My research into traditional felt making has led me to felt workshops around the world, from the depths of Wales, to Alicante in Spain and a little village in central Turkey.
Every region has their own story as to how felt came about. The origins of felt in Persia are ascribed to Solomon’s son who was a shepherd. He was sure that his sheep’s wool could be made into waterproof mats without the aid of a loom, but try as he might he could not make the fibres stick together. He stamped about on the fleece crying large tears of frustration... in doing so, the fibres started sticking together. And behold! He had discovered felt...!
Here are some photos and a bit about my recent trip to Turkey.
I found these hanging outside a shop - they are stiff felt cloaks known as kepenek and are worn by shepherds in Turkey to protect them from heat in summer and from cold and wet in winter.
I met Fahrettin, who comes from a family of felt makers going back generations, in an old town in central Turkey. We worked together sharing ideas and he started work making felt samples.
The process involves layering the wool, ensuring the fibres do in a different direction with each layer. We built up different colours to create beautiful colour blends. He then flicks hot water over the wool and starts rubbing it with soapy hands.
Fahrettin dyes the wool by hand in his workshop.
He rolls the wool up in an old rug and places it into this pressure machine. The machine continually squashes the rolled felt while Fahrettin spins it round. This process is repeated, he unrolls the carpet and wets the fibres and rolls it up again in a different direction and puts it back in the machine. To make a larger piece to the felting process will take an entire day. It then takes several days to dry out.
Here are some samples of colour ways and textures we worked on.