Weaving in Kyrgyzstan
Weaving is an integral part of Kyrgyz culture and life. Historically, most Kyrgyz people were nomadic herders, so one resource they had in abundance was livestock. Camels, horses, sheep, goats, and yaks provided everything from transportation to meat to milk to wool. Wool was the main tool at their disposal for making clothing, household items, and decorations, and they used it to its fullest.
Before you start thinking that these skills are merely a thing of the past, know that many Kyrgyz people are still nomadic herders today. Weaving is not a lost art, but rather a continued practice of the Kyrgyz people!
Many things fit under the umbrella of weaving of Kyrgyzstan. Not only is it used to describe weaving carpets, for example, but also other activities such as sewing or embroidery. Basically anything handmade with wool or yarn is considered woven.
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DO KYRGYZ PEOPLE WEAVE?
Kyrgyz women are famous for weaving colorful felt carpets that are laid down to make the floor of a yurt. (Yurts are round felt tents used as portable homes by nomads.) They incorporate beautiful Kyrgyz designs into them that favor colors such as blue, red, and yellow, but can include a wide variety of colors. Other woven items include felt squares that are used to sit on, wall bags that serve as clothing storage, felt hats, slippers, and toys for children to name a few.
WHAT KIND OF WEAVING WILL I SEE ON A TOUR OF KYRGYZSTAN?
Demonstrations of Kyrgyz weaving practices are held in Kochkor and allow travelers to see the process of how Kyrgyz women make the most iconic felt item, the carpet. In fact, travelers that attend this demonstration can participate and make a small felt rug of their own! Remember, this is not a demonstration of something that was only done centuries ago that only a few people still know how to do. This is a glimpse into a facet of real nomadic Kyrgyz life today!
WILL THERE BE OPPORTUNITIES TO BUY TRADITIONAL KYRGYZ WOVEN PRODUCTS ON MY TOUR?
Yes. If your tour lists weaving in the tour activities, you will have the opportunity to buy felt/woven products. Even if your tour does not list this activity, as long as you stop by any of the larger bazaars in Kyrgyzstan during your tour, you can find vendors that sell traditional Kyrgyz products.
Don’t pass up the opportunity to witness this beautiful part of Kyrgyz culture! See the ancient practices that have stood the test of time and continue to be a huge part of nomadic life. Weaving demonstrations are offered from the end of May to mid-September, and products can be bought in larger bazaars and souvenir shops all year round.