The Bulgarian Persian carpets in Kostandovo, a small town in Bulgaria

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How we tied knots on a carpet for Versailles and celebrated Babinden in the carpet factory in Kostandovo

First, push the thread behind the warp, then to the front and then make a circle so it comes from back to the front to complete the knot. This one millionth of the weaving art I was able to touch with my unskilful fingers in the carpet factory in the Bulgarian town of Kostandovo. There some 30 women are tying hundreds of thousands of knots daily in order to produce state-of-art rugs for palaces and private homes all over the world.

This story began with our visit to our favourite SPA resort – Velingrad. The weather was not very welcoming and the heavy snowfall did not suggest long walks outside. Even though we were staying at the best place in town (for us this is Villa Vuchev), we wanted to see something different. So we headed to the nearby town of Kostandovo to see the local carpet factory that we had heard of before.

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Костандово 42.026503, 24.104347

Welcome to the celebration

We timidly enter through the door on this cold January day. Kostandovo is covered with snow and we barely find a place to park our cars near the entrance to the factory. There are no big signs saying the carpet factory is there. We just know from friends that it is located just next to the petrol station. When we approach the white building we are able to see the looms through the windows.

However, what we see upon entrance makes us almost go back. The workers are sitting around several tables, obviously celebrating something. We do not want to be party crashers so we just enter to ask when to come back.

Looms in the carpet factory in Kostandovo

Looms in the carpet factory in Kostandovo

However, we were kindly invited to join the celebration and the ladies were happy to meet our 2-3 year-old kids. They said they were celebrating Babinden – the day of the grandmothers, midwives and anyone engaged in assisting births. Babinden is celebrated all over the country but it appeared that in Velingrad area it is really special. So it was a big celebration and the presence of kids made it even more real.

The carpets for Versailles

Drying of the wool in the carpet factory in Kostandovo

Drying of the wool in the carpet factory in Kostandovo

The owner Nino Parpulov paid us a tour around the factory. The first hall is the largest one. There are the looms where the carpets are being woven. On one loom is being made a carpet for the Versailles palace in France. Most of the carpets being woven at that moment were Persian-style and one was flat-woven. Some people are making samples for future works. It is hard for us to imagine how these balls of yarn are turning into beautiful colourful carpets.

Drying of the wool in the carpet factory in Kostandovo

Drying the wool

Then we were shown the second room where hundreds of balls of yarn, together with samples and models are being stored. The inner hall is where the wool is being coloured. Colouring is not less a complex job than tying the knots. It is done entirely by hand with natural colourings. Nino Parpulov is capable of producing 6500 different shades.

Drying of the wool in the carpet factory in Kostandovo

Made in Bulgaria!

After the initial rapture we go back to the table where the ladies are kindly taking care of our kids. We start asking millions of questions. Nino Parpulov is explaining that in the early 90s he saved the state-owned carpet factory from bankrupt. Later he bought it and since 1999 there are being produced high-quality carpets for export. Bulgarian hand-woven carpets are highly appreciated by the British royal family. In Kostandovo were woven pieces for Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office, for palaces including Osbourne house and now a carpet is being made for Versaille. Upon seeing one of these carpets, the Duke of Edinburgh refused to believe that it was made in Bulgaria. He insisted that such thing could not be produced on the Balkans but finally he believed.

Balls of wool in thr carpet factory in Kostandovo

However, behind the tricky craft and the beauty of the production, there are many problems against the carpet weaving in Kostandovo. Nino explains that the factory is still working thanks to his British partner David Bamford who is in charge of the sales in the UK. He owns a company that specializes in restoration and copying old rugs and carpets and one of his biggest customers is the National Trust in the UK. This is how the carpets from Kostandovo are reaching the British palaces and public buildings.

The colors of the carpets in Kostandovo

Working in the factory

The ladies in the factory are happy to share their knowledge with us. They show us the basics of weaving and even let us tie a few knots. Their job is really tricky. It needs a lot of experience to read the complicated schemes of the colourful carpets and a lot of attention in order to make the right figures and details.

Carpet weaver in Kostandovo

Between 2 and 6 women are working on every loom, tying knot by knot, cutting the extra wool and tying again and again. Some of them have been working here for 40 years and impress us with the speed of working. Even though they have a lot of work to do, they invite us to leave our small fingerprint on the carpets, tying a few knots.

Technology of the knots

The Persian knot, used in most of the carpets, look like this:

From time to time they use a comb-like instrument to align the knots.

Carpet weavers in Kostandovo

There are only 2 men in the carpet factory. Besides Nino, the other one is known as “the roller”. His task is to change the position of the carpets when they are partially ready in order to make space for the ladies to keep working on another part. The carpets are really heavy so a man’s hand is definitely needed. He is also in charge of other heavy tasks like adjusting the benches on which the weavers are sitting.

Carpet weavers in Kostandovo

Finally, we move to the inner hall where Nino is busy with colouring the wool. He is just pulling out the yarn from the hot coloured water and hangs it to dry. At the other end of the room we see a bunch of ready carpets waiting to be sent to their new owners.

We are thinking that we would be really happy to have one of these beautiful carpets at home. However, we would need to work harder because the hand-made rugs are not cheap at all. They are not widely sold but are all made by order. You can find contacts on their website.

What more around Kostandovo village

Another interesting place near Kostandovo is the medieval Tsepina fortress. It is located a few kilometers away, near Dorkovo village, and offers one of the best Rhodopean views I have ever enjoyed. However, the snow didn’t let us go up this time.

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Цепина 42.086025, 24.123616

A good attraction for the kids is the Pliocene Park museum in Dorkovo. There you can see a full-size mammoth model and bones of ancient animals found in the area.


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