There is a bit of a nip in the air, the nights are drawing in and, as well as other things, we are sewing yurt felt linings: this time a big one for a 32′ yurt we made the canvas for earlier in the year.
It is surprising how much difference a felt lining can make, both for coolness in the heat of summer and warmth in the freeze of winter. I only appreciated this when living in a yurt with a wool felt lining in a Hungarian winter where it got to -22 degrees C. There was still that moment of hesitancy before braving the distance between bed and stove, with the water frozen solid in the cup next to the bed. But yurts are easy to heat and once the stove was fired up, it was possible to sit naked for the morning cup of tea.
It’s kind of funny that the 100% wool felt we use comes from Europe, and we are currently living in a part of Wales where there are about 48 sheep to every human. Wool wool all around. The sheep are mainly farmed for meat and wool is a by-product. Anyway, making enough felt for a yurt lining is a lot of work.
Traditional yurts, of course, have thick felt outer covers as, in the Central Asian countries where the yurts are used, there are extremes of cold and hot, but not wet. The felt’s natural oils and thickness are enough to keep the moisture out, but when the yurt came to the West, an outer waterproof layer was needed. The American yurts went mainly into vinyl, the European went into cotton canvas.
Felt is believed to be one of the earliest textiles and the traditional process is a huge task, usually done by the women of the group. The Mongolian method involves beating the wool first to clean it, then laying it out with the fibres parallel before rubbing water into it. It is then wrapped around a large pole and fastened securely and this pole dragged behind a horse or camel to bind the fibres together. Only then, when the felt is complete with no holes, is it cut into the shapes for the yurt cover, then sewn together by hand.
So if you want a felt lining for a yurt, let us know, and we can start shearing the 100 or so sheep we will need and harnessing the camels, before threading our sewing needles.