East of Paris Bookstore

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Making Felt

The situation in Kyrgyzstan remains unsettled and more people have been killed in the south -- the clan stronghold of the recently ousted president.  The referendum on a new constitution remains months in the future and nature seems to abhor the power vacuum. As factions position for power and the concomitant access to money and resources, ordinary people are put at grave risk.

While hoping for a decent outcome in Kyryzstan, I remembered a little gem of safety and fun that we visited in Bishkek.  It was a children's craft center.  The center consists of a group of brightly colored little buildings, like trailers, surrounded by dull high-rise concrete block apartments.  The center gives orphans and at-risk kids a safe place to play and learn crafts.  Their handiwork is on display and for sale.

One of the teachers gave a demonstration of how to make felt, which is used for clothing as well as to make yurts.  On a tabletop, she began placing hunks of raw wool, about two-inches square, that she pulled from a long snake-like bundle. She overlapped the strands from the end of the first hunk with the thicker top pull of the next hunk.  After she finished one row, she began the next row placing the hunks of wool perpendicular to those in the prior row with a slight overlap between rows.  

She completed a series of rows forming a rectangle, and then added an abstract design by laying colored strands of rolled wool on top.  Then she covered the completed design with a smooth piece of fabric, which she proceeded to throughly wet with water from the green basin on the table next to the felt rectangle. 

The teacher then took a wet hand towel and pressing down with her hand methodically "ironed" the wet cloth from right to left, then up and down.  She explained that the more the felt is watered and "ironed" the denser and finer the finished product will be.  After the felt is dry, it is ready to use.

The finished product.

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