Though the process outlined below focuses on Tibetan carpets, most of the steps and techniques are also used to create Tufenkian's Armenian rugs as well.
Tibetan sheep are raised by nomads in the Himalayan Mountains, which range from 12,000 to 20,000 feet above seal level. They produce lustrous, resilient, lanolin-rich wool that is considered the finest in the world for rug production.
In order to preserve the natural lanolin, personality and character of its fibers, Tufenkian wool is never bleached or scoured. Instead, it is washed gently in local rivers to remove impurities.
After the wool is washed, it is moved to the riverbanks or nearby fields to dry naturally in the sun.
Tibetan sheep are not bred for uniformity as in other countries. Therefore, the wool is sorted according to color variations: white, beige, dark brown and black.
Using a metal-bristled brush, the fibers of the wool are roughly aligned in preparation for hand spinning.
Using simple, foot-powered wooden wheels, the wool is spun into yarn. This process creates many of the beautiful imperfections found in Tufenkian carpets.
Dyeing is done in energy-efficient sealed containers for color control and to save energy. Swiss Metal Complex dyes are used, which are more consistent in color and will never run or fade, while allowing the natural character of the wool to express itself.
The weavers follow the pattern shown on a full-sized graph that hangs in front of them. There are usually four to five workers for a 9’ x 12’ rug, which is made up of 650,000 to 1.5 million knots and takes an astonishing 3,000 hours of human labor to complete.
Once the carpet is woven, it is leveled with large shears, and then finely detailed with light carving between colors, adding subtle impact to the carpet design.
Tufenkian carpets are either washed in Europe’s premiere washing and finishing facility or in the Tufenkian (Nepal) wash—an environmentally-responsible system developed by Tufenkian in Nepal that, for most carpets, matches the quality of European washing and is unsurpassed in environmental responsibility.