Kyrgyz handicrafts: Shyrdak and Ala-Kiyiz

Kyrgyz an ancient people and have always been involved in cattle breeding. Shyrdak and Ala-Kiyiz household items related precisely to cattle breeding since the material was always at hand. From there originates Kyrgyz handicrafts, which has survived to this day.

Only 2 basic technologies used in the manufacture of felt carpets – shyrdak and ala-kiyiz.


Shyrdak is a national rug made in the complex mosaic technique. The word “shyrdak” comes from the word “shyryk”, which means stitching – this is one of the main processes in creating a shyrdak, which makes it very strong and durable. Its service life can reach up to one hundred years, depending on the care of the product. From the very beginning, the craftswoman will take about two months to make a medium-sized shyrdak, if she works only on this carpet. But traditionally shyrdak made together with family and relatives. This collective approach reduces the time and effort required to make a carpet.

The manufacturing process consists of several stages. Firstly, felt fabrics of various colors, mainly natural dyeing, are made. For staining, plant roots, onion peel, pomegranate bark, walnut peel, etc. are used. For the base, a black or dark brown felt of a dense structure for the substrate is used. Traditional ornaments and patterns cut out of colored felt with a sharp knife. Patterns lay down as negative-positive and stitch together. For durability and to give texture, the entire surface of the shyrdak quilted according to ornaments, connecting the upper and lower layers.

Often, the Shyrdaks indulge between generations and with trepidation treated as a family heirloom. Shyrdak a mandatory wedding gift with a dowry, a housewarming gift, and for anniversaries.


Ala-kiyiz –  felt carpets with patterns rolled up in them. The name translates as colorful felt. They are easier to manufacture but no less colorful and attractive. They used in households and also for decoration. The carpet has a lifespan of up to twenty years.

The manufacturing process repeats the basic process of manufacturing felt. Pure dry black wool laid on the mat; colored dry wool laid on it in the form of patterns and ornaments. Then the entire surface poured with hot soapy water to bond the fibers. The mat wrapped and kicked off for about half an hour. After the felt cloth rolled out by hand, washing the product and allows it to dry. Possible to reuse the ala-kiyiz for new back surfaces of shyrdak and yurt covers.

An ornament is a message, a kind of writing in Kyrgyz handicrafts. The traditional pattern for felt products has something in common with the world around us: nature (suu-water), flora and fauna (karga tyrmak – raven claws, anar-grenade, etc.). More often reproduced the terrain – mountains, plants, rivers. When the girl’s dowry being prepared, it was the language of her family, told where she came from, talked about the fact that she from a prosperous family and that she would not forget where she came from. The ornament included the wishes of women of her kind, her family. Mom in one of some ornaments made a kind of fog – tumar – she encrypted the message that her daughter should be happy, healthy, that she had many children, a good husband, that her ancestral spirits would keep.

We will definitely tell you more about the sacred values ​​of Kyrgyz traditional handicrafts in the following publications.

To experience traditional Kyrgyz handicrafts you can join our Handicraft Tour. 

Written by Aisha Mambetalieva.
May 27, 2020.

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