Like other oriental carpets, Sikkimese carpets are also hand knotted and woven in fixed vertical looms which are kept standing with the support of a wall. This art requires a high degree of concentration.
The carpet making craft is taken up mainly by women in Sikkim. The carpet designs are normally of mythical birds, flowers like the lotus, snowlions, dragons, eight Buddhist lucky signs etc.
Carpets of different sizes for covering walls, chairs, sofas, beds or diwans are made and marketed through the Sikkim Handloom and Handicrafts Development Corporation. The time taken in making these carpets varies according to the size of the carpets and their designs (that may take from one to several months) and also the ability of the weaver. These carpets can cost anywhere between a few thousands to a lakh.
The Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom, Government of Sikkim provides training in carpet weaving for two years to all interested Sikkimese boys and girls between the age group of 14 to 24 years.
After training, people can work from their own homes or they can avail of the employment facilities provided by the DirectorateThe state government has also accorded approval and sanction for the revision and enhancement of stipend to the trainees of the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handlooms with effect from 1st April 2012 as under a revised rate of first year Rs 1,500/ per month and second year and onwards Rs 2,000/ per month.
During the first year of training, the trainees are imparted knowledge and skill relating to carding, plain weave and yarn spinning. During the second year the trainees are taught how to weave a variety of designs. After training, these trainees can work from their own homes or they can avail of the facilities provided by the Directorate by coming to work as paid workers in the production centres. They can also form craft cooperatives with others.
The Tanga is a traditional design used in carpets in Sikkim. The Tanga is actually a medallion or a coin and is popularly used in carpets, wood carvings, paintings etc. While the original coin is said to have some words inscribed in the middle, these designs in carpets have no inscriptions.
In ancient times, the Lepchas who are the original inhabitants of Sikkim were said to use yarn spun out of stinging nettle (sisnu) plant to weave clothes and carpets. Today cotton and woolen yarn are used together with vegetable dyes and synthetic colours.
Lepcha made carpets have an influence of Bhutia designs and are woven in vertical looms with a backstrap. Such looms are of small width. Traditional designs with different colours are also used to make carpets which are used as bedspreads, bags, cushion covers and table mats.