Russian Felt Costumes

This is a guest post by my friend Penny Peters. Penny is a wonderful stitcher who travels extensively so I have asked her to do a guest post for us. Penny recently visited Russia and saw some interesting uses of felt that I thought you might all be interested in. She did see the Pazyryk burial felt which I have posted about before

During a recent visit to St Petersburg I was fortunate to be able to visit the famous ethnographic collections at the Kunstkamera and the Russian Ethnographic Museums as well as archeological collections at the Hermitage. I was not permitted to photograph any of the items in the Hermitage from the Altai Burial Mounds (Pazyryk Burials) so famous for the ancient, well-preserved felt horse trappings and canopies. Good photographic images of those can easily be found online. You can search under “Pazyryk burial felt”.

I was able to photograph a unique felt wedding cloak on display at the Kunstkamera Museum. Felt cloaks once were a common item of Afghan male clothing, diverse in cut and decoration. They varied from simple cloaks worn by herdsmen to works of art signifying the owner’s social status. The most elaborate is a wedding cloak decorated with delicate embroidery and cutwork. The embroidery is comprised of tiny, uniform back stitch or knotted stitches in bands in natural wool threads. The bridegroom’s costume pictured is completed by a felt hat and luxurious shawl in gold brocade to cover the head or shoulders.

The other two felted wool costumes were located in the Russian Ethnography Museum. Unfortunately the signage was in Russian using the Cyrillic alphabet, and I was unable to understand the documentation. Having said that, both items of male attire are probably from central Russia— a very cold climate region. The coat-like garment is very plain, decorated only with a belt buckle featuring deer or reindeer and patterned knitted mittens at the waist. The short jacket is again decorated with tiny back stitches in natural wool threads.

These 19th century garments are of such classic design they could probably be worn on the street today without attracting much attention, except from us textile enthusiasts. If you have a chance to visit St Petersburg, the Kunstkamera and Russian Ethnography Museums shouldn’t be missed. The Kunstkamera houses a marvelous costume collection from around the world—especially the Northwest Coast and Alaskan indigenous people since Russian explorers were trading in that region long before other Europeans reached it. The Russian Ethnography Museum displays mostly 19th century costumes of the dozens of distinctly different people who inhabit their enormous country.

Thanks Penny! I enjoyed seeing these felt costumes and reading your explanations. Thanks for taking us on a short trip to Russia!

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13 Responses to Russian Felt Costumes

  1. These are fabulous. The patience needed is awe inspiring.

  2. Lyn says:

    The felt wedding cloak is amazing! What a lot of work and skill to embellish so intracately.

  3. nvukadinovic@gmail.com says:

    Fabulous. The Russians have such a long history and tradition in felt making. No wonder they are still leading in this area.

  4. koffipot says:

    Wonderful pieces. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  5. luvswool says:

    Thank you for sharing your photos and descriptions of Russian felt garments. Did you see any women’s items, or were they mostly made for men?

    • Penny Peters says:

      Hi, I am sure there were women’s costumes made of felt, but unfortunately I didn’t get photos of them. The women’s costumes that were displayed were mostly if woven fabrics and embroidered, often in traditional red embroidery on white.

  6. Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

    The detail in these garments is amazing. Penny thanks for sharing this wonderful felt history with us.

  7. Great Pictures. The intricate stitching is wonderful. Thanks for sharing with us.

  8. Glad that I had a look at Ruth Lane’s blog great felting blog about Penny’s visit to Russia. I know that our stitchers and feltmakers will appreciate this blog.

  9. Reblogged this on Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts and commented:
    Thanks Ruth for sharing this blog of Penny’s trip to Russia. I know that our students and fellow bloggers will really appreciate this unique history of Russian stitch and costume.

  10. ruthlane says:

    Thanks Penny! I appreciate you sharing your trip to Russia and the embroidered/felt clothing that you saw.

  11. Barbara Fox says:

    Loved seeing these beautiful pieces and reading your interesting commentary. The felt cutwork adds so much texture to the wedding cloak and the embroidery on the man’s waistcoat is so intricate but also adding great interest to an otherwise plain piece of attire. Ornamentation and embellishment seems to be universal and yet so unique to each country. Thank you Penny for sharing and thank you Ruth for posting!

  12. zedster66 says:

    They’ve lasted very well, they look great and the stitching is impressive.

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