Kara Suu – Camels, Felt and Thread

13. + 14. August 2023



From Kara Taala it was not so far to our next destination: Kara Suu, a village very close to Kochkor. What always amazes me here is the amount of (Soviet) monuments – besides the countless statues and busts of the deceased. It was again through great countryside, relatively dry.






We drove along the Ortotokoi dam. I remembered that it was a very large lake at that time – 1.5 years ago. Maps also show it as a large expanse of water – but there wasn’t much there in concrete terms.


dam 1


dam 2


And then a big surprise: a herd of camels! There are few camels in Kyrgyzstan and these are the first ones I saw here. It looked like no one was in charge of them, at least there was no other person than one who had even stopped and wanted a photo. The camels did not look like they were in the best condition. But what to do but take a few photos and then drive on?




camels 1


camels 2


camels 3


Our destination was a particular household in Kara Suu, namely with a family who were big into felting and handicrafts and offered workshops or just demonstrations of how their things were made. We had booked a workshop and therefore stayed for 2 nights. First we felted a kind of picture from the very beginning. First, the roughly cleaned sheep’s wool was cut into small pieces:




After that, you hit the parts with such springy poles – if you have aggression, this is a great activity. A lot of dirt comes out in the process.




Then lay out this background wool in a square and use coloured sheep’s wool to make patterns on it:


laid pattern


Then hot water is poured over it and it is rolled up and you roll this roll around and step on it hard:




roling in




After you have done this proficiently, you can unroll it again and wonder what has become of the pattern:


roling out




But you are not finished yet – now you put hot water on it again and rub in soap:






At the end, everything is washed out and pressed and the piece is hung up to dry.






And then, interestingly, these parts are rather used as padding for seat cushions. We didn’t find our result that beautiful either.


Next up was a small Shyrdak square. Shyrdaks are the traditional Kyrgyz carpets, which are made according to a certain principle (more onĀ Wikipedia). You take two different coloured felt plates (painstakingly made by hand) and put them on top of each other. The pattern is drawn on one of them (the patterns all have a meaning, mostly from the world of plants and animals) and then cut out. Then the pieces are placed one inside the other in opposite directions, resulting in two identical triangles or squares with opposite patterns:






We decided for some kind of Ibex


opposite Ibex


And then it was time to sew. Two twisted threads are used as a border and the patterns are sewn down with them. It takes a long time and looks a bit crumply at the beginning. But eventually you get better.


I am sewing




At the end, the piece is ironed and then it’s ready like mine. I want to put a frame around it and hang it on my wall. Ute worked on hers some more and made a seat cushion with another sewn border. She was faster at sewing anyway.






That was totally nice to do something different for a day and a half and sit with the family and the women. They were doing quite well – there were 3 other groups that came during this time, but they all only got a demonstration. But even that was done quite nicely. We had a special translator: Kali. She is 17 years old and is doing some kind of English studies in Bishkek and was visiting her mother. Kali is special because she is very very communicative, funny and warm – much more than all the other people we met here. She told us a bit about her life and showed us pictures etc.


Kali and me


After all this manual labour, however, there was still time for a walk around the village. It was such a typical Soviet village with square streets from the time when everyone needed a fixed address and was supposed to be agricultural instead of nomadic.










memorial 1


memorial 2






We thought that in such an area with so little traffic you would get a lift quickly, but at least 3 vehicles passed this poor hitchhiker just like that. Then we turned off. The wind was quite strong and the young man was rather too lightly dressed with his T-shirt.


And in the evening, a special culinary treat was waiting for us:


Special culinary treat


We tasted it, couldn’t identify the taste and didn’t like it much. And then we got the explanation: bump from those sheep with the extra large bump:




That was the end of our Kara Suu stay and the next day we drove to a new sight. Our driver made some facial expressions (very cold, bad road) – I wonder what this would be?