Mero Rug, Yours Forever

Features Issue 189 Aug, 2017
Text by Ichchha Pradhan

Mero Rug is Nepal’s first company when it comes to selling handmade carpets on the internet.

Mero Rug was established in 2012 as the sister company of the 25-year-old Paramount Carpets, which means it certainly has a heritage to live up to. Which it does. With its wide assortment of more than 3,000 matchless handmade carpets in different sizes and shapes, Mero Rug has been able to satisfy its customers worldwide with its elegant designs and unique color combinations. Add to that, the best prices available in the market!

Chief Executive Officer Darshan BhattaraI ofMero Rug articulates, "Mero Rug is a combination of two words, mero, meaning my, and rug, which is associated with carpets. When we say Mero Rug, we want our customers to feel that it is made personally from 'me' for 'you'.” And their tagline, 'from the foot of the Himalayas, to yours', adds to the effect. 

Mero Rug's hand-knotted rugs are made with wool from Nepal’s Himalayan regionand the countryside of New Zealand. The company also specializes in manufacturing custom hand-knotted carpets in a range of other raw materials—wool, silk, hemp, allo, bamboo silk, nettle, jute, sisal, mohir, viscous, etc. They use Galaincha software, have their own designer’s team, and an in-house production facility with over 300 looms under one roof. Even though they have their own yarn coloring system, due to the popularity of the ARS coloring system, the company has been successfully implementing both. Moreover, they also provide you with the required computer-aided design of carpets in forty-eight hours, free of cost. All of these enable them to create fresh, new designs and innovative collections throughout the year.

The carpets are manufactured in a nine-fold process:

1. Wool sorting and washing: Pure white wool and other impurities are separated from the raw wool to get the best white wool, which is hand washed in spring water.

2. Carding: This involves combing and cleaning the wool. In an effective carding, no fiber is intermingled with another, and all foreign particles and dirt are removed. This helps in spinning, blending, and wool mixing, if required.

3. Spinning: The wool fibers are drawn and twisted to make yarns of desired thickness. This process is called spinning. Yarn of soft 5-7 twist-per-inch is said to be ideal for rugs. Spinning is a traditional skill of Nepali people, so the wool is generally spun by hand. Hand spinning brings the best yarn for rugs in terms of elasticity and strength. 

4. Dyeing: The wool is dyed, using either natural vegetable dyes or synthetic ones. 

5. Weaving: This is done entirely by hand on a vertical loom in the conventional Nepali-Tibetan knotting system. It is an innovative task, which is performed by three or four weavers according to the size of rug, with the help of yarn balls, scissors, iron-rod, levers, comb beater, etc.

6. Trimming: The sharp design and pattern is carved out by scissors from the woven carpets. It is a very delicate process, because one false cut can ruin the entire thing.

7. Washing and drying: After a carpet is trimmed, it is then washed with fresh water, using household chemicals to keep them free of germs, remove dirt, and restore the original shine of the wool. The carpet is then dried out in the sun for almost a week.

8. Stretching and bending: After washing and drying, the carpets are stretched from all sides, using metal frames and hooks. It helps in maintaining the shape of the carpet.

9. Final finishing/packing: The carpet is trimmed again to remove unusual yarn. After vacuum cleaning, it is packed, after which, it is ready to be delivered.

Yet, Nepali carpets haven’t always been this way. Weaving, in Nepal, has a long history, though no ancient rugs have been found as testaments to the fact. Nonetheless, writings by ancient travelers and traders describing the clothes and rugs of the Himalayan region confirm their existence. The development of export quality carpets was initiated with the influx of Tibetan refugees in the early sixties, and 1960 can be regarded as a historic year for the commercial production of carpets in Nepal. In 1962, Nepal launched commercial shipping of carpets with a sample consignment to Zurich, Switzerland.

But then, no one had a real idea of what carpets actually were, due to which there was neither manpower nor trainings for the manufacturing process. Only two or three companies exported carpets, and even those exports were unwashed carpets freshly off the loom. Unlike what we find in carpet showrooms these days, the final products had no finishing then. Bhattarai recalls, "We did have weavers here, but for other stages—washing, stretching, finishing? They were clueless." Hence, containers of unwashed, unfinished carpets were shipped, and the buyers had to manage the finishing part on their own. "In the beginning, there was nothing here. Nevertheless, with different companies and an advanced system, the Nepali carpet industry is what it is today," he asserts.
Nepal largely exports carpets to Germany, Belgium, Britain, Turkey, Switzerland, Japan, Spain, Canada, and Italy, with the U.S.A. being the top importer. Although Nepali hand-knotted woolen carpets rank second in terms of overseas export, the carpet business has been quite low in recent years. This is due to the advancement of machine-made carpets that are cheaper and ready in three-five days, whereas handmade carpets are more expensive, and take a few months to be ready, depending on the design, size, and material. "But, there's a catch. Machine-made carpets have to be replaced every few years, unlike handmade carpets, which are stronger and last for a decade or more," Bhattarai states.

Although there are about 200 companies that manufacture and export carpets in Nepal, there has been a steep decline, with many even shutting down. The Nepali carpet industry is believed to sustain for at least another few years, but after that, the situation seems a bit hazy, with the evolution of machines and technology with each passing day. "For the industry to sustain, just one individual or one company is not enough. The Carpet Association of Nepal should work as a team with different companies to find ways to expand the carpet industry. Every other company should unite to work with a vision to promote Nepali carpets and expand the market," Bhattarai avers. 

Like other carpet companies, Mero Rug does export carpets to various countries around the globe, but its primary focus is the Nepali market. They sell their carpets directly to the customers by eliminating the middle man and making it much more efficient and inexpensive for customers. They also provide home-delivery services within Nepal, a very convenient service when it comes to carpets. Bhattarai says," Our idea is to deliver a quality product at the best price. We want to change the mentality of Nepali handmade carpets being super expensive, as we try to sell our products in the cheapest price possible for people to be able to afford them. This is so that Nepali products can be promoted in Nepal itself."

Mero Rug has been able to satisfy its valuable customers all over the globe through its efforts, understanding, and knowledge of the products. Bhattarai opines, "Despite the machine-made carpets taking over, I still feel that there is a good market for Nepali carpets. Just because machine-made ones are cheaper, we really can't sideline handmade Nepali carpets. People toil for months to manufacture a single carpet, which then becomes not just a carpet, but a work of art." And, that value cannot be taken away!