The Kyrgyz Shyrdak

A carpet, not woven, not knotted, but felted from the wool of the mountain sheep, warm and soft, cut into ornaments and sewn together again in a multifaceted way using the mosaic technique. The Shyrdak is little known in Europe, seldom exhibited and rare to buy.

For centuries women in Kyrgyzstan have felted these treasures as bridal gifts or as warming decorations for their houses and yurts. Every region, every family and every feltmaker has its own specific style. Thanks to the long tradition and rich experience in felting technology, these carpets are outstanding. There is a canon of typical national patterns, but every woman designs and varies according to her preferences for colors and ornamentation. That’s why every Shyrdak is unique!

How Shyrdaks are made

Shyrdak means traditional felt carpets from Kyrgyzstan made by using the traditional mosaic technique. Their shining, contrasting colors and their expressive ornamentation (stylized animal horns, snow-capped mountain peaks, diamond shapes, flower garlands, etc.) catch the viewers eyes. The typical Shyrdak consists of one large or several small areas, the edge is made of ribbons of different widths. With scissors or a knife, two different colored layers of felt (positive and negative) are cut out ornamentally and with a double plait stitch sewn together.

By sewing onto a natural, equally large piece of felt, a soft, double-layered carpet is created.

It takes a whole year to produce Shyrdak: the mountain sheep are sheared in the spring. This is the only step in the production that is carried out by men. In summer there is felting – a physically very strenuous process that takes many weeks. Coloring takes place in autumn and winter, and natural colors (nuts, onions, teas, herbs and grasses) are sometimes used. Then the creative part of designing, cutting out and sewing begins. Felt production in Kyrgyzstan is extremely ecologically and economically efficient. All the necessary materials come from the rich nature of Kigistan, Shyrdaks represent the ideal use of the available resources.

We thank our member Ursula Meyer for this informative text!