Felt rugs have been part and parcel of home insulation and protection from ancient times. As textiles are quickly degradable it’s difficult to be sure where and when anything began, but it’s safe to say that whatever nomadic communities are doing now they have probably been doing for a very long time – and making felt rugs is one of them. It’s common sense to matt the short ends and offcuts of wool into wall hangings, insulation and bed rolls.
We do know that the nomadic peoples of the Tien Shan mountainous region of central Asia have been making particularly distinctive, felted rugs – shyrdaks, for two and half thousand years.
The technique involves making and dyeing the felt, then stitching the pieces to each other following unique patterns that have developed over centuries. Both bright and ‘natural’ colours are used and the brilliant thing about felt rugs is that they seem to fit every type of home style. Perhaps especially now when each piece is more considered than handed down, felt rugs might bring in the extra element of design and colour tension.
We had a madder red felt rug in a bedroom when we were growing up – I’m not sure where it is now and my memory is hazy but I do remember it had the uneven edge typical of felting and an allover but loose floral design that was stitched on by couching and embroidery. I also remember that it was coming loose and no one really paid much attention to repair, although I liked it I don’t think it was perceived to have any particular value in either monetary or design terms.