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The History of Felt

The History of Felt

I was actually supposed to present my first video today but after staying up half the night and still not getting the video completed, I decided that the video debut will have to wait. Hopefully, I will get it uploaded and posted next week. So instead, a little felt history.

My local group has been doing a little historical art study each time we meet. This month we were studying the iron age. I remembered that the first pieces of felt were found around or before this age so I decided to research further into the history of felt. I found a very interesting article by Berthold Laufer in American Anthropologist called The Early History of Felt. Here is the link. The article is about where the earliest felt making was found and the possible area where felt was first made. It is interesting that felting was commonly practiced in Asia and Europe but was absent in Africa and aboriginal Americas.

Felt Boots from Pazyryk Tomb

Some of the earliest felt pieces were found in Siberia, in the Altai mountain region, in what’s called the Pazyrk Tomb. These pieces are all dated in the era from 300 – 238 BCE. The University of Washington in Seattle has a project called the “Silk Road Seattle” with a very informative website. I found all of these photos of felt items from their site although these are items from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. I haven’t had time to explore the site fully but it looks very interesting as it talks about various textiles and practices along the silk road.

Felt Boots, another view.

As you can see, these boots are very highly decorated, stitched and beaded. These were boots that were in a tomb and were probably made specifically for the funeral and burial process.

Felt Hat

What amazes me is the amount of intricacy in the felt and the styles. I see hat shapes similar to this in Montana all the time.

Felt Swan

I have photos of this felted swan in my book so you might have seen this before. I am again so impressed with the artistry and technique involved in the making of this piece.

Saddle Blanket with Gryphon Attacking a Mountain Goat

This is a saddle blanket. Look at the intricacy of the designs and the bright colors of the wool. I love how the weather in Siberia has allowed the pieces to survive so we can see what the people in the Iron age were capable of producing in felt.

Portion of a Saddle Blanket

Look at the wonderful inlay work in this piece. Think how long ago this and the other pieces were made. Felt has a very rich history and I love that the process is nearly the same as it was many years ago.


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