Day 1… Felt slipper making

TUMAR felted slippers to be lasted

After seeing the production of the wool material and felt sheets we walk to quieter building, greeted at the door by prepared slippers, resting on a table before shrinking begins.

I did not realise before the trip good quality felt slippers are shrunk to be much smaller than the last size to then be stretched. Apparently this make the tangles dense, much stronger and in turn will ensure good quality in wear.

Quality, quality, quality… this is TUMAR’s approach.

Roughly six or so woman are felting around 10 or more pairs a day, with a well thought out system to suit their needs and efficiency. Including wood slatted stables where water is cause in the under table large funnel and reused best can. Reuse depending on colours. Wool is pre weighed per shoe size, laid up on plastic patterns, soaped and rolled. Interestingly the wool is laid up in cross directions for better strength. This should have been obvious to me having worked with plywood. Once the woman felt the shoes, the shoes are sent next door where men will really put some muscle into the felting and lasting of the shrunken felt. Hard work… but the staff at TUMAR have a strong work ethic as I am told most Kyrgyz people do. Machines are used for drying out and shrinking the rolled felt slippers but as for the felting – this is done by hand…and sweat!  I know as I made the prototype slippers on Day 4 video…

Men’s work – heavy felting and lasting shrunken slippers…