The making of a DOBAG carpet.

“Made entirely from wool, the village carpet begins life on the rocky hillsides of the Aegean Peninsula where flocks of sheep roam and graze as they have since prehistoric times, their tinkling copper neckbells in musical harmony.

Village sheep are one of many fat-tailed breeds indigenous to Anatolia that thrive in arid climates. When food is scarce, they survive on the fat stored in their abnormally large tails.

The animals supply meat and milk as well as a fine, lustrous fleece – the raw material for the handspun yarn.”

June Anderson ‘Return to Tradition.’

It takes a whole village to make a carpet and the process can take many months.

Although weaving is women’s work, the men of the village play an important role as shepherds, tending their small flocks each day to find suitable grazing. In winter the shepherd wears a kepenek, a cape of white felted wool which is windproof, waterproof and doubles as a sleeping bag at night.

Then when the time is right in spring and autumn the sheep are shorn gently by hand and the fleece washed in running water, often a river or creek. The wool retains lanolin which facilitates the spinning process.

Only the best winter wool is used for knotting a carpet. It has a long staple and can be heated to boiling temperatures without matting, making it suitable for dyeing. It takes the winter wool of about ten sheep to make one square metre of rug.

The wool is then combed to make it ready for spinning. The older women do most of the hand spinning using the drop spindle or wheel.

Drop spinning is one of the oldest forms of hand-spinning and has survived into the twentieth century because of its many practical advantages.

It is light and portable, well suited to nomadic life and easily incorporated into the daily work routine of tribal and village women.

The drop spindle spins a strong, tight yarn suitable for warp and weft threads.

The wheel is faster, and because it spins a looser thread which allows penetration of dyestuff, it is used to spin the yarn for tying the knots (or pile).
As well as doing much of the hand-spinning of wool, grandmothers help out with childcare.

Different yarns are handspun for the warp, weft and pile. The wool is then wound into loose skeins and is ready for the next process of dyeing.

In some villages the dyeing takes place at home and in other cases the weavers take their wool to a master dyer in the village.

All of the plant material required for dyeing with the exception of indigo, which is imported from India, is collected by the weavers and their families.

Natural dyed wool drying

The next stage is the setting up of the loom. In cottage industry such as the DOBAG project the carpets are woven on vertical looms set up in the weaver's own home.
The warp threads which form the foundation of the carpet are stretched between the two cross beams and held under tension by the upright sides of the loom. The pile of the carpet is made by tying knots around pairs of warps with the two ends facing the weaver. The two ends are cut with a hand held knife leaving the two tufts sticking out.

When a line of knots has been tied a weft thread is passed across and back, over and under alternate warps. The weft is then packed down with a beating comb so that the knots are held firmly in place.

This process continues until the carpet is finished. The weavers know the traditional designs very well and the whole carpet is woven from memory. This knowledge has passed from mother to daughter for many generations.

When the weaving is finished the carpet is cut from the loom and the warp ends are braided together to prevent them from unravelling.
Finally the new carpet is washed with pure soap and water.
The weavers are very proud of their finished carpet knowing they have created a practical thing of great beauty that will provide its new owner with a life time of pleasure.

One of our tour group members meets the weaver of the rug she bought in one of the DOBAG villages.
Read more about our Cultural Tours or browse our Rug Galleries.