About this collection

In Kalmykia, sewing, embroidery and felt-making have been regarded as women's crafts. Traditionally, women sewed and decorated clothes, hats, bedding, bags and cushions for domestic use. Materials that were used varied, ranging from silk and textiles to skin, felt and furs. Aside from cotton, silk and woolen threads, Kalmyks also used threads made from various animal fibers, including tendon and intestines. End products that were intended to reflect the status and craftsmanship of the family and its female members such as festive dresses, hats, bags and cushions were decorated with ornaments painstakingly sewed using gold, silver and vividly coloured threads.

Products made of felt were particularly popular. Felt of various widths and refinement was widely used for all kinds of coverings and containers, including the outer cover of the nomadic tent, rugs, mats and bags. For example, the outer cover of the tent was made of thick and dense felt layers, whereas those used for clothes were finer and lighter. Often, felt products were decorated with traditional embroidery, zeg ornaments in particular. Felt-making is a long and labour-intensive process. Firstly, sheep wool has to be sorted according to colour, then combed, cleaned, and beaten with a long stick until it turns into a light, fluffy mass. Afterwards, it is sprinkled with warm water, rolled up, and pressed. The felt roll is lifted and dropped by several people more than a thousand times to give it the required density and durability.

Recent Submissions

  • Vitaliy Zaseev, About felt making 

    Terbish, Baasanjav (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-10-01)
  • Exhibition of handicrafts 

    Terbish, Baasanjav (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2015-04-01)
  • Tatyana Dordzhieva, About felt 

    Terbish, Baasanjav (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-10-01)
    Tatyana talks about how to make felt. The ground for felt making is cleaned. A cloth is put on the ground. The sheep’s wool is spread on the cloth and moisturized with water. Then it is lashed with a long rod, rolled up, ...
  • Maria Beltsikova, About felt making 

    Terbish, Baasanjav (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-12-01)
    Maria remembers how in her childhood Kalmyks lived in yurts and made felt. To make felt, girls sat in a circle, holding long sticks in their hands with which they lashed the sheep’s wool. After lashing, the wool was sprinkled ...

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