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The weaving of a hand-knotted Tibetan rug begins with the washing of the Tibetan fleeces in the clear Himalayan streams of Kathmandu Valley.
The wool is then hand-sorted for colour-the white wool for dyeing, the brown and grey tones for use undyed where a natural look is sought after. The luscious Tibetan wool is then carded and blended with fine white wool from New Zealand before being spun by hand. Although hand spinning is well known in many parts of the orient it is rarely practiced in modern production. In our collections every ounce of yarn is spun by hand to ensure the highest possible quality of the finished product.
The biggest concentration of carpet weaving is found in the Buddhist village of Boudha on the north-eastern edge of the city. This whole district is peppered with monasteries and is dominated by the fifteenth century Tibetan Stupa which is the spiritual centre for the refugee community. The yarn is dyed with best quality dyestuffs from Switzerland. In the weaving districts of Kathmandu almost every rooftop is covered with hanks of dyed yarn hung out to dry.
The Tibetan knotting technique was known in many parts of the world in antiquity, but today it is only used in Tibet and by the Tibetan refugee weaving centres in Nepal and India. The weaver holds a metal rod against the warp threads on the loom and then ties the woollen pile yarn around the warps and the rod with an endless thread which is interrupted only when there is a change of colour. Once the rod is full it is beaten down firmly with a heavy metal hammer against the finished work.
The weaver then cuts across the face of the rod with a sharp knife, inserts the weft thread, beats it all down again with a metal comb and finally trims the pile level on the loom. But the action of cutting across the rod, combined with the fact that the yarn is all hand-spun, gives the finished surface of the rug a lively texture which cannot be achieved by any other weaving method.
When the weaving is complete the carpet is cut from the loom and worked on flat on the floor. The outlines of the design are incised with a pair of fine scissors and the whole surface is trimmed again with broad-bladed shears to get an even overall appearance.
By now the carpet contains quite a lot of dust and loose fibre, so it now goes through a final finishing process. It is dipped in a bath of mild detergent and then laid out flat and worked over by hand with wooden paddles. This takes the edge off the rather raw look the rug had when it came off the loom and makes sure the pile is lying evenly in the right direction. The rug is dryed in the gentle Kathmandu sun on a stretching frame: the weavers want to be sure that the rug will lie flat and straight for many years. The fringes at both ends of the rug are a necessary part of the weaving process, but if the customer wishes the rug can be supplied with a bound woollen end-finish.