Monday, January 18, 2010

A Visit to Mongolia

This past weekend I had the great honor of attending a seminar on Mongolian felt making that was held at a knitting/spinning/weaving shop in Boulder. You are probably asking "What is felt-making?" I've talked about one way of making felt before in this blog entry, where the item was first knitted, and then shrunk. Felting is simply a process where wool from an animal, such as sheep, llama, goat, alpaca, etc., is shrunk by heat, usually hot water, and agitation, as in, beating it with a stick, or running it through a washing machine.

Mongolians have been felting for thousands of years.

While Mongolia is the 19th largest country in the world land-wise, they rank #138 in population, with only 2.9 million people. Yet, they have nearly 28 million sheep, which works out to nearly 10 sheep per person. In the film above, the herders first sheer the sheep. Then they beat the fleece with sticks while hot water is poured over it. The fleece is then rolled up, and the strongest horse that can be found drags the wool around for nearly two kilometers! Note in the movie that the spindle holding the wool is turning; this agitation is what turns the hairy fleece into solid, thick felt. The Mongolian people have used felt for thousands of years to make their homes, called yurts. These homes keep the nomads warm and dry, an incredible feat considering that the average low during the winter months is -22 degrees! Plus, the yurt can be moved around as they follow their flocks to better pasture land.

Our emphasis in the class was on making garments or items for the home, which I'll talk about in my next post.


A Novel Woman said...

Ooooh, cool!!!

I can hardly wait to read more.

Deniz Bevan said...

Oh! I did not know that! Yurt always comes up as a crossword puzzle clue :-) I think I had assumed they were like thatched cottages, I had no idea it was wool!