How Our Tibetan Carpets Are Made

Tiger Rug Co. is a purveyor of Tibetan oriental carpets

We have been importing oriental carpets from Nepal since the summer of 2000. The wool used in the production of these carpets is derived from sheep that graze in the Himalayan mountain range of Tibet at altitudes of 12,000 feet and higher. Due to this high altitude and extreme cold temperatures, the wool produced has unusually high lanolin content.
It is the lanolin content that gives the wool a natural stain resistance and a very soft feel to the touch. This wool is considered the finest wool available in the world for the weaving of carpets. Tiger Rug Co. uses pure Tibetan Himalayan wool in our carpet making process. We do not blend our wool – ever.

Tibetan nomads care for the sheep

Tibetan nomads tend the sheep. They live in tents that are covered with fabric made from yak wool. These tents are easily broken down in order to move to greener pastures for sheep grazing purposes. The nomads carry out the sheep shearing and the raw wool is sold to the government cooperative located at the border between China (Tibet) and Nepal. Sometimes obtaining adequate supplies of wool is difficult during the winter and monsoon seasons with roads impassable for trucking. In this case, the nomads trek the wool on their backs to the co-op. From the co-op, it is sold and shipped to manufacturing facilities.

Wool must be washed and sorted, combed, hand-spun then hand-dyed

Once the wool is received at the factory, the groundwork is metered out. The wool must be initially washed and sorted into four categories: black, brown, gray and natural.

Only the natural color is preferred for carpet making as it absorbs best the dyeing process. Next, the sorted wool is combed or carded on paddle-like combs with long nail inserts which allow the wool to be pulled apart over and over so that the fibers are all going in the same direction from end to end. This process readies the wool for spinning by hand.
Once spinning is complete, the long skeins of wool are washed again readying it for the dyeing process. The dyeing process uses a Swiss chemical dye process, which is essential to ensure continuity of color. The wool is hand-dyed in small batches to allow dye lot evenness and absorption. The dyed wool must be allowed to dry thoroughly in the sun before it is color-coded. Color-coding skeins must be error free to avoid any confusion in the carpet making process. The wool is then wound into melon-sized balls for placement beside the weavers’ benches.

The weaving of a Tibetan carpet

The issue of child labor gave us cause for concern when we contemplated this venture because we did not wish to contribute to this age-old problem. Once a master weaver sets the cotton warp and weft threads on the loom, a government inspector visits the factory to indicate through a loom marker that the weaving will be carried out by an individual 16 years of age or older.  The master weaver then directs the weaver as to the specific colors in a particular design through the use of what is called a cartoon, design map or graph. 

The graph remains draped over the top of the loom for continual reference to change of yarn color and design placement. The weaver uses the sennah or Tibetan knot, which utilizes a long steel rod, around which wool is knotted in long horizontal rows. When a row is complete, the row of knots is cut loose from the steel rod using a razor-type tool. A long-fingered comb is then used to align the row of knots tightly to the previous row. Now, the steel rod is reinserted, and the weaving continues. It takes approximately one week to complete one linear foot of weaving.

Our carpets are available in a myriad of standard sizes from 2'x 3' to 10'x 14' as well as runners. Custom rug sizes & colors may be special ordered.

Completing a carpet

When the works of art are complete – and that’s what these Tibetan oriental carpets are, they are released from the loom and embossed and trimmed with special scissors a first time, then placed on a stretcher for two days in the sunlight to return it to as near perfect alignment as possible.

The carpet is then washed thoroughly and allowed to air dry completely in direct sunlight. A second embossing and trimming is then carried out. The fringe is dealt with, either leaving it exposed or sewn under and covered with a cloth binding tape, which is the trend at present.

A final inspection is then carried out before the carpet is rolled up as opposed to folding it to prevent wrinkles, and stored in plastic coated wrapping. The carpets are ready for shipment and distribution to the western market.

As Nepal is land locked, shipment by sea requires overland trucking to Calcutta, which takes four to five days, weather permitting, and a container ship journey, lasting three to four weeks. Air shipment starts with a journey by truck to Katmandu airport with an Asian, Middle Eastern or European stopover before arriving in the US in approximately ten days time. A US Customs inspection takes place before delivery of the Tibetan oriental carpets to our east coast warehouse.