Learning to Weave Carpets at 4 Years Old

And Dad, he started when he was 4 years old. 

"Four years old?!?" 

Yes Dad was 4 years old, and he didn't learn it from his own father. He learned from one of my grandfather's friends. My grandfather said that 'If I taught him at home, he won't learn. But he would learn from outside, from other people.'

I can see how this is probably true. I tell Sumi so. 

So my grandfather sent him out to learn, and get experience from people.

When Dad was 4, he used to take him - because he was so young! - he used to take him on his shoulders. I mean the teacher, the one who was the main teacher for my dad, who taught him how to make carpets. So they used to go like this to the workplace, and he used to live in there, and he also asked the other carpet workers to teach my dad sometimes. 

In Pokhara, the other traveller staying with the family occupied herself with flipping through Mr. Ghulam's mementos that he kept on one of the cashmere shelves. There was a framed cutting from an old German magazine among the items. It was a story about Mr. Ghulam's father. In the article, he was recognised as the best carpet maker in India by Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India at the time. 

That was how we learned about Sumi's family line of Kashmiri weavers. And that even though his father was a famous carpet weaver, he had sent Mr. Ghulam to learn the weaving trade from someone else, starting from the very bottom. 

My grandfather was a weaver, and he used to do needlework. But he used to also do a lot of different things - like farming - but at the same time he used to make carpets. And my aunts - most of my family on my dad's side, they make carpets. They have a lot of knowledge about carpets. 

Ethical Cashmere weaving pedigree | Grandfather of Ethical Cashmere co-founder honoured as the best carpet maker in India by Indira Gandhi | feature article in a German magazine

I wonder aloud what weaving classes involved. What do they start with? 

My dad was too young! I don't think they really taught him the weaving part then! Probably the first thing was the tools. I think. First... I think they had started with tools - which tool is used for what, the names of the tools. And then of course they have to learn the drawn designs.

That's certainly a different sort of school! 

And if you are working in a group making carpets, 5-6 weavers, there is one main leader, the team leader. He would have the design paper, and everyone else listens carefully to what he says about what they were making. You would weave carpets according to that. The first thing we do when we make a carpet is we make a design, and then we put colours. We study the graph paper and make the colour combination. 

Slowly Dad learned from the team leader, when they used to work in a group. It took him like, 10 years, until he could do it perfectly. By then he was like 14 or 15 years old. And at that time he completely knows what to do, and the designs, and everything.

It was certainly a different time. An age when people grew up faster, and knew a trade by 15. 


~ a story told to me by Sumi Beigh


Photo credits: Mathan Kumar (Unsplash), Nur Baiki Hikaru, Veeaam Ghayur (Unsplash)

Learning to Weave Carpets at 4 Years Old-EthicalCashmere