Felt making - a lost Art
Ulaantaij - Bringing Mongolia to the World
For thousands of years man has practised his ingenious methods of turning the fleece of the sheep
into warm clothing. Loom and spinning wheel have come to stand as the symbols of these skills.

Another find consisting of a piece of felt from a barrow at Behringen in the Soltau district of Hanover
and preserved at the Berlin State Museum until the last war is thought to have been produced about
1200 B.C. There are many references to the use of felt in Greece in classical authors, from Homer

developed. Traces also show of Greek, Persian, and Indian influence. Russian archaeologists have
found "kurgans" buried deep under permanent ice and snow. As one would expect, perfect saddle
felts, an article still associated with the finest craftsmanship, were also produced. The blue, red, or
white saddle blankets discovered in the "second kurgan" at Pasyryk are made of fine, firm but
nevertheless resilient felt. Three of these blankets are decorated with an eagle or elk, or with
embattled animals, in appliqué work of coloured felt. Another cloth for placing under the saddle, of
thicker but softer felt, also came to light. The floor and the walls of the tombs were lined with black
felt, and a folded sheet of the same material covered the bottom of the coffin. Other objects
discovered in the tombs were wooden containers with semi-spherical bottoms and felt rings for
supports, and pictorial friezes of felt with many-coloured patterns in thin felt appliqué. Articles of
daily use found in the tombs included a leather bag remarkable for its exquisite shape, and
exhibiting on one side a striking border sewn of strips of thin red felt. The felt strips, in turn, were
decorated with small copper ducks covered with gold leaf. The head coverings of the dead were of
hard thick felt. The dainty low riding boots of a Scythian woman of high rank also contained a pair of
felt socks of the same cut and sewn from two pieces of thin white felt.

Graves left by the Huns in northern Mongolia and dating from the third and fourth centuries of our
era have yielded carpets and patterned blankets of felt adorned with elaborate designs in brilliant
colours. The conical felt hats with turned-up, slashed brims unearthed in the graves are known to
be products of a very ancient tradition. Kirghiz and other Asiatic nomads used felt mainly for making
tents. Being light and flexible, these were readily packed on the backs of camels. The technique
used by the nomads in the production of felt was simple enough and has persisted to the present
day. The wool of sheep and yaks is scoured and degreased and then spread on blankets and
moistened with whey. The layer of loose wool is then tightly rolled up with the blanket and the
resultant bundle worked, that is, fulled or milled, by rolling it forward and backward. After several
hours of pulling to and fro the roll turns into a coherent, solid sheet of felt. These blankets the
nomads place over a trellis-work of wooden sticks to form the walls of their "yurts" or portable
shelters. The layer of grease is proof against the heaviest rain. At the same time, the yurts are an
ideal form of shelter both in the heat of summer and the icy snowstorms of winter.
Other civilizations likewise provide numerous historical instances of the kind. Excavations at Antinoe
in Upper Egypt revealed clothing items of wool felt in graves of the Coptic period, goods which
possibly reached the Nile valley through trade from Persia. American sinologists have stated that
Chinese historical records refer to felt as early as 2300 B.C. China's warriors equipped themselves
with shields, clothes, and hats made of felt, for protection; they also used felt boats. At public
functions, the Chinese emperor was carried into the presence of his subjects sitting on a large felt
mat. For centuries, felt manufacture remained at the level of a rather crude manual skill. It was the
invention of a wool card in 1748 which brought a decisive improvement in method. With the advent
of the hardening machine, felt manufacturing on an industrial scale began about the middle of the
nineteenth century in Europe and somewhat later in the United States. Today, these industries have
to satisfy the rising demand for a steadily widening range of textile and mechanical applications of
The art of felt making, too,
Historical specimens of felt
have survived in large
numbers and give ample
evidence of a degree of
inventiveness, aesthetic
feeling, and refinement quite
unlooked for in the production
and use of this material. Caps
of thick solid felt from the early
Bronze Age are preserved at
the National Museum in
Copenhagen. These date back
some 3500 years and were
found in the pre-historic burial
mounds of Jutland and North
They combine weaving and felting
technique as several layers of
fabric have been felted into a
uniform material by a series of
milling treatments. These felt
caps are unique, being richly
decorated with trimmings and
threads, and must have formed
part of ceremonial dress. In
addition, they afforded protection
against blows and sword-cuts. In
1939, a tomb from the later Bronze
Age (about 1400-1200 B.C.) was
uncovered in Hesse, Germany,
which yielded a horse bridle
incorporating a carefully fulled felt
strap of sheep's wool. .
Significantly, India and Persia are
also mentioned in this connection.
Everything points to felt manufacture
having reached an advanced stage
of technical excellence in the
European west by the beginning of
inferred from the specialised
workshops for making felt hats and
felt gloves that have been discovered
in Pompeii. The early settlement of
artisans in the Petersberg quarter at
Basle, where leather craftsmen are
known to have plied their trade in
late Roman times, has also yielded
a sole of hare fur felt in a good state
of preservation. There is an even
more impressive and extensive
range of material evidence from
eastern countries. Scythian graves of
the fifth century B.C. known as
"kurgans" or barrows and found
throughout the Russian steppes
from the Carpathians to Mongolia
have proved veritable treasure
houses of the magnificent
craftsmanship which the Scythians,
that ancient nation of horsemen,
STEP 4: The best wool is laid out first and denotes the
"right" side of the new felt.
STEP 1: Prior to felting the wool is beaten with flexible wooden
sticks. It is beaten along the line of the fibre and aids in the
removal of dirt from between the fibres. The result is a coarser
wool than one gets from carding.
STEP 2: The mother felt is rolled out onto the field. This is
an old felt used as a base for the new felt
STEP 3: The beaten wool is now placed on the mother
felt in such a way as to have the fibres relatively parallel
STEP 5: After the layers
are laid out warm water
is spread out over the
wool in small drops.
A large pole is then
placed across one end
of the new felt. Both the
new wool and the
mother felt are then
rolled up tightly around
the pole
STEP 6: Wet hides
are wrapped around
the felt and then
a strong rope binds
Loops are attached to
each end of the pole.
STEP 7: Ropes are then
attached to these loops and
tied to horses or camels,
which then pull the roll
across the steppe. After
some hours have past,
the new roll is opened up
and inspected for weak
areas. These areas are
repaired with more wool.
Your felt is then ready for use
Shaping felt to fit yurt No 1
Shaping felt to fit yurt No 2