Shyrdak Rugs

A shyrdak (Kyrgyz)or syrmak (Kazakh) is a stitched, and often colourful felt floor- or wall-covering, usually handmade in Central Asia. Kazakhs and Kyrgyz alike traditionally make shyrdaks, but especially in Kyrgyzstan, the traditional is still alive, and many of the products are sold to tourists.


Steps in the process of making a shyrdak

It takes the wool from approximately five sheep to make one shyrdak rug. The process is slow and labour-intensive. Traditionally shyrdak rugs have been made by women.Once collected the wool is picked clean washed, dried then dyed. The Shyrdak is usually designed in an inlaid patchwork highly contrasting colours such as red and green, yellow and black, brown and white. Once the wool is dried a brightly coloured pattern is laid on to a plain background this is then soaked with soap and water rolled up and literally pressed this process is repeated.

Once the pattern starts to hold, the rug is reversed soaked and rolled again after some hours the shyrdak rug is left to dry. Two contrasting layers of felt are the laid on top of one another and a pattern is then marked on the top layer in chalk. This is painstakingly and laboriously cut out with the felt maker frequently sharpening the knife which will blunt quickly.

This creates a stunning positive/negative style visual image usually full of symbolic motif images that represent things around them i.e. the water, goat horns, a yurt etc. Representations of sheep and shepherds are particularly common in Kazkahstan. The felt that is cut from the top layer is not wasted and is used to create another mirror image shyrdak with the reverse colours of the original shyrdak.