KISSMYARTS
// text and photography by Marjolein den Hartog
The Felt Story

The Felt Story

The Felt Story

The Felt Story

In summer 2017, I visited Mongolia with the owner of esgii, a Dutch brand of felt slippers. At the company's felt producers, we were introduced to the fascinating world of turning a 'sheep coat' into a comfortable pair of slippers. We were lucky to witness almost all of the different stages of the production process – except, unfortunately, the sheep-shearing.

It was very impressive to see all of the manual labour that goes into producing one single pair of felt slippers! This is the story of their wonderful makers and the fascinating production process of these esgii slippers.

 A tiny lamb that lost its mother is now bottle-fed (with fresh cow’s milk) by a nomad family. Of course, it now still has to grow a decent fleece coat!

A tiny lamb that lost its mother is now bottle-fed (with fresh cow’s milk) by a nomad family. Of course, it now still has to grow a decent fleece coat!

 When the time to shear the sheep flock arrives – usually in the spring – this is a common sight along Mongolian roads.

When the time to shear the sheep flock arrives – usually in the spring – this is a common sight along Mongolian roads.

 Nomads selling the woollen fleece of their sheep at Tova’s felt slipper factory in Darkhan. Only the best merino wool fleeces are selected.

Nomads selling the woollen fleece of their sheep at Tova’s felt slipper factory in Darkhan. Only the best merino wool fleeces are selected.

 At Tova, the best wool goes into this pressing machine, where it’s pressed into bales, ready for further processing. Tova offers its workers a fair salary and good working conditions, which includes two free meals a day, insurance and a safe environment.

At Tova, the best wool goes into this pressing machine, where it’s pressed into bales, ready for further processing. Tova offers its workers a fair salary and good working conditions, which includes two free meals a day, insurance and a safe environment.

 At Angel Felting, another felt slipper producer in Darkhan, the wool is thoroughly cleaned before it is dyed. The employees receive a fair salary and the company supports their children’s education.

At Angel Felting, another felt slipper producer in Darkhan, the wool is thoroughly cleaned before it is dyed. The employees receive a fair salary and the company supports their children’s education.

 A carding machine at MIM, Made in Mongolia, one of esgii’s felt slipper producers in Ulaanbaatar. Carding is used to produce sheets with parallel fibres.

A carding machine at MIM, Made in Mongolia, one of esgii’s felt slipper producers in Ulaanbaatar. Carding is used to produce sheets with parallel fibres.

 A pile of carded wool sheets ready for felting (at Angel Felting).

A pile of carded wool sheets ready for felting (at Angel Felting).

 An Angel Felting worker starts the felting process by rubbing water and soap onto the woollen sheets, later shaping each one roughly around a slipper-shaped mould.

An Angel Felting worker starts the felting process by rubbing water and soap onto the woollen sheets, later shaping each one roughly around a slipper-shaped mould.

 After several rounds of felting, these are the basic slipper shapes (at Angel Felting).

After several rounds of felting, these are the basic slipper shapes (at Angel Felting).

 Some heavy elbow grease is involved in getting the shoe last (mould) into the felted slipper (at Angel Felting). After this stage, the slippers are then dried in an oven.

Some heavy elbow grease is involved in getting the shoe last (mould) into the felted slipper (at Angel Felting). After this stage, the slippers are then dried in an oven.

 Quality control – here at Tova – is an important part of the production process.

Quality control – here at Tova – is an important part of the production process.

 Moulds in different shoe sizes, used to cut the leather soles for Tova’s slippers.

Moulds in different shoe sizes, used to cut the leather soles for Tova’s slippers.

 The final shape of the slipper is cut by hand at Tova.

The final shape of the slipper is cut by hand at Tova.

 An example of the final result: some Angel Felting high boots.

An example of the final result: some Angel Felting high boots.