About Shyrdaks

Bring the shyrdak into your home and experience the beauty!

A shyrdak is a stitched and felted wool carpet. For centuries the shyrdak has been the traditional carpet in yurts through out Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan, the art of making shyrdaks is still a thriving and strong part of their culture.

Shyrdaks look beautiful in both contemporary and traditional interiors, whether used for your living space, bedroom, hallway or on the wall.

We were first introduced to the beautiful artwork of the Kyrgyz people in June 2010 whilst visiting Kyrgyzstan to live and train with amster's yurt builders and felt artisans. Learn more about our trip. We participated in a shyrdak making workshop and made a warm connection with Altyn Kol, a women's handicraft cooperative and both enthused about bringing their art and culture to Nova Scotia.

From Sheep to Shyrdak

The shyrdak is handmade; from the shearing of the sheep to the felting process, until the final stitches are sewn into the felt. The word shyrdak comes from the word “shyrdama” meaning stitching, because it is stitched by hand. Since ancient times, the handmade shyrdak as a cultural centerpiece has belonged to the women of Kyrgyzstan. When making a shyrdak, the women work together, keeping shyrdak production a social and economic role in their lives.

The making of shyrdak’s is based on the artists living experiences as it was very closely linked to their daily life. By reflecting their thoughts, visions, as well as the beauty of their native Motherland and its nature, each shyrdak is designed and prepared individually, using the indigenous knowledge of Kyrgyz patterns, symbols, coloring and sewing techniques, patterns and ornamental designs.

Altyn Kol (Golden Hands)

Altyn Kol is a women’s handicraft cooperative in Kochkor, Kyrgyzstan specializing in creating the finest handmade felt products. The mission of Altyn Kol is to provide income to the local felt artisans of the Kochkor Region and thus carry on Kyrgyz culture and traditions for generations to come.

For many years in Kyrgyzstan, shyrdak production was traditionally for household use. A large, ornate shyrdak was the pride of a household, but in the past few decades, the traditional method of shyrdak making began to become lost among the younger generations of women.

That was until the winter of 1996, when a group of women in the Naryn Oblast of Kyrgyzstan realized that making traditional carpets could become a viable method for creating jobs and income for women in the rural areas of the region.

In 2002 the NGO was created to give women an opportunity to improve their lives economically and contribute to the economy, preserve the Kyrgyz national heritage for the younger generations by teaching them about culture and production and to introduce Kyrgyz culture all over the world. The women of Altyn Kol are expert shyrdak makers but they are also teachers, accountants, nurses and some help their families herd animals on the jailoos (high altitude pastures). Learn more about Altyn Kol and the amazing women who are keeping shyrdak making alive in their culture.

Care and Treatment of your Shyrdak

A clean and dry space is the best environment for your shyrdak. To ensure your shyrdak will have a long life remember to:

  • Shake out regularly or beat it with a tennis racket or broom
  • Expose to direct sunlight at least twice a year for 3 hours. If you put the shyrdak into storage, use mothballs.
  • Do not wash with water and brush. If the shyrdak gets stained, lightly dab it with a damp cloth and soapy water. Then iron the damp spot or dry in the sun.
  • Do not vacuum the shyrdak. The suction and bristles can destroy the felt.

Wonderful Wool

For 12,000 years wool has been an integral part of human life in keeping people and animals warm. Today, wool has become one of the most popular materials used in clothing, furniture, fabric, rugs, and insulation for homes and yurts!

The secret of wool lies in the structure of it fibres, which absorb moisture, insulate against heat and cold, resist flame, and maintains their resilience. Under a microscope the wool fibre is covered with tiny scales. When one fibres scales rub against those of others, they pull the fibres together in irreversible tangles. When compacted under heat and moisture, the wool shrinks into felt.

There are many health benefits of wool. Wool carpets and tapestries are becoming more popular as consumers are looking for more natural, chemical-free products.

Fire-resistant: The flame-retardant properties of wool are well known. Race car drivers wear suits of wool and more and more people are choosing wool for bedding because of its safety.

Insulating: Air trapped between fibres gives wool its insulating quality; wool provides great warmth for little weight. Wool carpets are ideal in rooms situated over garages or basements.

Durable: The fibers of wool carpet have a natural spring-like shape. This provides a great deal of “bounce back” from daily wear.

Water-resistant: Wool is the most hydrophilic of all natural fibres, absorbing as much as 30 percent of its weight without feeling wet. Water beads on wool, sitting on top of the fibres for a while, so you have time to clean it up.

Renewable: Wool is sheared off of the sheep every year. Carpet made from synthetic fibers often contain petroleum products, and petroleum is a non-renewable resource. Wool, on the other hand, renews itself quite rapidly!

Comfort: Wool carpet is soft and comfortable, and supports weight very well. Wool feels warm since fewer fibres touch the skin compared with other fabrics, so less heat is conducted away from the skin. Smooth cotton sheets feel cold; wooly blanets and carpets feel warm.