Felt in Central Asia ­– then and now

Christine Bell

Felt in Central Asia — then and now

(63rd Meeting, Ulaanbaatar 2021)

Felt is a compact mass of even consistency manufactured from unspun and compressed wool fibers. The seemingly inexplicable phenomena of transforming heaps of fleece into felt belongs to Central Asian prehistory where it was presumably devised and perfected in nomadic communities. It is almost certainly the oldest manipulated fiber technique, predating all other fabrics. Very little is known about its origin except that it probably took place after the domestication of sheep, estimated today as having taken place between 11,000 and 8,000 BCE.

Felt is thought to be the oldest manmade body covering, a development ­likely resulting from climate change or immigration to cooler regions. It may have originated even as early as when animal skins and fur first came into use for garments. This paper provides insight into wool, the felting process, the difference between felting and fulling, its historical background and last-but-not-least, the use of felt today.