What is Felt ?
Felt has been defined as " a textile structure composed entirely of fibres physically interlocked and consolidated by the use of mechanical work, chemical action and moisture without the use of weaving, knitting, stitching, thermal bonding or adesives. Wool fibers are feltd by the application of heat, moisture and friction. Felt is formed from a web of animal hair or wool which is consoldiated by moisture, heat and mechanical action.
Almost all Kyrgyz crafts have their roots in the nomadic lifestyle. Nomadic life left its imprint on Kyrgyz dwellings, clothes, and household utensils. Even with the eventual end to the nomadic healthy lifestyle, Kyrgyz applied arts still have not lost their significance and have been cherished and passed down from one generation to the next.
Felt articles are the most popular and widespread in Kyrgyzstan. Felt serves as the main material in constructing yurts (Kyrgyz portable tent). The yurt cover and many interior items are made of felt, such as carpets, bags, and slippers."
Frequently, artisans used natural dyeing and natural-colored wool of various tones to make their goods. These color combinations look very organic in modern dwelling and public interiors.
The felt-making for yurts is traditionally done within each family, using wool from their own sheep. Felts for the walls and roof of the yurt is plain, without decoration, but felts for the floor of the yurt are often decorated. The finished felts are effective and good-looking, but making them is hard work. The raw wool is taken from the sheep, is then cleaned and thoroughly picked over to remove any impurities or unevenness. The unspun wool is then arranged thickly on top of a straw mat, known as a «chiy mat» (a mat which also has practical use as a divider and for storage in the yurt).
At this point, the thickness of the wool is about 20cm or so. Now the process of felt-making begins in earnest with the beating and hammering of the wool, pressing and compacting the raw wool into the resulting felt. This beating is done utilizing all available means - sticks, the forearms of the makers, rolling, tightening with ropes, kicking. Small amounts of very hot water are added to help with the adhesion, and the whole process has to be carried out in hot conditions - outside in the summer months.
Central Asian silks
From ancient times, silk has been a highly treasured material. In ancient China and Japan, silk clothes were the privilege for the aristocracy. Traditional silk fabrics were produced in Bukhara, Samarkand, Kokand, Margilan, Namangan, and other cities of Uzbekistan. Only the rich could afford clothes made of silk fabrics such as "kanoviz," "shoi," "khan atlas" and silk blends like "bekasab," "banoras," "adras."
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As the legend goes, long ago the Governor of Margilan (a famous silk producing center today) ordered his people to create an unique product, which could not be found anywhere else. Many masters fled for fear of falling into disgrace with the Governor. One master, while sitting on the lake shore thinking about his family's future and the fate of his colleagues, suddenly noticed upon the water's surface the reflection of a cloud in the sky in which the different colors of a rainbow were poured into the sunset. The image inspired him to create the same effect with silk threads.Later he presented to the Governor a wonderful fabric with an iridescent pattern. The Governor and his family, especially his whimsical daughter, were delighted by the beauty of the silk. When he learned of the master's inspiration, the Governor named the mater "Abrband." "Abr" in Persian means cloud and "band" means wicker-work. Even today, all masters working in this style are called "abrbands," and this type of silk production is called "abrbandi."
"Shyrdaks" are traditional felt rugs made by sewing patterns of contrasting felt together using patterns often inspired from nature such as mountains, animal horns and birds. They are used by the Nomadic tribes and shepherds in Tien Shan (heavenly) Mountains in Kyrgyzstan to decorate their yurtas (round tents made of white felt) and houses. Shyrdaks are sold to be given as presents to brides or their wedding. Now it has become valuable income earning source for the artisan since the export bagan. The felt can be natural colours or dyed in contrasting colours using local plants.