CARPETS AND FELT ARTICLES
Felt articles are the most popular and widely
spread in Kyrgyzstan. Felt or Kiyiz in Kyrgyz, is a natural and fine material,
which manufacturing is very laborious process. Felt produces from sheared
in autumn cheep wool, but the process of manufacture requires warm and sunny
weather. Sheared wool is then being washed and cleaned. Then dry wool is placed
on Chiy mat and whipped for several hours to make it fluffy, then the surface
is sprinkled with hot water and Chiy mat is rolled up and string tied up around
it. Then combined roll it is poured with hot water once again and taken to
an open space and rolled, kicked and trodden on for several hours. This melds
the wool together into a friable whole. The mat is then unwound and the resulting
felt left to dry.
Felt serves as the main material in construction
of the yurta - Kyrgyz dwelling and a reliable nomadic shelter either at chilling
winter or heating summer. But besides this, felt was also used for making
ornamented carpets - the main components in multi-layered yurt decoration.
There are no similar articles in folk artistic creation where so fully were
declared the principles of building of Kyrgyz patterns, its distinguishing
Manufacture of felt ornamented articles was the
female prerogative. A good hand at felt - Ormokchu - were usually invited
to the families and only managed the process as well as outlining the pattern
on the felt panel and cutting out the outline. In other works she was helped
by women from the family where she worked. All necessary materials were provided
by the customer. Usually there were no beforehand agreements on payment and
workers were paid by livestock, food or sometimes by clothes and fabrics.
All the professional skills were impart from generation to generation and
rare were obtained from professional masters outside the family.
Artistic peculiarities of felt articles depend
on the technique. There are various methods of ornamenting felt articles.
The central field pattern is most often based on large - sized various curls
"muyuz" with forks and sprouts "karga tyrmak" and "ala
bakan" composed in cross - shaped figures "tort muyuz" or include
in ovals or diamonds "tabak oyuu". Ala kiyiz pattern is close to
the shyrdak pattern; but it has softer and blurred shape due to the peculiarities
of its production process.
The most spread are ala-kiyiz and shyrdak or
shirdamal. The traditional sizes of felt carpets, 1.5 x 3 m and 2 x 4 m are
stemming from the width - length proportion 1 x 2. Nowadays, the most popular
are small carpets both ornamented or bearing the author's unique pattern.
Kyrgyz shirdaks are recognised at first sight. It is probably
one of the best known felt hand-made articles. Shirdak is colourful carpet,
made of fine stitches. It has extremely decorative and monumental patterns
with typical equality of background and pattern, rhythmical simplicity and
expressiveness. Having comparatively monotonous motives based on things in
the natural environment: kochkor muiuz - horn of the mountain sheep, teke
muiuz - horn of the mountain goat, ky'yal - fantasy; the principle of negative
- positive location creates the feeling of richness of carpet patterns even
with its plane character and restricted colour spectrum. In 1960's it became
fashionable to make multi-coloured shirdaks and more recently, the large traditional
patterns were often replaced by geometrical designs such us rhomboids or hexagons.
In ancient times Shirdaks were not
available just for everybody, while today it is an integral part of interior
of most of Kyrgyz houses. Shirdaks laid down in the center of the yourta,
on the place called Tor, just across the entrance. A few of them also kept
To make shirdak felted wool is firstly
washed, then dried and dyed. Before dyeing, big sheets of felt are cut into
square pieces. The background normally has dark colour and uses only thick
part of felt. The upper panel makes as following: take two coloured pieces
(say red and green) and loosely stitch them together. Then outline of the
pattern is drown in chalk in a corner of the top layer of felt. The second
half of the pattern is produced by folding the felt over and hitting the back
so that the chalk outline is imprinted as a mirror reflection - the pattern
now covers half of the square of felt. This process is repeated to produce
another mirror image on the other half of the square. In this way a perfectly
symmetrical pattern is produced.
A sharp knife is then used to cut round the outline.
The result is four pieces of felt - two backgrounds and two inner patterns
- in different colours. The two background pieces, which are still connected
by the thread originally used to join the two squares, are separated.
The inner part of the colour is then sewn into
the background piece of contrasting colour to form a square form. When the
second panel is completed: 1. The two are sewn together to give a mirror image
of contrasting colours. Or 2. Making large carpets the colourful panel is
sewing together with dark panels. The panels of the carpet are then surrounded
by a border. The outer edging usually consists of two or three borders of
different widths; each of them sewed on individually. The edging is based
on a wide border between the two narrow, field with a chain of petty curls,
triangles, broken lines, etc.
Finally, sewing on a backing to give extra thickness
(especially if the shyrdak is to be placed on the floor) completes the carpet.
Although it is possible for one person, working
alone, to produce a shyrdak, it is customary for several women in a village
to work together to produce the larger ones. The smaller carpets take about
15 days to make, while the larger ones can take about one and a half month.
Working on the own to produce a shyrdak 3m X 2m can take a single person anything
from 6 month to a year to make.
Not less popular are variegated felt carpets - Ala-Kiyiz. They
are in fact variegated, and by its tonal proportions is very close to the
colour of Kyrgyz mountains, which called Ala-Too - variegated mountains. But
Ala-Kiyiz has faded motley in comparison with clear and rhythmical distinctness
of Shirdak. It happens because manufacturing Ala-Kiyiz use different method
and technique but materials, pattern, colour and colour matching are kept
To make Ala-Kiyiz wool first is dyed of different
colours. A background is laid down taking wool of one colour and placing it
on a Chiy - a long mat made of reeds. Strands of other colours are then laid
on top to design a pattern or some image. The resulting wool mat can be several
inches thick. The wool is then poured with a hot water and Chiy is rolled
up and stringed around it. The roll is taken to an open space and rolled,
kicked and trodden on for several hours. This melds the wool together into
friable whole. The mat is then unwound and wool carpet left to dry.
When the wool has dried it becomes apparent that
the colours have partly "washed out" - and the borders between them
are less well defined - giving the individual motifs and a carpet as a whole
an individual and unique appearance. For this reason, the technique is becoming
particular popular for making "picture" panels.
Because the wool is not stitched, but is melded
together by this process, Ala-Kiyiz are not such sturdy carpets as Shirdaks.
Shirdak can serves thirty-forty years while Ala-Kiyiz only half as long -
but they are quicker to make.
In everyday life Ala-Kiyiz supposed to cover
the floor of yurta, in fixed houses they were laid down in the first room
where women do needlework or some other their tasks. Felt carpets were also
included in dowry.