Saturday, October 31, 2020

Making Felt Mongolian Style

 Tanya and I were in Mongolia back in the summer of 2007 on a U of S project. We were treated to a demonstration of how Mongolians make felt with which they construct their Gers or Yurts. The Ger is the traditional dwelling of nomadic herders of the Steppes. Built on a wooden lattice frame, it is lined with felt and then a canvas cover over all. Surprisingly roomy, it is warm in winter and cool in summer. With a stove and stove pipe it is no longer filled with smoke from a fire on the floor and smoke drifting up through a hole in the centre.

A typical Ger, with the bottom lifted and the top open to allow a cooling draft

Our host, in an elaborate traditional costume was a well to do herder with thousands of sheep, goats, cattle and horses

While the basics are as old as herding on the Steppes, the method has been updated a little to take advantage of more modern technology. A plastic sheet under the raw wool for example.

I can't recall how many sacks of raw wool it takes but quite a few. 

The wool is spread evenly about 30 to 40 cm deep on the plastic sheet

Once the wool is spread, it is wetted evenly and thoroughly

It takes a great deal of water to ensure the wool is well soaked

Once the thickness is even and the wool is well wetted, it is ready to roll up

The wool is rolled around a wooden roller

This job is done very carefully to ensure the final product is even
Both ends of the roller have a pipe sticking out over which a rope is looped

Now the boys get involved. The roll is dragged at a walk for many minutes, all the while rolling along on the ground. Then it is unrolled and rerolled tighter and dragged some more only at a trot. 

The distance and timing are carefully counted. the roll is unrolled and rerolled tighter a couple more times and then finally dragged at a full gallop for another set time.
The finished product. Can't remember the dimensions. Maybe 2 meters by 6 meters?

Wool fibres at the beginning

Wool fibres after rolling


  1. Fascinating! I wonder how the hell someone first figured out how to do that.

  2. Debra, good question. People have made felt insoles by putting wool in their boots which eventually packed down.

  3. I want a ger..or yurt..whatever they're called..

  4. Here you go, Jackiesue. Genuine Mongolian yurts. I did not check the price.

  5. That's so cool! I've seen procedures for making felt that are far more complex and labour-intensive. Nice to see that sometimes the old ways are still best. :-)

  6. Yes, Diane, the old ways are sometimes best.

  7. I wonder why the speed makes a difference?
    I noted the comment above about the wool in the boots.... my dad did that when he had corns. We used to pick the wool off the barbed wire around the fields.

  8. Just another useless comment.... the tiny community of around 6 or 7 houses and farms just south of where i live is called Mongolia.

  9. Shammickite, I would not bet it makes a difference but after walking so long with the roller behind them, it gives the boys and the horses something to look forward to.
    A small community named Mongolia? I shall have to look it up on a map.


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