The Tibetan Carpet Factory

by Annalise on January 7, 2010

There is a community of Tibetans in Kathmandu which have been here as refugees since the 1950s. What was first their refugee camp on the southern outskirts of the city has turned into a thriving community with temples, a school, hospital and businesses. There is no doubt however that they are here as refugees. As you enter, you feel that you’re in a different country. The dress is different from the basic consistent clothing of the Nepali woman and everyone speaks Tibetan which has a very different sound from Nepali. We came to the camp in search of the Tibetan Carpet Factory.

On the ground floor of this large factory are row after row of purpose-built carpet frames on which these gorgeous carpets are hand stitched. As you enter you hear a sporadic loud tapping sound over the voices of women chanting, visiting and singing as they sit cross-legged at their work. The smaller carpets are completed by one woman; the larger ones often have as many as four women working together. As the piece nears completion, the women move up on scaffolding to complete the top sections. The carpets hold either 60, 80 or 100 knots per square inch depending on the pattern and the yarns being used. Their work is fast as their nimble hands tie the knots into the weave onto a long needle. As each row is completed, the threads are cut and the row is tapped or hammered down against the last. The row is then trimmed to match the previous and the next one begins. Above their work is the pattern they are to follow but I rarely saw any of them stop to count out what they should be doing next; these are very familiar, traditional patterns.

The second floor holds the show room where a two large open spaces hold hundreds and hundreds of carpets. As you move through the show rooms, you see small to room sized pieces and in all types of traditional and more modern patterns; the variety is dizzying and while they may not all be your choice, the craftsmanship is consistent. And for these hand dyed, hand spun, and hand knotted carpets, the prices range from just over $100 UDS to about $450 USD plus shipping for even their largest pieces. The sales shop is most current and professional. They can arrange shipping to any international airport or can package your carpet into a very compact carry-on package for those flying out directly. They have a glass-covered table where past customers have left their business cards on display. It is absolutely full with cards from all over the world and we’re told it is refreshed about every six months with cards of new clients. Yes Sophie, you’re is still there!

Both Shirley and Sophie purchased carpets from the shop when they visited (they had their carpets folded and packaged for carry-on, a heavy but manageable compact package) and we’ve selected one to have shipped home for ourselves. In addition to the rich feel, the pattern, the colours and the price, we will continue to enjoy this piece as it holds the enduring image and sound of these women working in the factory and the knowledge that this work helps to keep their community viable and strong.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Shirley Robertson January 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Wow, did this ever bring back fabulous memories of the great time we had there, and how excited we were to discover it. You write so beautifully, painting with words. thanks you again for your wonderful travel stories.

Shirley Robertson January 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Is your carpet in one of the pictures????

Annalise January 9, 2010 at 2:47 am

Hi Shirley,

Ours is not in the photos although there are two there that I’d add if I had the room in my house. They have so many gorgeous carpets!

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