impact the overall appearance of the final product but also decides whether the carpet has become a piece of art or not. The first one is the selection and combination of colours for each particular carpet design, the second one is the sculpting of the design. With us, both are regarded an artistry in itself and handled with the best care and attention.
With more than thirty years of experience, we can advise customers on the best selection and combination of colours, resorting to the immense palette of our hundreds of colour shades developed by our Dye Master for exclusive use.
Once, the blueprint of the carpet design is transferred onto graphic design paper, yarn samples of the selected colours are attached to a colour chart and coded by numbers. The numbers are then copied onto the graphic design paper and along with the color chart passed on to the weavers for transforming them into a woven carpet.
Whether a Tibetan carpet is made in Tibet, Nepal or India, the common feature remains the double knotting technique or so-called 'Senna’ loop.
This unique technique used in Tibet has remained unchanged for centuries. The 'Senna' loop is done by using a metal rod, which is placed horizontally against the warp. The yarn is first looped around two warp threads and then looped one more time around the rod.
When the weaver has completed one row of knots around the rod the elevated loops are hammered down and pushed further into the pile by combing the loops vigorously down between the warp. Next, the looped knots are cut open into forming the pile of the carpet and then, the pile is trimmed. Finally, the weft, the same cotton thread used for the warp, is passed horizontally to interlock the warp threads between the finished and the next row of the pile.
Once the weaving is completed the carpet is taken off the loom by cutting the looped warp threads.
Despite best efforts, some knots remain not fully pulled to the surface of the carpet during the process of weaving. Those knots protrude on the back of the carpet. Weavers push each one of them back in the right position using a pointed metal tool. A newly finished carpet is fuzzy and rough on the surface. To render it smooth and enhance the beauty, the surface of the carpet is clipped with a huge scissor. The process is called ‘khapshoo’ in Tibetan.
The carpets are then washed with fresh water using wooden scrapers, soft brushes and combs to remove excess lanolin and fibers and to bring up the woolen piles' inherent luster. Gentle soaps are used to enhance the softness, sheen and vibrancy of the colours. Washed carpets are spread in the sun for drying.
Turning the New Carpet into a Unique Piece of Art
The crest of the entire carpet manufacturing process, separating the wheat from the chaff, is the design sculpting. This unrivalled feature of the Tibetan carpet weaving tradition requires perfect technique and balance to carve out the full beauty of the design and accentuate the colour nuances.
If over-cut, the design looks chiseled, if under-cut it looks bland, both of which will spoil the overall appearance of the carpet. Our Cutting Master has been trained in-house and over the last 20 years continuously refined his sculpting skills, which he is passing on to his staff.
The time required to sculpture one square meter of carpet depends on the intricacy of the design and can vary from one day to an entire week.
The weaving leaves unsightly white cotton fringes on both ends of the carpet. The warp threads are sewn off and covered with a matching cotton cloth lining.
This procedure also adds to the life span of the carpet as it protects the cotton fringes from being damaged by vacuum cleaning.
At the end of a three month journey, the unique hand-made carpet is labeled and signed, guaranteeing compliance with all our claims for international quality management standards. The United Kingdom Accreditation Service regularly reviews our compliance with these standards.